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Frisbee Pioneer Dies, Ashes to Be Made Into Discs
“Steady” Ed Headrick, the California inventor who figured out a way to make the Frisbee fly fast and straight, has died at the age of 78. His family said his ashes will be made into Frisbees.
Headrick died in his sleep early Monday at his home in La Selva Beach, California, his son Ken told the Santa Cruz Sentinel on Tuesday.
While no services are now planned, Headrick’s ashes will be molded into a limited number of “memorial flying discs” that will be distributed to family and friends, and sold to help fund a future Frisbee/disc golf history and memorabilia museum, his son, Ken Headrick, said.
The elder Headrick, who had high blood pressure, had suffered two strokes while attending the Professional Disc Golf Association Amateur World Championships in Miami last month and returned home to California after doctors determined that his condition was likely to deteriorate.
Hailed as the father of the modern Frisbee, Headrick helped to perfect the popular flying disc beloved by generations of college students while working at Emeryville, California-based toymaker Wham-O Inc. in 1964.
The Frisbee — said to be named after the Frisbie Pie Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut, whose round metal tins were used as toys by students at Yale University in the late 19th Century — took on new life with the advent of industrial plastics.
After World War II, an inventor named Walter Morrison worked on perfecting a plastic version of the toy and came up with the “Pluto Platter” prototype, a plastic mini-flying saucer.
But the platter still proved to be a wobbly throw. Headrick, who was then working on research and development at Wham-O, took a look at the design and added aerodynamic ridges on the top of the disc, making it more flight-worthy.
Awarded the patent for the first “professional” model Frisbee in 1966, Headrick went on to popularize a wide variety of Frisbee-related sports, founding the International Frisbee Association and later the Professional Disc Golf Association, which involves throwing a Frisbee at a metal cage.
“We all wished for a miracle that would have had him up and out of bed throwing discs and joking around once again. That miracle that was Ed will have to live on in our hearts and souls now,” the Disc Golf Association said in a release on Tuesday.
Headrick is survived by his wife as well several children and grandchildren.
In an interview with the Santa Cruz Sentinel last year, Headrick acknowledged the special power of the Frisbee — one of the simplest and most successful toys ever devised.
“I felt the Frisbee had some kind of a spirit involved. It’s not just like playing catch with a ball. It’s the beautiful flight,” Headrick said.
“We used to say that Frisbee is really a religion — ‘Frisbyterians,’ we’d call ourselves,” he said. “When we die, we don’t go to purgatory. We just land up on the roof and lay there.”