At 12, Robert D. “Bob” Fuller built his own radio transmitter and went on air with classical music and weather reports from his bedroom in Baudette, Minn.
He grew up to be an inventor who produced industrial motion pictures and other creative products for some of the nation’s biggest corporations.
Fuller, of Mendota Heights, died of cancer March 30 at age 85.
“He was a pioneer in the audiovisual and motion picture industry in Minneapolis,” said son Donn Fuller, who worked with his dad for years, watching him design and make equipment to run multiple slide projectors and sync images with music.
“He always liked to immerse people, take them out of their comfort zone and show them something new,” said another son, Jim Fuller.
Among Bob Fuller’s inventions were inflatable plastic domes in which multiple images and sounds flooded viewers. Dayton-Hudson and other corporations used the mobile chambers nationwide decades ago to convey corporate philosophy to staff.
“It was Bob’s genius in coming up with these rooms and putting these shows together that would make them work,” said his former business partner, Cy DeCosse of Minneapolis. “He was an electronic genius.”
Bob Fuller, who held several patents, was “before his time” with inventions predating computers, IMAX and more, DeCosse said.
His father, Percy Fuller, died when Bob was a tot in Duluth. His mother, Millicent, moved him and three sisters to Baudette.
As a boy Fuller tinkered, once building a giant kite and using a toddler as ballast. The tot flew up in the air with the kite. Bob landed him without injury but got in trouble.
“He was just very curious about how all things worked,” said his wife, Mickey Fuller, whom he married in 1985.
Bob Fuller had quit high school to join the Navy, happily working on a tugboat in San Francisco Bay. He later finished high school in Spokane, Wash., where his sister lived.
At Bemidji State College, he met his first wife, Catherine Ghostley. They lived above the Chief Theater in Bemidji, where he was a projectionist. The family moved to Brooklyn Center in 1953. The couple later divorced.
Bob Fuller managed Camden Theater in Minneapolis and was a commercial and wedding photographer.
From 1958 to 1968, he was Pillsbury’s productions director, producing TV commercials, cookbooks and more.
He was a terrific photographer but his greatest skill was in the technical area, designing equipment to meet clients’ needs, DeCosse said.
“He was constantly innovating,” DeCosse said.
“He was one of the first guys to do these multimedia shows, where you had 10, 20 slide projectors, all shooting slides up on the screen, segmented screens, or screens all around the room.”
In 1969, the two founded the Creative Center, producing multimedia and more for corporate clients. In 1974, Fuller began Slide-Shooters, a slide production laboratory.
Bob Fuller was especially proud, said son Jim, of a 1960s show for Pillsbury, based on Martin Luther King’s letter from the Birmingham Jail.
“It was the most moving thing I’ve ever seen,” Jim Fuller said of the production.
Over the years, Bob served many civic roles. He began trade groups and a mass communications scholarship fund at St. Cloud State University.
An amateur radio operator, he later managed a radio monitoring service for fire-alarm dealers with wife Mickey.
Other survivors include children Paul Fuller, Mary Ireland, Ross Fuller and Mike Maas; nine grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren. Services will be at 10 a.m. April 16 at Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel.