Rudolph A. Cola, 87, of Malvern, an engineer and physicist who helped develop plasma display panels, died of complications of a stroke Friday, Aug. 27, at Paoli Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Cola served in the Army Air Force in the South Pacific during World War II. While working with flight crews on B-17 bombers, he fashioned a harness to keep tail gunners in the plane if the gun turret was shattered, his son Michael said.

After his discharge, Mr. Cola earned a bachelor's degree in engineering from Villanova. In 1952, he joined Burroughs Corp. While with the firm, he earned a master's degree in physics from the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked on ENIAC, the first electronic computer.

At Burroughs, Mr. Cola was involved with the development of cathode-ray tubes, lasers, light-emitting diodes, and plasma display screens. He was responsible for 23 patents, his son Robert said.

In 1983, he retired from Burroughs, now Unisys, and became an engineering consultant. In his free time, he created educational software for a brain-injured boy.

Mr. Cola graduated from Olney High School, where he was a pitcher on the baseball team. He spent a summer with the Philadelphia Athletics' farm team before enlisting in the Army Air Force. In the Pacific, he played ball with former big-league players. He later played semipro ball and earned a baseball scholarship to Villanova.

In 1955, Mr. Cola married Mary Margaret McDonough. While their children were growing up, he coached Little League Baseball and Biddy Basketball in Malvern.

In the 1960s, he served on the Philadelphia Air Pollution Control Board. He felt strongly about air quality, because a daughter, Maria, died of asthma when she was 2, Robert Cola said.

Mr. Cola cherished vacations with his family at his home in Wildwood, his sons said.

In addition to his wife and sons, Mr. Cola is survived by daughters Rita Carroll and Kathy McMurtrie; another son, Mark; three brothers; and 12 grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, at St. Patrick Roman Catholic Church, 126 Woodland Ave., Malvern, where Mr. Cola was a Eucharistic minister. Friends may call from 10 a.m. Burial will be in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.

Contact staff writer Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or