JACKSON, MICH. — Dale S. Lecrone, founder of LeMatic Inc., died July 19. He was 88 years old.
With a career spanning longer than 50 years and an extensive line of patents of importance to the baking industry to his credit, it’s easy to see why Mr. Lecrone was inducted into the American Society of Baking Hall of Fame in 2009. Mr. Lecrone’s impact on the baking industry was widespread, ranging from his company’s role in the advent of bagel slicing to his influence as a past leader of numerous industry associations.
Mr. Lecrone got his start in the industry in the 1950s working in a machine shop used by Capital Bakers in York, Pa. While there, he worked on the development of the first hinge slicing machine for hamburger buns. He later worked for Alto Corp., developing several bakery equipment patents for the company.
In the early 1960s, Mr. Lecrone left Alto to work for Baker Perkins in Saginaw, Mich. He spent six years as a sales engineer for the mid-Atlantic states for Baker Perkins, which at the time was the largest manufacturer of bakery equipment in the United States.
By 1966, Mr. Lecrone had moved on to Jackson, Mich., where he took a job with the Dawn Equipment Co. as manager and developer of new equipment. It was during the next several years, though, that Mr. Lecrone would develop the breakthroughs that ultimately would cement his place in baking history.
“In the early 1970s, some of the patents were running out on his earlier designed slicers,” according to a Hall of Fame nominating letter. “Dale had some ideas on how to build a better one. He left Dawn Foods and built his first LeMatic slicing head in his basement garage.”
Founded in 1973, LeMatic, Inc. initially produced bakery slicing and bagging equipment and in short order was supplying slicing, handling and packaging equipment to customers around the world.
The company’s customer list is impressive, including such names as McDonald’s Corp. and Lenders bagels.
Today, LeMatic, Inc. continues to provide innovate slicing, packaging and automation solutions to the worldwide baking industry, including its new generation of products in robotics and vision systems. The company’s AutoOp (Automatic Operator) cells integrates robots and vision into new and existing bakery production lines to improve efficiency and product quality in the production process. The product is ideal for high-speed picking, packing and palletizing and is customizable based on the application.
Mr. Lecrone also was well known for his innovative side. He held 14 patents for bakery machinery, including a knife mounting unit for a roll slicing machine, separating rollers for a slicing mechanism of a roll slicing machine, an adjustable roll slicing system, and a band-type roll slicing machine.
He was president of BEMA, an international, non-profit trade association representing leading bakery and food equipment manufacturers and suppliers, whose combined efforts in research and development have led to the continual improvement of the baking and food industries, from 1991 to 1993. In 2003, he received that organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Mr. Lecrone was preceded in death by his wife Margaret Lecrone, his son Brian Lecrone and his brother Frank Lecrone. He is survived by two sons: Alan Lecrone (Shelley) and Dale Lecrone (Irene); a daughter-in-law, Janet Lecrone; five granddaughters; and nine great-grandchildren.A memorial will be held in Mr. Lecrone’s honor on Aug. 14 at 10:30 a.m. with a service at 11 a.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 1505 W. Michigan Avenue, Jackson. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Dale S. Lecrone Memorial Fund, c/o the Jackson Community Foundation, One Jackson Square, Suite 308, Jackson MI 49201.