James M. Cleary Jr. of Falmouth, an inventor and creative spirit, died at age 90 in his home on November 22.
He was the husband of Ann Powers Cleary for 62 years.
Born in Indiana, Mr. Cleary grew up near Lake Michigan, where, in middle school, he first combined invention and aquatics by filling an inverted trash can with air discharged from a vacuum cleaner to create a personal diving bell.
He survived this experimentation to become a hard-hat demolition and salvage diver with the Army Corps of Engineers during the Korean War.
He and his wife moved their young family to Falmouth in 1967 from Dallas, Texas, where he had worked as a petroleum engineer for Atlantic Richfield Company. He left to pursue his wide-ranging interests and was self-employed for the rest of his life.
In 1987, Mr. Cleary and his son, Charles Cleary, started a manufacturing company, Falmouth Products, which builds air pollution control equipment (catalytic oxidizers). His patented spiral plate heat exchanger design is incorporated into this equipment, which is sold globally.
Mr. Cleary had been a competitive gymnast (high bar) on the University of Illinois gymnastics team. He celebrated his 70th birthday by doing a giant swing over a horizontal bar behind his office.
He loved rollerblading on the bike path with his daughter-in-law.
At age 76, he won the Woods Hole Anything-But-A-Boat Race on a vessel he designed and constructed. The Solstice Singers sang a rousing rendition of “Duct Tape” at the launch.
For years, Mr. Cleary designed and built hydrofoil sailboats, which he tested in Vineyard Sound. At age 88, he was still propelling his self-designed Water Strider paddleboard around Quissett Harbor.
He was a member of the aforementioned Solstice Singers for decades and, before that, he sang with the Greater Falmouth Mostly Male All-Men’s Chorus.
Mr. Cleary was a member of a world topics discussion group. He had a particular enthusiasm for the books of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Steven Pinker.
In addition to his wife, he leaves his two daughters, Dana Cleary and her husband, Bruce Hoffman and Susan Cleary, son Charles Cleary and his wife, Mimi McKenzie; and three grandchildren, Parker Cleary, Susanna Hoffman, and Biruk Cleary.
No service is planned.