Living Treasure Joan Smith Brown. Photo by Jim Gautier
By COLLEEN OLINGER
Living Treasures of Los Alamos will honor Joan Smith Brown, Charles “Chick” Keller and J. Arthur Freed at 2 p.m., Sunday, April 23, at Crossroads Church, 97 East Road.
The public is invited to attend the ceremony and reception, sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank.
Joan Smith Brown
2017 Los Alamos Treasure
The good deeds Joan Smith Brown showers on neighbors, community, and family could fill the lives of several women. A gifted pianist and singer, stalwart civic worker, stellar friend and comforter, 2017 Los Alamos Treasure Joan Brown is honored for being there when Being There is important.
Joan Warrick Smith Brown was born in Nebraska in 1935, 81 years ago. She early on eagerly embraced music - playing the piano at the age of five, singing, and playing the trumpet in her high school marching band. Joan remembers frozen fingers while playing taps at winter funerals for WWII soldiers whose bodies were being brought home.
Her description of Nebraska: “Cold!” Joan attended Chadron State College in Western Nebraska, majoring in business. She sang there, was in a brass sextet, and took more piano lessons.
Joan arrived here with her husband Duane Smith in 1959 to fill a job with the Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS). They came sight unseen to the community and did not understand the housing point system. With only one daughter and Duane’s salary as a LAHS counselor, they were then eligible for an upstairs Chapel apartment, across from Central School. It was quite new, had new appliances, and featured sunny windows.
After ten summers and an academic year at the University of Nebraska where Duane received his PhD, and with a second daughter, only then did they have enough points to get a quad. When Duane became Director of Pupil Personnel at LAPS, they were offered a small house on Canyon Road, bought it, later selling it they finally were able to purchase a 4-room home “with a carport and yard.”
Everyone moved as they advanced and helped each other most weekends - a typical story of Los Alamos housing mobility. Music continued to be a large part of Joan’s life. In Los Alamos, she played piano and sang in the choir at the United Choir for the almost 60 years she has lived here. She has also played and sung for other church’s services upon request. She has accompanied school choruses, soloists, played in home recitals, as well as many weddings and funerals. She has
sung with Choral Society, Coro de Camera, and helped as a rehearsal accompanist for a Light Opera production. One of the reasons she loves being in these groups, she says, is that she meets such interesting and wonderful people.
Joan organized a two-piano, eight-hand performance quartet, the Hot Flashes. Formed in the late 1990s, this group of four women (Joan, Cathy Strong, Ruth Williamson, and Frances Naffziger) has performed for benefits for UNM-LA, Fuller Lodge brown bag recitals, the 2008 State Conference of Professional Music Teachers, and many other events. The group started when Joan found music for “Stars and Stripes Forever” for two pianos (eight hands) in a Palo Alto music store while visiting her daughter. Their first performance was a 4th of July event.
Asked, “do you have a name?” and thinking that because it was a fun, one-performance endeavor they quickly had to come up with one, the name Hot Flashes came to mind and it stuck. For twenty-three years, the Hot Flashes met every Thursday at Joan’s home, disbanding only two years ago. She still belongs to the Los Alamos Piano Group, which meets once a month, playing for each other and enjoying members from the Jemez, the Rio Grande Valley, and Santa Fe.
In 1974, Joan became a member of the Los Alamos chapter of the Philanthropic Educational Organization (P.E.O.) the mission is education for women. It provides scholarships, low interest loans, and grants for continuing education. It includes graduate study in fields as far ranging as veterinary science, nursing, and fine arts. P.E.O. also has an International Peace Scholarship program for women of other countries who then return home after completing their education.
The organization owns a 4-year women’s college, Cottey College, located in Nevada, Missouri. Joan has served as local (AK) president as well as other offices and on grant, loan, and fund-raising committees. She is currently AK Chapter’s pianist, has played for several state conventions, and has overseen chapter socials and educational programs, and is happy to help with meals for ill members and families.
Joan was a member of the siting committee for the new municipal building on Central Avenue. This effort took approximately a year to complete, but, again, introduced her to a variety of interesting people as they worked together. The process involved nineteen available locations and included walking visits to each site. Several locals expressed concern about the final siting, most of them questioning moving from the previous location. The major new site criterion was to relocate all County offices to one building, Joan says, and the old location lacked space.
“People who have never done anything like this do not realize the complexity of the decision. It had to be well thought out and debated.”
Joan has contributed to the civic life of Los Alamos in other ways as well. She is a former member of the Family YMCA Board, is active politically, and works for her party and other causes she believes are important. Joan provides food and faithfully visits shut-ins. “I’ve tried to be a good neighbor wherever I have lived. I always made an effort to meet the new neighbor early on. Knowing each other can be a real support.”
Joan was a member of a bridge club for 32 years. She is a believer of exercise and walking and is a regular at her favorite exercise class. During the many years she lived in White Rock you might have seen her picking up trash as she walked. She also liked to travel and she and her husband, Don, were fortunate to visit many countries. They always preferred talking to the locals, eating with them at local cafes, visiting schools, and attending concerts and church services. They especially liked to travel by train.
“I’m not as interested in the numerous museums as in the people. I do the people things. By visiting one-on- one, I learn about their country. I enjoyed taking cooking classes, flower arranging, and learning about the tea rituals, for instance, as we traveled.”
Joan has been a member of the United Church since her arrival here. “People feel like it is a community church because it includes six denominations.”
In addition to playing piano and/or singing with the choir, she has served on boards and is currently a weekly volunteer at the United Church Thrift Shop. Many years ago, she organized a once a month “rain or shine” visit to Aspen Ridge where she and others from her church engage residents in continuing friendships, conversation, and homemade cookies. During holidays, especially, you might find Joan having a sing-a- long for the residents.
Joan has survived cancer twice. Cancer also took her first husband and eldest daughter.
“Friends came – they never let me down.” She has baked many loaves of bread and answered many a late-night call by caring and showing compassion to those also tackling or grieving with serious illness. She is a trained, certified volunteer for Reach to Recovery, which supports women with breast cancer and their caregivers in their homes. She helped over the years by working on the committee for the Relay for Life annual cancer walk. She has a deep commitment for legal choices for end of life issues, and is involved with Santa Fe and local groups, hoping that the New Mexico legislature might pass laws improving patient rights, individual choice, and dignity in dying. “I like choices.”
About Los Alamos? “It is an amazing town in many ways and I feel blessed for my many years living in this beautiful spot; great education, the safety, friends helping friends, and the opportunities to learn and grow. Now I am enjoying the many amenities for senior citizens. I have had it all!
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Joan Warrick married Duane W. Smith in 1954. The couple had two daughters. The eldest, Kim Smith-Nilsson, an ordained minister, died in February 2016 of cancer; she and her husband Alan had two daughters, Thea and Johanna. Kelly Myers, her younger daughter, is a retired beloved teacher and is now working as a real estate agent here in Los Alamos. She and her husband Steve have a daughter, Emma, and a son, Jim.
Duane Smith served as Los Alamos Public Schools Superintendent from 1972-79. The Los Alamos High school auditorium is named after Duane, who died in 1979 of colon cancer only four weeks after the diagnosis, “shocking the entire community.” Joan later married Don Brown, whose wife, Mary, had also died of cancer leaving two children, Shelly and Eric. He worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s from 1959 until his retirement in 2001, both in the Rover Program and in his real passion, the Hot Dry Rock Project as an engineer and project manager.
Joan worked part-time in the Business Office of LAPS and the Lab’s Chemistry and Nuclear Chemistry Division. Joan and Don have been married for 36 years.
Living Treasure J. Arthur Freed/Photo by Jim Gautier
J. Arthur Freed
2017 Los Alamos Treasure
Lucky communities have an essential someone who makes things work, yet is content to remain in the background. Known for his sound judgment, competence, selflessness, and humor, 2017 Living Treasure J. Arthur Freed is a Los Alamos Essential Someone.
Art and his wife, Nancy, the love of his life and “the best thing that ever happened to me,” arrived in Los Alamos in 1958 to accept a job as Assistant Report Librarian at the then Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Over the ensuing thirty-three years, Art progressed through the ranks and was appointed Group Leader/Head Librarian in 1970. Nancy worked as a staff member, mostly in the Lab’s Nuclear Applications Group. They retired in 1991. Art helped oversee development of the Lab’s modern conference/library facility, the Oppenheimer Study Center. Many of the Lab’s library resources are available to the public, offering an often little-known boon to the community.
Never able to stray far from libraries, Art has been a longtime member of Friends of Mesa Library (now Friends of Los Alamos County Libraries) and has served as Chair of the Endowment Committee. Art represented the Lab as a member of the St. John’s College Santa Fe Library Committee in the 1960s. He has volunteered in South Africa for the World Library Partnership.
Since 1972, Art has been a member of the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee, founded in 1971. (He is currently the second longest serving member; Krik Krikorian is the longest.) The Committee’s overarching goal is honoring Robert Oppenheimer’s legacy. Art has served as Secretary, Vice-Chair, and Chair and is currently the Committee’s Archivist.
The Oppenheimer Memorial Committee sponsors the long-running (since 1972) prestigious annual Oppenheimer Memorial Lectures. These lectures bring nationally-known speakers to Los Alamos and have included thirteen Nobel Laureates, among them Linus Pauling, I.I. Rabi, and Hans Bethe. Next summer’s speaker will be Dr. Jennifer Doudna, a discoverer of CRISPR, a revolutionary gene-editing technique.
The Oppenheimer Memorial Committee also annually awards promising graduating high school students in the Los Alamos, Pojoaque, Espanola, Santa Fe area ten to twelve $3,000 scholarships and one $4,000 scholarship; one of the scholarships is awarded in Nancy Freed’s memory. Funding is a “constant concern,” says Art, as the scholarship number is dependent on the amount of money raised. The selection process is “agonizing,” because all the candidates deserve assistance.
A long-term, engaged member of the Los Alamos Historical Society, Art received the Society’s Los Alamos History Medal in 2016. He has served on the Historical Society Board of Directors and was Chair of its Archives and Collections Committee. He assisted in planning for the move of the Society’s archives from inadequate Fuller Lodge storage to a state-of- the-art multi-room facility at the Los Alamos Municipal Building on the lower level next to the County’s archives.
Art has supported the Los Alamos Concert Association (LACA) since the mid-1970s, serving on its Board and as Treasurer. This past year, Art donated money to the Concert Association for a tribute concert to Nancy, who died in 1994. He made one request: that a violinist be booked if possible. According to Ann McLaughlin, Concert Association Artistic Director, “I knew instantly how we would use it. I decided that if a miracle made it possible for LACA to afford his fee, we would engage Joshua Bell. That miracle happened when Art asked to have a cup of coffee with me. Art said that he would like to sponsor a concert to honor Nancy, his late wife, and handed me a check.
“This gift has had repercussions for LACA far beyond simply bringing one great artist to Los Alamos. It has put LACA on the map in ways I could not have anticipated.
What a huge difference one humble man’s wish to honor his wife can make!” Joshua Bell performed before a sold-out audience February 3, 2017, at the Duane Smith Auditorium, exactly 65 years to the month after Art and Nancy had their first date when they heard the eminent violinist Nathan Milstein in Berkeley.
Art has also given financially to the Nature Center; a display in the Naturalists Corner near the entrance memorializes Nancy. He gives a special contribution to the Los Alamos Visiting Nurse Service; he and Nancy called on the nurses when she was ill. “They were just wonderful. We are very fortunate to have them in Los Alamos.” Art has served as a Board member and President of the no longer operative Services and Aid Relief to the Poor (SARP).
During the late 1990s, SARP financially helped two Los Alamos residents establish a cancer clinic in southern India.
Art and Nancy enjoyed traveling and tent camping and he still travels some. “I’ve gone around the world in 80 years,” he says. His visited countries include South Africa, Spain, Great Britain, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Poland, Panama, Peru, Australia, Malaysia, India, Kenya, Morocco, and Turkey. Art’s favorite place? – “the last place I visited, I suppose.” Art’s current travel focuses on performances of the John Adams opera, “Doctor Atomic,” first performed in San Francisco in 2005.
To date, it has been performed by eleven different companies in twelve venues. Art has seen performances from all of them, the last one abroad in Seville in 2015. This March, he was able to attend a Curtis Institute student production in Philadelphia. He brings back program material from each opera and donates them to pertinent archives here.
“It is a strange hobby I guess, but it gets me to places I may not get to otherwise.”
“I always need to get back to Los Alamos. This is a remarkable place.”
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J. Arthur Freed is eighty seven. His roots are in San Francisco, where he spent his childhood. In 1951, he received his Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the University of California Berkeley – subsequently finding himself in the Korean War’s U.S. Army.
In 1953, while serving, he and Nancy Laubach were married in Pasadena, Nancy’s hometown. Returning to Berkeley after his two-year military stint, partly in Germany, Art earned Masters degrees in anthropology and library science. The couple moved cross country to a job as librarian with the Brooklyn Public Library before coming to Los Alamos.
Living Treasure Charles (Chick) Keller. Photo by Jim Gautier
Charles (Chick) Keller
2017 Living Treasure
2017 Living Treasure Chick Keller is proud of our community. “There are very few places you can go, because few places are as good.” Chick is dedicated, passionate, organized – a man who combines ideas with action.
Chick Keller is probably best known locally as a leading expert on plants of the Jemez Mountains. He is lauded for his willingness to share his knowledge, for discussing subjects in a manner that encourages listeners to view an issue in a new light. He has given talks, participated in symposiums, and written papers on global warming. In addition to native plants he participates in education on astronomy, birds, and butterflies.
Chick’s booklet, “The Twelve Little Yellow Composites of Summer,” published in 1989 by the Los Alamos Historical Society and due to be updated this year, is a hiker’s mainstay. Chick was president of both the Santa Fe chapter and statewide New Mexico, Native Plant Society. In former years, he wrote a weekly Flower of the Week column for the Los Alamos Monitor, and he continues to write nature articles for the Los Alamos Nature Center. Chick and his wife Yvonne were participants in the Valle Caldera National Preserve’s Breeding Bird Atlas survey.
The Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) is a prime example of Chick’s outreach. In 1999, when public interest in a local nature center surfaced, Chick helped develop the infrastructure of the ensuing entity. From the beginning, PEEC has followed a simple philosophy: “There are no ‘shoulds’ at PEEC. We are not going to tell you what to do, but show you what there is. What is it that makes things work?” Chick became a board member (and, later, president), lobbied community members, hosted meetings at his and Yvonne’s home, and expanded civic recognition. In 2005, he was instrumental in negotiating rental of a physical site, two-rooms, at Los Alamos High School’s Orange Street building. He then helped build shelves and other display cabinets for exhibits.
The five years PEEC spent on Orange Street taught it how to put together a modern nature center, says Chick. To obtain funds for this, it was necessary to involve the community, so Chick and others reached out to businesses and citizens, filled out forms, and attended planning, architectural, and County Council meetings.
PEEC choreographed email write-ins to the Council to indicate broad community support and a tourism opportunity. “The County Council never had a chance. … We made a deal – if you build the building, we will put everything in it.” In the end, the County put up $3.2 million for the structure and PEEC raised $1.2 million. Chick co-chaired the capital campaign to raise funds for the exhibits.
The Nature Center opened in 2015, has a paid 6 member staff and many volunteers. A unique feature is its planetarium and special dome. PEEC raised $70 thousand for the planetarium projector. The late Arthur Cox’s large donation was instrumental.
Chick is founder and curator of the Jemez Mountains Herbarium. The Herbarium receives New Mexico, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Park Service, and Valles Caldera Preserve attention and use. Housed in the Nature Center, Chick is personally available once a week (currently on Tuesdays) to identify plants brought into the Center by the public, although he will come in almost any time someone wishes to see him. Chick started the Herbarium in 2005 based on his own plant collection subsequently augmented by collections from the U.S. Forest Service, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and contributions from mentored high school students and private citizens. Some sixteen different people have found additional species for the area to include in the Herbarium and are listed as collectors in its database.
The late Dorothy Hoard, Craig Martin, and Terry Foxx have been instrumental in the Herbarium’s growth. From 300 species in Chick’s initial collection, the herbarium now contains almost a thousand (997) species found in Los Alamos County and over 150 species not previously known to exist in the Jemez Mountains. “We are able to show that the Jemez Mountains are a unique place; White Rock Canyon is very special.” The Herbarium’s immediate goals are to obtain a digitizer to digitize the collection and provide teaching this summer.
A special contribution from Chick involves the Kinnikinnick Nature Preserve. Kinnikinnick is a lovely open area overlooking Acid Canyon, within easy walking distance just west of the Larry Walkup Swimming Center. Chick discovered that uniqueness of this area and knew it could invite people to spend a lunch hour among air, sky, and trees – away from the town.
When he heard that the planned Swimming Center parking lot would intrude, he asked the County Council to establish a firm boundary. Along with others, notably Jamie O’Rourke and the late Betty Lillienthal, he succeeded. In 1987 he wrote the proposal that established Kinnikinnick Nature Preserve (named in a children’s contest).
Sporting comfortable benches, this lovely preserve is part of the Los Alamos trail system.
Chick is not above trying to change institutional procedure if he feels it to be inadequate to the situation. In the 1980s, he helped form an ad hoc group, Citizens for a Beautiful New Mexico, to block a proposed Rio Grande bridge in White Rock Canyon (part of the nuclear waste relief route) and, instead, to rely on upgrading existing roads. The group was successful. Chick has taken particular interest in the huge wildfires that have marked our community. Concerned about existing backfire and plane slurry management, he publically offers his own views.
Chick’s range of interests is certainly not limited to nature and science. During the 1990s, he became board member, and then chair, of the Los Alamos Concert Association, helping to establish the association’s outreach to high performance artists. For many years Chick played his violin in the Los Alamos Symphony (recently passing it on to a granddaughter); he was a board member and helped initiate a young musician scholarship program. As an active member of the local Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, Chick sings in the choir, has served as song leader, lector, and as a liturgy committee member. For many years he directed a Gregorian chant group.
Chick has worked with the Cub Scouts, judged Los Alamos Public School science fairs and debate contests, and given numerous talks and walks to youngsters. As a UNM-LA Advisory Board member, he helped negotiate a classroom building from the Public Schools to UNM. In the 1970s Chick joined board of Los Alamos Self Help, served as chairman where, along with Denny Erickson and Tom Hirons, he helped initiate Self Help’s Seed Money Program and get Self Help into United Way. He is a member of his parish’s Christian Concern Committee that works through various relief organizations to assist temporarily needy families in surrounding areas.
Chick has high praise for the people of Los Alamos. “One of the great things about Los Alamos is the many people who have espoused something and kept at it. That’s why this town is so great – people asking, ‘what can we do?’”
Chick and Yvonne have been married twenty-eight years. They share five children (John, Jim, and Ann Keller, and Kirsten and Jesse Boudreau) and 6 grandchildren. Chick says, “Yvonne and I are like two peas in a pod. I tell her, ‘What would I do without her?’ A lot of the interesting things have begun because Yvonne has said, ‘Why don’t we - ?’” If Chick had more time? “I would like to write more about what something, such as the plants here, means. I want to know the meaning. Why am I doing this and where is it going?”
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Chick Keller was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1939. The product of a Catholic school education, he attended St. Vincent’s Monastery College in Pennsylvania State Univ. and received a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy and then a Bachelor of Science in physics from Penn.
He subsequently received a Master of Science and a PhD in astronomy from Indiana University in 1969. Chick arrived in Los Alamos as a Los Alamos National Laboratory graduate student in 1967 and joined the Lab’s J Division in 1969, where he became Group Leader in 1974. His subsequent work centered mostly on earth and planetary physics modeling as Group Leader in G Division, which became Earth and Environmental Sciences Division.
Chick was Director of the Lab’s branch of University of California’s Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics from 1987-1990. He finished with a sabbatical to Scripps Institute of Oceanography reading over 200 papers on aspects of Global Change, which resulted in several large published reviews on the subject and many community talks.