Silicon Valley inventor of cherry picker dies at 95

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Mr. Eitel

Former Los Altos resident Jay M. Eitel, inventor of the cherry picker, died June 10 from pulmonary and renal failure. Mr. Eitel was 95.

Born in San Jose in 1916, Mr. Eitel resided in the Bay Area most of his life, briefly in Los Altos.

Early in his career, Mr. Eitel invented the cherry picker, a hydraulic crane originally designed to lift and lower people to pick cherries high off trees. He invented the telescoping crane after enduring a laborious summer harvesting cherries on a farm and founded Telsta Corp. to manufacture the cherry-picker lift. The telecommunications industry later adapted the device to install and repair overhead lines.

Although the cherry picker is the most widely recognized of Mr. Eitel’s inventions, he held 65 patents.

Mr. Eitel got his start working for his brother at the Eitel-McCullough Inc., developing shortwave communications systems and radars used in World War II.

In his retirement, Mr. Eitel contributed precision machines to the Applied Technology Division at Chabot College in Hayward and supported students interested in the trade.

He employed his creative and technical skills reconstructing classic vehicles, including a Chevrolet Corvair with a Jaguar engine and a 1937 Ford Roadster. The Ford Roadster is scheduled for display at the Palo Alto Concours d’Elegance 7 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday on a Stanford University field at the corner of Sand Hill Road and Pasteur Drive.

Mr. Eitel is survived by his wife of 48 years, Esther Rusk Eitel, son John and several nieces and nephews. His family held a private celebration of Mr. Eitel’s life.

Donations in his honor may be made to the Universal Technical Institute, 10695 W. Pierce St., Avondale, AZ 85323; or the Society of Automotive Engineers, 400 Commonwealth Drive, Warrendale, PA 15096.

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