Alex Manoogian perfected design of single-handled faucet: NYT

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Alex Manoogian, the Armenian immigrant responsible for making the single-handled faucet a ubiquitous fixture in modern bathrooms and kitchens throughout the United States and around the world, died on Wednesday at St. John Hospital in Detroit. Mr. Manoogian, who lived in Grosse Pointe Farms, Mich., was 95.

Thanks to his realization of the promise of the ball valve joint patented by three inventors, Mr. Manoogian, who came to the United States from Turkey as a teen-ager in 1920, amassed a fortune. He proceeded to dispense it by donating millions of dollars to religious, educational, charitable and cultural institutions and hospitals -- many of them serving the Armenian community -- in scores of countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Australia.

Mr. Manoogian, who founded a small but successful machine shop in Detroit called the Masco Screw Products Company, specializing in automobile parts, was approached in 1952 by the inventors of the ball valve joint, which was capable of making hot and cold water run from a single tap.

They were looking for someone to develop a faucet based on the valve at a time when there were virtually no single-handled faucets on the market.

"It appealed to me," Mr. Manoogian said later. "I said, 'Why wouldn't people want to do something with one hand instead of with two?' "

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He signed an agreement with the inventors, and he put his shop to work. Two years later he had a faucet whose handle could be turned left or right for hot or cold water and be pushed or pulled to control the volume. And the faucet was dripless, having no washers to wear out.

Although Mr. Manoogian was intrigued by manufacturing the single-handled faucet, his interest in selling it was minimal. But when plumbing companies told him there was no market for such a fixture, Mr. Manoogian felt he had no choice but to market it himself.

Last year the Masco Corporation, based in the Detroit suburb of Taylor, realized sales of $3 billion from home furnishing and building products, including plumbing and brass goods, kitchen cabinets, appliances, spas and locks manufactured in 100 factories in 15 countries.

The faucets, marketed under such names as Delta, Peerless and Sherle Wagner, are made in single- and double-handled models that range in price from about $40 for a relatively simple chrome fixtures for do-it-yourselfers to thousands of dollars for top-of-the line models made from precious metals. The faucets account for $698 million, or 23 percent of the company's total sales, and the company says its products hold 38 percent of the domestic market for faucets.

Stock in Masco, which barely survived the Depression, was first sold to the public in 1936 for $1 a share. A year later it was listed for sale on the Detroit Stock Exchange, and Masco shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1969. Masco officials calculate that a $10,000 investment in the stock in 1958 would be worth $25 million today.

Mr. Manoogian, a somewhat shy Old World figure who spoke in lightly accented English, was widely regarded as one of the most prominent persons of Armenian descent in the world. For 36 years he was the international president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union, a worldwide educational, cultural and humanitarian organization. In 1970 he was elected life president, and in 1989 honorary life president.

In such countries as Argentina, Australia, Canada, Iran, Israel, the Netherlands and the United States, institutions created or assisted by Mr. Manoogian's generosity were named for him, his wife, the former Marie Tatian, who died in 1992 after 61 years of marriage, or his parents, Tacvor and Tacoohie Manoogian.

Mr. Manoogian donated the home he had once lived in to the City of Detroit, which uses it as the official residence of its mayor.

In 1990 he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, a special award to outstanding Americans, and last year the Republic of Armenia awarded him its National Hero Medal and declared him an Armenian citizen, the first individual outside the country to be so honored.

Mr. Manoogian was born in 1901 in Smyrna, now Izmir, Turkey. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire in World War I promoted so much economic chaos and political repression for Armenians in Turkey that he left in 1920 for the United States, where he was later joined by his parents, two brothers and two sisters.

Mr. Manoogian settled first in Bridgeport, Conn., where he worked in a factory and taught Armenian in evening courses for adults. In 1924 he moved to Detroit, where, as a skilled machinist, he founded Masco Screw Products in 1929.

He is survived by a son, Richard A. Manoogian of Grosse Pointe, Mich., now chairman and chief executive of Masco; a daughter, Louise Simone of Manhattan, who succeeded her father as president of the Armenian General Benevolent Union; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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