WD-40 marketing expert dies in La Jolla

The marketing expert credited with making WD-40 a household name died this month at a skilled-nursing home in La Jolla, it was reported.

John S. Barry was 84 when he died July 3 at White Sands, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Barry joined the then-Rocket Chemical Co. in 1969 as its president and CEO, and almost immediately changed the San Diego-based company’s name to WD-40.

Under Barry’s expertise, sales of the lubricating, rust-preventing spray grew from $2 million in 1970 to $91 million in 1990.

“He was (at Rocket Chemical) a couple of weeks when he said, `We don’t make rockets. Let’s change the name to WD-40,’'' retired federal Judge Lawrence Irving, who was involved with the company from its beginnings and helped recruit his brother-in-law Barry, told the Union-Tribune.

“It was a stroke of genius. We had no name identification. He built it up. It became a public company and had great success.’'

In addition to boosting national sales, Barry introduced the product to a global market and had a plant built in England.

The Minneapolis native, who served in the Navy, is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and four grandchildren.

A celebration of Barry’s life is scheduled for family and friends at 5 p.m. Friday at the San Diego Yacht Club. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the San Diego Air & Space Museum in Balboa Park, the San Diego Humane Society or the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation.