Flake Inventor Miles Willard Dead At 80

Published online: Nov 30, 2004
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Miles Jamison Willard, world-renowned potato flake extruded product snack developer, died November 26, 2004, in Idaho Falls, ID, after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Funeral services will be held Thursday, December 2, at 11 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church, 325 Elm St., in Idaho Falls with the Rev. Dr. Dennis Falasco officiating.

A visitation will be held Wednesday from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Miles and Virginia Willard Arts Center, 498 A. St., in Idaho Falls. Funeral arrangements are under the direction of Buck-Miller-Haun Funeral Home in Idaho Falls.

In lieu of flowers, the family sugggests contributions to the Willard Arts Center Endowment, c/o Idaho Falls Arts Council, 498 A St., Idaho Falls, ID, 83402.

Willard was born June 10, 1924, in Philadelphia to Miles Jamison and Ethel Stevens Willard. He evinced an early interest in the two consuming passions of his life: chemistry and music.

As a young boy, he worked with a chemistry set in his basement and when his voice matured, he joined his mother, a fine soprano, as soloist in the Presbyterian Church in the Tacony area of Philadelphia.

He began his chemical engineering studies at Drexel Institute (now Drexel University) in Philadelphia, but at the outbreak of World War II, he was drafted into the Army.

The bit of engineering study he had probably saved him from being killed in the Battle of the Bulge along with the rest of his company. He was assigned to study engineering at Rutgers University and was later transferred to Los Alamos, NM, to work on a top-secret scientific project. He later found out that the valves and pressure gauges he had been checking had been part of the development of the atomic bomb.

After the war, he returned to Drexel and receied his degree in chemical engineering in 1949.

In 1950 he married Alice Schreiber in Philadelphia. They were divorced in 1970.

Miles began a career in food technology during his employment at the Eastern Regional Research Laboratory of the USDA in Philadelphia. Here, he and a co-worker developed a new drying process for the manufacture of instant mashed potato flakes.

In 1955 he came to Idaho to design and operate the world's first commercial potato flake plant for Rogers Brothers Company. He worked as Director of Research for nine years.

In 1964 he ventured into the world of inventing fabricated fried snacks. He began the successful Miles Willard Company in 1973, which, under his dynamic leadership, has grown to an employee-owned business, Miles Willard Technologies.

He has received many patents on scores of potato snack food products.

(See complete obituary in this month's online newsletter.)