Millions of people have contorted themselves into awkward and amusing positions while playing Twister, the first game to use humans as board pieces and one of the many innovative inventions of Charles Foley.
Twister debuted in 1966 with the slogan,“The Game That Ties You Up in Knots.” It immediately drew criticism from some who decried the game as “Sex in a Box.” But Twister quickly became a cult phenomenon after host Johnny Carson and actress Eva Gabor got on the polka-dot mat and played the game during an episode of the “Tonight Show.”
While Twister was the highest profile of his 97 patented inventions, Foley’s Un-Du became the product of choice for photographers, scrapbookers, and even law enforcement officials and the staff at the Library of Congress, who use the adhesive remover that takes off stickers, tape and labels without leaving a stain. It was named Best New Product of the Year at the 1993 School Home Office Products show in Chicago.
“He was extremely passionate about what he did,” said his son Mark, of the Twin Cities. “He had great vision. His motto was ‘I want to invent something that should be in every home and every commercial environment imaginable.’ ”
Charles Foley, 82, died of complications from Alzheimer’s disease July 1 while at Golden Living Center in St. Louis Park.
Foley’s first invention came when he was 9 while living in Lafayette, Ind. He affixed a latch mechanism onto a gate on the family farm to keep cows from escaping from a pen.
Even though he attended school only through the eighth grade, his desire to find a way to make things work better set him on a course of developing innovative products and toys, said his daughter, Katie Foley, of St. Joseph, Minn.
Foley served in the Michigan Air National Guard and worked on the assembly line at the Ford Motor Co. before taking a job at Lakeside Toys in Minneapolis. It was while he was developing packaging for the Reynolds Guyer House of Design that he and partner Neil Rabins came up with the idea for Twister.
“What makes the Twister game timeless is the fact that it’s always been about showing off your free spirit and just having some laugh-out-loud, out of your seat fun,” said a spokesman from game maker Hasbro, Inc. “The game’s popularity continues today as young fans still have fun getting tied up in knots.”
Foley often collected toys for churches and foundations that distributed them to less-fortunate children. He also planted dreams in the kids he spoke to at elementary and high schools in the Twin Cities, his son said.
“He always encouraged them that no matter how many challenges they faced to not ever quit on an idea,” Mark Foley said.
In addition to his son and daughter, Foley is survived by sisters Veronica Lewis, of Michigan, and Carolyn Walker, of Atlanta; two brothers, Mike, of Michigan, and Bernard of Wisconsin.; five other sons Chuck, of Dallas; Mike, of Cloquet, Minn.; Brian, of Michigan; and Pat and Kevin, both of the Twin Cities; two other daughters, Kerin Logstrom, of the Twin Cities and Mary Kay of Buffalo, Wyo.
Services will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, 1310 Mainstreet, Hopkins. Visitation will be held 1 hour before services at the church.