Elmer Vary, Tinkerer and Inventor

PDI_0526In the early 70’s when my husband and I first moved to State Street, we met Margaret and Elmer Vary, our neighbors at 55 State Street.  Little did we know what a treasure of a man Elmer had been to this community for nearly 90 years.

His early years were spent from the age of 14 working at the Batavia Canning and Preserving Company where he learned to love the machinery and was always looking for ways to improve their functioning.

At the age of 16 he invented and patented an improved cherry pitter as well several other machines that made work easier at the factory.  By 1919 his tinkering turned to the automobile and he opened a garage on Vernon Street, at the site of the present FMC Community Office.  He retired from the garage after 42 years during which he gave life back to many automobiles and bikes, giving him a reputation as a most considerate and thoughtful man.

In his retirement he enjoyed tinkering with models which he built from spare parts and would give the children and adults in the neighborhood tours of his garage which housed his wonderful collection.

Mr. Vary died in 1988 at the age of 97, leaving his wife Margaret to survive him until 1990 when she passed at the age of 102.


  1. Great article! What a nice piece of the history of Middleport. Who knew we had inventors in our midst–and now today it continues with David Lyndaker’s magnetic zipper. How cool! Do I detect Larry and Brian in that picture, or am I imagining things? I sat with Margaret Vary many evenings when she was older and alone in the house. What a sweetheart she was!

  2. Around 1965 when I was in 9th grade I build a steam engine from plans that I found in the school library. Someone told me that I should show it to Elmer Vary. He had a wonderful collection of steam engines that he had built. As I recall, most were made from kits he obtained from the U.K. He ran them on compressed air so that moisture from steam would not condense and cause corrosion. He did not like the boiler that I built for my engine. It was made from a paint can with the lid soldered on. He said it was dangerous because there was no pressure relief valve and used his lathe to make me one while I watched in fascination. “Now go home and solder that on before you run your engine again” He was a class act!

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