SILVER LAKE, Ohio (May 14, 2012)—Ben Kastein, former ACS Rubber Division chairman and its longtime historian, died May 11 at the age of 95.
For decades one of the most visible members of the Rubber Division—he held many posts in the group, and was a constant presence as the photographer at the organization's events—Kastein began his career after graduating from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in chemistry in 1938. In 1940 he moved to Ohio to work for Firestone as a senior compounder in the company's tire development department.
He spent his entire career at Firestone. Among his accomplishments was being part of the team that developed synthetic rubber as a substitute for natural rubber during World War II, when NR sources in Southeast Asia had fallen to the Japanese.
Kastein joined the Rubber Division 1941, and participated in many capacities in the organization. In a 2009 interview, he said being involved in the division gave a chemist or engineer right out of college the opportunity to learn valuable communications skills.
He served as chairman of the division in 1975, and its historian and photographer from 1978-84.
Kastein compiled a history of the division through 1975. Among the other positions he held was exhibits chairman in Cleveland in 1971. In the 2009 interview, Kastein said previous exhibitions held with the technical conferences had been very small, but that year the division had 26 exhibitors—and the group took notice.
The Rubber Division Expo—which drew 240 exhibitors in Cleveland last fall—became the major funding source for the organization.
In 1988 Kastein received the Distinguish Service Award from the division.
Kastein also was a big supporter of the rubber groups, mostly regional rubber industry technical organizations. “They're miniature replicas of the division—you can't talk about one without talking the other,” he said. He was chairman of the Akron Rubber Group in 1965.
Kastein never lost his allegiance to Firestone. He would quickly make a point that the name of the Rubber Division's highest honor is the Charles Goodyear Medal—named after the discoverer of vulcanization, not Firestone's rival tire company.
He also showed his persistence when, year after year, he nominated Robert Thomson, the inventor of the first pneumatic tire, for admittance into the Inventors Hall of Fame. The hall always rejected the nomination.
Kastein was a member of the Service Corps of Retired Executives since 1979, and enjoyed photography, gardening and family life.
He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Helen; daughters Diane Bussan, Bonne Kastein and Beth Carr; five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.