Rainer “Ray” Lothar Broekel, a science teacher and author who was renowned for his sweet tooth, died on Jan. 26 of heart failure. He was 83.
Born in Dresden, Germany, Broekel was only four years old when his family immigrated to America. He served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, then received a bachelor’s degree from Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill.
In the 1950s, Broekel taught junior high school science and founded the Junior Science Museum, which was located in his classroom and housed live animals and plants native to Illinois. In the 1960s and 1970s, he worked as the editor-in-chief of the juvenile division at Addison-Wesley Publications.
Broekel also read voraciously and penned educational texts for children. A prolific author, he wrote and/or edited more than 200 books about a variety of topics — from snakes and trains to baseball and magic — and published nearly 2,000 newspaper and magazine articles.
Broekel’s passion for sweets, however, made him famous. To research ”The Great American Candy Bar Book” (1982), he tasted hundreds of candy bars — and gained 10 pounds in the process. Broekel followed it up with ”The Chocolate Chronicles” (1985), and published “The Candy Bar Gazebo” (“The confectionery goodies journal”) from 1984 to 1995.
Known as “The Candy Man,” Broekel appeared on more than 100 TV and radio programs, and once rode in a parade inside a car decorated to look like a chocolate bar. Candy lovers from all over the globe sent him unique candy wrappers and merchandise, items that Broekel added to his 40,000-piece collection of candy memorabilia. On average, he sampled between 300 and 500 candy bars a year.
Broekel served as historian for the National Confectioner’s Association and the Chocolate Manufacturer’s Association, and in 1990 he was inducted into the Chocolate Hall of Fame. When the American Museum of Candy History opens later this year, it will feature a special selection of items from his personal collection.