TERRE HAUTE, Indiana. Frederick “Buzz” Klemner, a tireless inventor of non-existent or improbable articles, died last night after a brief illness according to a spokesman at the Grovedale Assisted Living Facility. He was the holder of eighty-three patents, none of which brought him wealth, but all of which were part of his “insatiable quest to make life for ordinary people more livable, or at least confusing,” according to a text he had prepared in case anybody wanted to hold a memorial service for him. He was eighty-two.
Smokeless cigarette smoking machine
Klemner got his start as a teenager working on an assembly line for the Hupmobile, a motor car produced in the midwest until 1940. On Klemner’s first day on the job a long-time employee sent him to the tool room to get a “skyhook,” an imaginary instrument that was the subject of a running prank pulled on new employees.
When the parts manager told Klemner that the older employee had “pulled his leg” and that there was no such thing as a skyhook, Klemner’s mind was set to racing. “Maybe there isn’t now,” he is reported to have said in an almost trance-like voice, “but there should be.”
Klemner developed a prototype of a hook that could be fastened to thin air without the use of adhesives; a balloon-supported implement that could hold weights of up to 200 pounds. He presented it to an Army recruiter on the eve of America’s entry into World War II and was promptly told to “scram.” He subsequently patented the device, along with a left-handed monkey wrench, another fictional item that he was gulled into asking for.
His inventions were often received with confusion by officials at the U.S. Patent Office, which can grant or deny limited protection from competition to individuals who develop “non-obvious” technological advances. “In the late 1980’s he came up with a device that would protect your electric typewriter from being ‘hot-wired’ and stolen,” says Roy LaFlange, a retired patent examiner. “It broke my heart to tell him that the youth of that time were into something called computers, and were no longer ‘joy-riding’ on IBM Selectrics.”
Solar-powered flashlight: For use only in broad daylight
Klemner stayed active until late in life, developing a prototype of a machine that would smoke “smokeless” cigarettes, a product that provides the pleasures of smoking while reducing the risk of diseases caused by tobacco use. “He had high hopes for that one, along with his solar-powered flashlight,” said his son Fred Klemner, Jr. “Unfortunately, we found out the machine was using snuff on the side, and it developed cancer of the lip.”
Funeral services will be private. In lieu of flowers, which you wouldn’t know where to send anyway, Klemner’s family asked that contributions be made to the Institute for the Pursuit of Useless Research in Muncie, Indiana.
Available in Kindle format on amazon.com as part of the collection “Fauxbituaries.”