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Obituary: Ralph Robert Stevens, Jr. Feb. 9, 1931 – Nov. 23, 2019

on November 27, 2019 - 5:19am
RALPH ROBERT STEVENS, JR Feb. 9, 1931 Nov. 23, 2019 
 
Ralph Robert Stevens, Jr. was born Feb. 9, 1931 in Montclair, New Jersey, later growing up in nearby Chatham.
 
His parents, Elizabeth and Ralph Stevens, encouraged the interest of Ralph and his brother Don in science. He and his brother found treasure in the Army-Navy Surplus stores, inventing gadgets and developing radio sets, using some of their products to tease their younger sister Patricia. He is survived by Patricia.
 
Ralph played violin in his high school orchestra and had the joy of hearing his granddaughter Sarah play that same violin. He liked Latin and chemistry, but chose the Engineering Physics program at Cornell University, graduating with B.S. and Master’s degrees before joining the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1957 at the PHERMEX project. In those years he met Marilyn Watkins at the Young Adult group overseen by the First United Methodist Church.
 
After their marriage and birth of their first child, they moved to Baltimore to start Ralph’s PhD in nuclear physics at Johns Hopkins University. They returned to Los Alamos in time for Ralph to join the developing construction of the Meson Facility, now known as LANCE, with an enthusiastic assembly of colleagues under the direction of Louis Rosen, bringing the project to its first milestone in 1972 under budget and on time.
 
Those were satisfying years of work and innovations, including a few years leading MP-11 at the injector portion of the beam line, along with co-workers some of whom still meet long after retirement for lunch occasions. A familiar sight of Ralph taking the stairs two at a time, on the long outside staircase leading up to the Lab Office Building, inspired the gift of work shoes with a lead brick glued to the soles “to slow him down." The family grew to four children: Sally Beth, Bob, Anne and Rebecca. A six-month sabbatical leave at the Paul Scherer Institute in Switzerland in 1967 provided new perspectives that in later years added to the pleasure of hosting a stream of foreign students, with bonds of affection and respect that are still strong.
 
Ralph’s zest for physics and the people he worked with remained with him all his 39 years at the Lab. He retired in 2000. Ralph tackled projects for his home, doing finishing work, wiring and building furniture for a two-story addition. He worked enthusiastically in his garden each summer, growing vegetables and inventing schemes to foil gophers. He served as treasurer for church and once for a political campaign, amplifying his interest in financial and budget areas. The stimulating Bible studies he enjoyed were combined with philosophical reading and pondering for many absorbing conversations. His firm commitment to Jesus Christ, expressed in serving, studying, and giving, deepened many friendships.
 
Ralph loved being a father and grandfather: Sally and Dave Tammen and their three children, Sarah, Steven and Sylvia; Bob and Mary Beth Stevens and their daughters Ramya and Margaret, Anne and Tim Kalkbrenner and daughter Blin; and Rebecca Stevens and Bill Geist. The extended families of in-laws and nieces and nephews have been cherished by him. The children and grandchildren provided steadfast and unlimited support when injuries from Ralph’s serious car accident in October eventually resulted in his death Nov. 23. He died at home in the presence of his loving family.
 
A memorial service for Ralph will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday Nov. 30 Bethlehem Evangelical Lutheran Church. The family of Ralph Robert Stevens Jr has entrusted the care of their loved one to the DeVargas Funeral Home of the Espanola Valley.505-747-7477www.devargasfuneral.com.
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