MOUNT PLEASANT — Bob Balow wasn’t a Racine native, but he embodied the city’s historical spirit of innovation.
Balow, who will be remembered for starting several local companies, patenting his own inventions and encouraging other inventors, died unexpectedly Feb. 24. He was 69.
The Eau Claire native came to the Racine area after he earned his metallurgical engineering degree from the University of Wisconsin. Several years later he started Accu-Temp Heat Treating, 2400 Racine St., Mount Pleasant, which continues today.
Accu-Temp also became home to three other companies Balow formed: Ferroxy-Aled, RCB Products and Neat Ideas, a fermentation area for other inventors to cultivate their ideas.
A tinkerer, Balow secured at least five patents, his son Bobby Balow said — but he thought it may have been more than 10.
Balow’s invention that perhaps achieved the highest degree of public visibility was his Pasta Fork. By grasping the twisted fork and pressing downward, the fork spun, thereby rolling spaghetti noodles around it. A YouTube video of Balow demonstrating the utensil went viral and has amassed more than 1.1 million views.
Another Balow innovation, which he developed with his business partner, was a coating process to make cast-iron cookware both nonrusting and extremely tough. The process that he and the late Don Whyte, a retired SC Johnson chemist, invented required an enormous, specialized $1 million furnace — so Balow built one at Accu-Temp.
Source of inspiration
Balow’s career evidently made its imprint on his three sons, all of whom worked with metal in some capacity in their own careers, Bobby Balow said.
Balow’s metallurgical knowledge and expertise took him around the world as a consultant for companies such as SC Johnson, General Motors, MillerCoors and Lodge Manufacturing. He went to Europe and Asia many times, said his daughter, Anne Peters.
Outside of his own companies, Balow, a Kenosha resident, was a great supporter of the Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club of Racine and Kenosha.
In his leisure time he enjoyed reading, fishing, pottery, astronomy, gardening and tinkering.
“He was an extremely artistic and creative guy,” Peters said.
Peters said that, as she was growing up, her father would make candles with his children, arrange flowers, create pottery and develop black-and-white film in his home darkroom. And every Friday night he painted pottery with his girlfriend, Lisa Fawver.
In addition, Balow volunteered his time generously to organizations all over southeastern Wisconsin, notably the Optimist Club. Peters said: “He was always helping with some walk, festival or homeless event.”
A visitation will be held from 4-6 p.m. Friday at Draeger-Langendorf Funeral Home, 4600 County Line Road (Highway KR), Mount Pleasant, and a memorial service is scheduled from 6-6:30 p.m. A celebration of Balow’s life will follow.
Contributions in Balow’s memory can be made to the Racine Wednesday Optimist Club or the Inventors and Entrepreneurs Club of Racine and Kenosha.
Note: The number of Balow's sons was incorrect in the original story and has been corrected.