A lifelong inventor who created everything from printers to weaponry, in the early 1960s Howes was the director of research and new product development for toy maker Kenner Products. He helped reformulate Play-Doh to remove toxic chemicals. He helped market the Spirograph when Kenner acquired American rights to the toy. And when a company salesman asked for a toy chestnut roaster, Howes expanded on the idea — a lot — while simultaneously trying to make a cooking toy as safe as possible. The result was a hit. “Whenever someone brings up the subject, a woman always chimes in and says, ‘Oh, I had one of those’,” said his wife, Nancy. “Everybody’s heard of the Easy-Bake Oven.” The toy, which allowed girls — and some boys — to bake real cakes and cookies has since sold more than 20 million units. Up until last month, he continued inventing, including items for the U.S. Department of Defense. In his later years, Howes had a long, white beard, and sometimes “children did ask if he was Santa Claus,” said his son, Christopher. “If they only knew.” Howes died February 16 at 83.
From This is True for 21 February 2010