Joseph Leo Warnell of Lincoln, Delaware, passed away peacefully on February 25, 2020 at the age of 91. Originally from Iowa, Mr. Warnell was a PhD biochemist that was first drawn to Delaware to join DuPont as a Research Chemist but later formed and built his own plastics firm based in Milford.
Mr. Warnell was raised in Storm Lake, Iowa and enlisted in the Navy after high school where he served at the end of World War II as a medic at the US Naval Hospital in San Diego, California. Following the war and as a beneficiary of the GI Bill, he graduated college from Drake University with a degree in Chemistry and Math, and later received Masters and PhD degrees in Biochemistry and Organic Chemistry from the University of Iowa. Following a postdoctoral fellowship in Organic Chemistry at the University of Iowa, he served as an Instructor in Organic Chemistry at the University of Michigan.
In 1959, Mr. Warnell joined E.I. DuPont de Nemours as Senior Research Chemist at the Experimental Station in Wilmington, Delaware. During his 11 years with DuPont, he received 12 patents for his work on plastics and polymers. In 1970, Mr. Warnell founded Plastic Materials Co. in Milford, Delaware to sell nylon resins and color concentrates. He served as President and continued to build the Company until its sale to Hoechst Corporation in 1996. Following the sale of the Company, Mr. Warnell focused on property development in the Milford and Lincoln areas.
Throughout his career, Mr. Warnell was active in the local business community and served as Past President of the Milford Chamber of Commerce, Past President, Board of Trustees of the Milford Library, served on the Delaware Development Corporation and Sussex County Arts Council. He was also a proud member of the Milford Rotary Club for 40 years.
Aside from his significant enjoyment derived from project development and building things, Mr. Warnell had a tremendous love of the outdoors. While originally from Iowa, he became an active skier and skied regularly until he was 80 years old. He also loved the water and taught himself to sail and kept several sailboats during his life. When he wasn’t at work, he was typically outside working in his extensive garden farming fruits and vegetables or improving the extensive property around his home.
A scientist by nature, Mr. Warnell had an inquiring mind with a particular love of chemistry and enjoyed sharing his knowledge with others.
Mr. Warnell is survived by his three children Paul Warnell, Joan Mulholland and Ruthann Kerr; grandchildren Julia Frense, Justin Frense, Alexandra Kerr, David Kerr IV, and John Warnell; daughter-in-law Barbara Warnell and sons-in-law David Kerr III and Ian Mulholland.
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