Victor M. Hermelin was a young chemical engineer, recently graduated from Washington University, when he invented the skinless frankfurter. It reportedly saved millions of dollars for Swift & Co., where he worked. His reward was a 75-cent-a-week raise.
So in 1942, Mr. Hermelin and a friend started their own drugmaking company, KV Pharmaceutical Co. here. Mr. Hermelin went on to hold about 100 patents, including one that allows pharmaceuticals to be produced in the now familiar timed-release form.
Mr. Hermelin died Monday (May 11, 2009) at St. Luke's Hospital in Chesterfield. He was 95 and lived in Chesterfield.
Until suffering a stroke in August, Mr. Hermelin stayed active physically as well as with the operation of his company. He continued to work on inventions and on his lifelong interest in good health.
"He was passionate about finding ways to make people's lives easier," said a daughter, Dawn Walters of Wildwood.
Mr. Hermelin's business and family each has had problems recently.
Two years ago he sued his son, Marc Hermelin, then company president, to remove him as a trustee of a trust to benefit Victor Hermelin's wife and children. Marc Hermelin, of Kirkwood, has since been replaced as president.
In January, KV suspended manufacturing and shipping of all products and recalled most drugs. In March, the company reached an agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which accused KV of making drugs that had not yet been approved for distribution.
The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney's office in St. Louis also are investigating KV.
Until recently, the company had 1,100 employees and a million square feet of manufacturing space.
The company has now laid off hundreds of employees and its stock has plummeted. Its longtime manufacturing plant in Brentwood apparently is closed, a family member said, and KV operates out of a building in Earth City.
Mr. Hermelin's initial patents for early controlled release and enteric coating became part of KV's core business in the 1950s to 1970s.
The company went on to develop 15 technologies to optimize drug delivery.
Mr. Hermelin was born in New York City and won a scholarship to Washington University, where he earned a degree in chemical engineering in 1936. He was a lab assistant to a Nobel Prize winning professor, Carol Cori.
In awarding Mr. Hermelin an alumni achievement award this year, the university said that throughout his life, he has found solutions for unmet needs.
He invented a lanolin-enriched permanent wave, a solution he sold to local beauty shops.
In 1944, he developed a process for producing multivitamins called spheroids. The Department of Defense used that medical breakthrough in World War II to help prevent night blindness for soldiers in the Pacific Rim.
Grateful government officials allowed Mr. Hermelin to become one of the first civilians to ride on an atomic submarine, his family recalled.
Mr. Hermelin owned airplanes, which he continued to pilot until he was 70. He played golf and tennis and used a personal trainer until his stroke.
Visitation will be from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Buchholz Mortuary West, 2211 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield. A second visitation will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Friday at Congregation Shaare Emeth, 11645 Ladue Road, Creve Coeur, followed by a funeral service at 1:30 p.m. Burial will be at Forever Bellerive Cemetery.
In addition to his daughter Dawn and son Marc, among the survivors are his wife, Margie Gale Hermelin of Chesterfield; two other daughters, Cyndi Miano of Chesterfield and Ann Kirschner of University City; two other sons, Arnold Hermelin of Key West, Fla., and Chris Fragale of Clearwater, Fla.; a brother, Arthur Hermelin of Creve Coeur; 20 grandchildren; and 20 great-grandchildren.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Congregation Shaare Emeth, Washington University School of Engineering and Applied Science, or a charity of the donor's choice.
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