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Obituary: George Frank Erickson May 10, 1929 – March 5, 2019

on March 22, 2019 - 7:40am

GEORGE F. ERICKSON May 10, 1929 – March 5, 2019

George Frank Erickson died peacefully in Los Alamos on March 5, 2019 with family by his side. 

George was born in Oak Park, IL on May 10, 1929. He had a colorful childhood on the streets of Chicago exploring the wonders of energetic chemical reactions and high power electrical devices that sparked the technical passions that he carried with him through the rest of his life.

He spent time in Buffalo, NY while taking classes at the State University of New York and later joined the Naval Reserve as an electronics technician. He worked a variety of jobs including with Schwinn Bicycle, which led him to his career paths with the National Labs starting at Argonne.

In 1957 he moved to Los Alamos and spent much of his first few years at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory supporting the nuclear weapons program including an extended time on Christmas Island in the South Pacific where he fielded diagnostics on two dozen atmospheric nuclear detonations.

On April 7, 1960 he married Nancy, his wife of 43 years, whom he met at Argonne National Laboratory where she worked as a technician. He first saw her blowing glassware and running a lathe and it was love at first sight. Their natural attraction was evident during one of their first dates where they debated the half-life of Plutonium!

He worked on numerous early Los Alamos programs including the Rover nuclear rocket program. As a part of this effort, he built and tested the first successful heat pipe that is used in thousands of applications today. 

His experiences included nuclear detonations, thousands of explosive experiments, assembly and testing of high-powered CO2 lasers (in the kitchen!), exposure to large amounts of heavy metals vapors and other nasty carcinogens, large amounts of nuclear materials and ionizing radiation, and megavolt class electrical systems. 

While many considered what he did extremely dangerous, he successfully calculated and mitigated the risks of every experiment he conducted (extraordinary considering his ‘disdain’ for mathematics!) and lived a full life to the age of nearly 90.  

He is survived by his two sons, Andy and Dan, who regard themselves relatively normal considering …. However, other pertinent opinions regarding Andy’s and Dan’s “normalcy” that should be considered would be those of his other beloved survivors including Andy’s spouse, Gill and their three children Ryan, Holly and Jenna; Dan’s spouse, Shasta, children Justin, Dancie (husband Lance) and George’s great-grandchildren, Payson and Addie.   

He spent the latter years of his life brightening the hallways at Aspen Ridge with his motorized scooter and his familiar greeting “hey-oh”. The family would like to express their sincere gratitude to all those who enriched George’s life through their endless care and kindness, including those who gave him delight through technical engagement.

George was a faithful member of Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church for nearly 60 years. George and Nancy’s strong Christian faith was prevalent throughout their lives and has been passed along to the entire family who survives them.

A celebration of George’s life (and his love of pie and whipped cream!) is scheduled for April 20, 2019 at 11am at Trinity on the Hill Episcopal Church in Los Alamos. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

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