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John E. Scruby; Turned the Toy Soldier Into a Business

September 10, 1988

John Edwin (Jack) Scruby, who parlayed a childhood fascination with miniature soldiers into a business that each month shipped thousands of the life-like military figures around the world, has died at his Cambria, Calif., home.

His daughter, Judith McCarty, said the internationally recognized authority on war games was 72 and died of a heart attack.

He had been in apparent good health since open-heart surgery several years ago and had "even played tennis the day before he died" on Tuesday, she said.

Scruby designed and cast figures for dioramas on display at the Bunker Hill Monument in Boston and the Ottawa War Museum in Canada from his Cambria shop, the Soldier Factory. At one time, he conducted weekly war games with enthusiasts throughout the country.

Born in Seattle, Scruby began making tin soldiers in his garage while living in California's San Joaquin Valley about 1955 and began publishing a war game magazine in 1957.

In 1973, Scruby and his wife, Wanda, opened the Soldier Factory in Cambria, 225 miles north of Los Angeles, casting tiny pewter figures for re-creations of famous battles.

Scruby traced his fascination with the tin and lead models to a trip to Europe he had made when only 10 years old. It piqued his interest in military history, he said.

Even during the Vietnam era, he told The Times in a 1974 interview, interest in his wares never lagged.

"Unlike real war, nobody gets hurt. We kill off 1,000 troops, put them back in the box and start all over again."

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Wendy, a son, John, and two grandchildren.

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