2004-03-03 / Obituaries

Anton J. Chmela

Mr. Anton J. Chmela, a former resident of Garrison, NY, for over 35 years, passed away in his 100th year on February 24, 2004 in Brevard, North Carolina, where he had lived for the past 20 years. Born in Horna Hradcany, Austria-Hungary, on September 13, 1904, he was the seventh of ten children born to Stephan and Maria Chmela and the last surviving sibling. Stephan Chmela (1862-1947) was a miller and operated a water powered grist mill in Dolna Hradcany until 1922 when the family immigrated to America.

Mr. Chmela settled in Merrick, Long Island, with his parents and soon began working for the Bell Telephone Laboratories at 463 West Street in New York City. Working in what was called the "Crystal Room", he was involved with the development and production of quartz crystal oscillators for communications in what was then the beginning of radio broadcasting. Mr. Chmela became an expert at the orientation of quartz using the natural quartz facets as a reference and later progressing to X-ray diffraction. The development of radio telephones during World War I lead to the rapid development of broadcasting after the war. Within a few years, millions of people were listening to factory-made or home-made radio sets. During these early years of broadcasting, the crystal art and the radio art developed side-by-side. In order to improve the quality of radio transmission and eliminate signal interference, AT&T’s WEAF radio station became the first crystal-controlled broadcasting station and resolved the bad quality reception problems.

During this time Mr. Chmela also worked on the development of the first crystal controlled clocks to be used as time standards by the United States Government. These were the most accurate clocks in the world just prior to World War II.

Mr. Chmela married Helen Benca on June 15, 1930, and built a home in Yonkers, NY. In the mid-1930s, they moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, where they owned and operated a tourist camp located at 54th Avenue North and 28th Street North.

During World War II, there was a tremendous demand for quartz crystal oscillators for military use by the United States Government. With the experience gained at Bell Telephone Laboratories, Mr. Chmela founded General Quartz Laboratories and manufactured millions of crystal oscillators in support of the war effort. The plant was located in Irvington, NY, in the "Trent Building." In 1944, Mr. Chmela purchased Dick’s Castle in Garrison, NY, with the intention of expanding the crystal production. At the end of World War II, General Quartz Laboratories was sold and Dick’s Castle became the site of American Quartz Laboratories. An electro-mechanical shop was set-up in the basement of the East wing of the castle. Research and development work relating to the production of crystal oscillators was conducted there until the castle was sold to the Dia Art Foundation in 1979. X-ray machines for use in the crystal industry were also built at the castle. During this time period, Mr. Chmela was associated with several crystal plants located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, including the Hupp Corporation, the Hunt Corporation, and the Piezo Crystal Company.

During the initial drive to save and restore the Boscobel Mansion, Mr. Chmela donated the North wing of the castle as a storage area for architectural details and structural components from the mansion. In the mid-1970s and just prior to selling the castle, Mr. Chmela completed extensive repairs to the castle roof and a restoration of the entire ornamental concrete roof cornice.

Mr. Chmela was predeceased by his wife Helen in 1978 and by his second wife, Ruby, in 1994. He is survived by his daughter Helen Kent of Wappingers Falls, NY, grandchildren Aaron and Alicia Kent, his son Anton S Chmela of Garrison, NY, daughter-in-law Michelle, and grandchildren Amanda and Patrick Chmela. Funeral services were conducted by the Clinton Funeral Home on February 28, 2004 followed by internment in the Cold Spring Cemetery. Hard work, energy, and accomplishment equal a long life.


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