As she searched through photos to include in a slideshow for her father’s Saturday memorial service, April Bell of Flowery Branch could not help but smile and sometimes laugh out loud.
Any tinge of sadness for Bell and her family over the passing of Ival O. Salyer on Oct. 15, a little more than a month shy of his 101st birthday, is easily eclipsed with joy in knowing he led a full and extraordinary life.
Salyer’s scientific contributions are vast. His name is on more than 130 patents — including his very last one for a hybrid aircraft design after turning 98 in 2015.
His scientific work contributed to the development of the artificial heart and kidney made out of a polymer material that the body does not reject.
Bell said her father had a hand in developing Astro-Turf and artificial sugar, worked on stealth bomber coding, corroborated with atomic research laboratories, working on flame-retardant material and was among the scientists called in by NASA to review and make recommendations following the Challenger disaster.
For all of his scientific accomplishments, her father was “a very simple person” who engaged in everyday life, Bell said. She said he found the time to volunteer with the Boy Scouts, was president of the Lions Club, made it to PTA meetings and was a leader and officer in church.
“I remember him as a child,” Bell said. “He would always sit and write on napkins when ideas came to him.”
Bell laughs when she says that her father probably wished she and her siblings would have followed in his steps as a research scientist, but they did not. Bell said she went on to become a band director, her sister Sharon Salyer does reporting on science, health and the environment, and her brother, Ival Salyer, is a family physician. Bell’s siblings live in Washington state.
“One of the things that Dad always said was find the thing you enjoy doing and do that,” Bell said.
Another childhood memory that filled Bell’s heart with laughter was the elaborate school science projects that her father would help them with.
“We had science projects that no kid ever brought to school,” she said.
After getting a degree in chemistry from the University of Rochester, Salyer joined the Air Force during World War II. After serving four years, Salyer returned home to marry his wife, Jane. The couple spent most of their 61 years together in Dayton, Ohio, where Salyer worked at the Monsanto Research Corp., then at the University of Dayton Research Institute. Jane Salyer died in 2006.
Salyer lived next door to Bell in Flowery Branch, where he continued research work despite having macular degeneration.
“I’m really proud of him,” Bell said. “I mean, he really had a phenomenal life. He was going out to eat every day up until the last three weeks. He went to church every Sunday up until the last three weeks. We should all be so lucky. I hope I’m that blessed.”
A memorial service for Salyer is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Bethlehem United Methodist Church at 3219 Bethlehem Church Road in Buford.