See more of the story

Robert Hubbard, of Minnetrista and Fountain Hills, Ariz., improved grain elevator safety around the world as a Cargill executive.

Hubbard, a Navy combat veteran of World War II, died on June 29 in Fountain Hills.

He was 86.

Many of his innovations aimed at reducing the risk of grain explosions live on in Cargill elevators and other companies' facilities today.

"His work definitely contributed to increased grain elevator safety around the world," said Ron Christenson, corporate vice president and chief technical officer for Cargill.

A graduate of Roosevelt High School in Minneapolis, he received his bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from the University of Minnesota in the early 1940s.

During the war, he was a torpedo officer on the submarine USS Manta in the Pacific Theater. Later in life he often was invited to speak at schools and ceremonies in Minnesota and Arizona and told audiences that among the 10 officer trainees with whom he was grouped, he was the only survivor of the war.

"He felt that he had a purpose in life, and he was purposeful," said his daughter Julianne Peterson of Wayzata.

In 1946, he was hired by Cargill.

For much of his career, he was responsible for the design or construction of elevators in places such as Savage, Minn., and Seattle, Wash., as well as Argentina, Japan and Belgium.

When he retired in 1984, he was vice president and general manager of plant operations for Cargill's Commodity Marketing Division, responsible for all its grain elevators, and he was "an authority on grain elevator safety," according to a 1984 company news release.

Jim Howard, of Wayzata, retired executive vice president and former Cargill board member, said he was a "wonderful guy" who solved many problems in elevator safety, "not only at the company, but for the entire industry." In the 1970s and 1980s, he played a key role in developing many innovations, such as the design of elevators, the use of polyurethane buckets and computerized control, all to eliminate dangerous conditions.

For many years, Hubbard reported to Barney Saunders, of Minneapolis, retired vice chairman of Cargill's board, who recalled Hubbard's public speaking abilities and his "delightful" sense of humor.

"When things weren't quite right, he would take action," Saunders said. "He was a heck of a good executive."

In retirement he was a consultant to the National Science Foundation, and an expert witness on grain elevator safety.

He made his first trip to what would become the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness as a Boy Scout, returning with Scouts and church groups for many years as an adult leader.

He served as the mayor of Minnetrista 30 years ago, and served as a deacon at the former Grace Baptist Church of Mound. He played leadership roles for the National Feed and Grain Association, and he was a board member of Northwestern College in St. Paul.

He was a golfer, sailor and a skier, enjoying the slopes into his 70s.

In addition to daughter Julianne, he is survived by his wife of 63 years, June, of Minnetrista and Fountain Hills; another daughter, Jayne Hubbard, of Carefree, Ariz.; son, Jon, of Minneapolis; brother, Charles, of Garrison, Minn.; sister, Jean Pfremmer, of Virginia, Minn.; three grandchildren, and one great-grandchild.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. July 21 at the chapel at Northwestern College, 3003 Snelling Av. N., St. Paul.