Red Solo Cup creator, Robert Leo Hulseman, dies at 84

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Thursday, December 29, 2016
Robert Leo Hulseman, 84.
Robert Leo Hulseman, 84.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The creator of the Red Solo Cup has died. Robert Leo Hulseman, 84, of Northfield, Ill., was surrounded by family when he died on Dec. 21.

Hulseman, 84, is being remembered as an innovator, a philanthropist and a gentleman. He started working at the Solo Cup factory when he was 18. His father started the business in in 1936.

He worked his way up to CEO of the company, succeeding his father in 1980 and helping the company grow into one of the largest food service packaging companies in the world.

In the beginning, the Illinois-based company made the kind of cone-shaped paper cups you find next to the office water cooler. Then, in the 1950s, as fountain sodas gained popularity, it added wax-lined cups to its lineup.

It was sometime in the 1970s that Hulseman came up with the now-ubiquitous cups that are such a party staple.

Made of thick, molded polystyrene, they are perfect. You can drop them, stack them, dispose of them. And they are cheap. And of course, being red, they hide what it is you're drinking exactly.

The cups later came in blue, but the red still keeps outselling.

"I've tested this over and over. Consumers prefer red, and it's not very close," a company executive told Slate in 2011.

"I think for one thing it's a neutral color that's appealing to both men and women."

The red cups weren't the only drink-related item Hulseman dreamed up during his life. He's also the creator of the Solo Traveler coffee cup lids.

The father of ten and grandfather of nearly 30 was married to his wife, Sheila Murphy Hulseman, for 60 years. They met when they were students at Marquette University and were awarded honorary doctorates in Catholic Theological Union for their commitment to leadership and service.

Hulseman's friends and family said he will be remembered as a "gentleman who demonstrated class at all turns" - including those on the dance floor - his deep spirituality and for his witty sense of humor.

The next time you're at a party and find yourself holding a red Solo cup, pour a bit of your drink out for Hulseman. There's no better way to honor the memory of the man who helped make the good times possible.

CNN contributed to this report.