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Sunday, January 28, 2007 

Lester Ferdinand Borchardt (1907 - 2007)

You might not know his name..nor face, but you, and millions of kids, know his "invention". Cheerios. Certain atheletes owe a debt of gratitude to him as well, for he was involved in creating Wheaties, too. Lester Borchadt passed away last week at the age of 99.
Cheerios, originally called Cheerioats, were invented by Lester Borchardt back in 1941, but Cheerios almost didn't happen.

Les and his team were working on the machine to puff cereal, like Cheerios, but his boss wanted them to stop the project. Les insisted they go on, and two months later, Cheerios was born.

"Some people referred to him as a genius, and I do think he was," said Les' Daughter-in-Law Mary Borchardt.

Years ago Les' granddaughter drank a bottle of furniture polish. Cheerios may have helped save her life.

"So we took her to the emergency and had her stomach pumped. The doctor came out and said if she hadn't had such a good breakfast of Cheerios and milk, she would have not made it," said Mary Borchardt.

Les' family said he was humble and didn't talk about all his inventions and patents. He had 11 of them and he also helped come up with the process to fortify milk with vitamin D.

He worked at General Mills for more than 35 years and his daughter said he ate Cheerios just about every morning of his life. - WCCO

...In a brief autobiography he wrote after retiring, Borchardt said he took pride in bucking his corporate bosses when he felt it was necessary. He discussed one research team's work on a piece of equipment used in the production of breakfast cereals like Cheerios.

A worker came up with an idea for increasing the machine's output, so Borchardt decided it was worth pursuing to see whether it would work.

"Two years and $150,000 later my superior passed on to me the word that his superior felt that the time had come to terminate the projects," Borchardt wrote. But Borchardt said his staff thought they were close to a breakthrough, so he stood his ground.

Two months later, the project was a success. At the time he retired, Borchardt said, the company estimated the process was saving it $1 million a year. - St. Paul Press

Have a big bowl of Cheerios for Les sometime this week. What a terrific way to pay tribute.

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"...In a brief autobiography he wrote after retiring, Borchardt said he took pride in bucking his corporate bosses when he felt it was necessary."

He never said that, it was creative license taken by the author of the story. In his "brief autobiography" actually, an autobiographical letter to a friend named Harlan, he wrote that on some projects he needed to convince some managers that the project was close to a breakthrough. From his letter, Lester thought highly of the owner of the company founder James Ford Bell. In fact, Mr. Bell once stated to my grandfather after a mistake which caused a couple of rail cars filled with grain to go moldy to the tune of about $20k, that "progress doesn't come cheap" and encouraged them to continue working. The process they were working on revolutionized the flour milling process.

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