Export metallurgist strove for perfection through science
Bill Powers was a man of science who loved his family and who took his Catholic faith seriously.
His career at U.S. Steel Research and R.J. Lee Group in Monroeville spanned 54 years, during which time he obtained patents for material inside steel mill smokestacks and blast furnaces, his children said.
“My dad … liked to see how things worked. He was just fascinated by chemistry and things related to the earth,” said his daughter, Patricia Carlson.
William “Bill” Hamilton Powers Sr. of Export died Wednesday, April 3, 2019, at UPMC Presbyterian. He was 84.
Born in Billings, Mont., on June 8, 1934, he was the son of the late John and Ruth (Stauffer) Powers. He attended the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., before graduating from Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley, where he earned degrees in geology.
Early in his career, he spent time in then-British Guiana mapping deposits of bauxite and in Nevada mapping mineral deposits, his daughter said.
He settled in Western Pennsylvania after getting a job as a researcher at U.S. Steel. He worked as a metallurgist and “designed bricks for the lining in blast furnaces and process controls to make the company more efficient,” said his son, William Powers. “He was sent around to the different (U.S. Steel) mills to evaluate what their inefficiencies were and get them more efficient.”
His work at U.S. Steel also involved reducing the amount of particulate matter coming from steel mill smokestacks, Carlson said.
With the decline of the steel industry in the Mon Valley, U.S. Steel sent Powers out-of-state to mills in Ohio, Alabama and elsewhere, his children said.
With the layoff of researchers at U.S. Steel, Mr. Powers got involved with the startup of R.J. Lee Group about the time of the 1986 steelworkers strike, Carlson said. There, he was involved with the analysis of asbestos, gunshot residue and other materials through the use of microscopes.
Mr. Powers was working as a material specialist for R.J. Lee Group at the time of his retirement at 80.
“He was just a very detail-oriented person, always striving for perfection,” his son said.
Mr. Powers spoke several languages, read widely in military history and loved the outdoors. “He grew up around the Crow and Blackfoot reservations (in Montana) and was really fascinated with the culture,” his daughter said.
He was a longtime member of St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Export, where he served on the parish council for five years and as a Eucharistic minister for 30 years.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Margaret “Peggy” (Simmons) Powers; two daughters, Patricia Carlson and her husband, Patrick, of Madison, Wis., and Jennifer Powers of Export; two sons, William Powers and his wife, Donna, of Murrysville, and Thomas Powers and his wife, Nora, of Avonmore; two grandchildren; and three step-grandchildren.
Friends may call from 2 to 4 and 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Hart Funeral Home, Murrysville. Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Export. Interment will follow at Twin Valley Memorial Park, Delmont.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Westmoreland County Food Bank, Delmont, at www.westmorelandfoodbank.org.
Stephen Huba is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Stephen at 724-850-1280, [email protected] or via Twitter .