All it took was a leak in the ceiling of his son's print shop for Warren Trent, who had retired as director of engineering technology for a major aerospace manufacturing company, to get back to work.
Trent's son, Paul, had opened a print shop in Tyler that was dealing with constantly leaking ceiling. Knowing his father's background, having retired from McDonnell Douglas in 1983, Paul asked his father to help think of a way to fix the leak. Four years later, the CostGard Condensate Drain Seal for HVAC systems was developed.
"I set up a rig and had started testing different ways and what I wanted was something that would not block algae. I also wanted something that wouldn't suck air in the wintertime when it was empty and something that didn't need service," Trent said. "About four years later, I had found that when I had installed it into his building, it worked, so I patented it and then we started trying to market the product."
Fixing a leaking ceiling was a far cry from the work Trent once had done producing aircraft, but it was no less rewarding for the 94-year-old, who said he continues to keep himself busy learning and solving problems.
"I like a challenge. ... You can't be happy unless you're working," he said.
Trent said got his big break when Walgreens contacted him about his product and requested a CostGard Drain seal for 8,000 Walgreen stores nationwide. Several local companies and one East Texas school also showed interest in his product and now are using it in their buildings.
Trent is satisfied that he created a viable product that solves a problem, but more than anything, he said the invention provided an enjoyable challenge and fulfilled his desire to stay busy after losing his wife.
He's already is thinking about his next invention, which will assist with draining water from condensing furnaces.
"Almost always good products are simple," Trent said. "We're not there yet - we don't have 100 percent proof that we can even create it."
But Trent continues to tinker with solutions and enjoys the challenge that keeps him going.