Obituary: Niels Richard Borch Aug. 4, 1930 – Aug. 16, 2022

NIELS RICHARD BORCH Aug. 4, 1930 – Aug. 16, 2022

Niels Richard Borch passed away in Santa Fe, New Mexico on Tuesday, August 16, at 92, after a long, peaceful decline.

Niels was born on August 4, 1930, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Lilly Merete Hein and Ole Gotfred Borch.

The first child of Danish immigrants, much of Niels’ early years were spent in a string of locations around the west and midwest, as the Great Depression forced his father, an electrician, to pursue work wherever he could find it. Niels shared stories of a cold winter spent in a boxcar with his parents and two younger brothers in Horse Creek, Wyoming. It was in Horse Creek’s one-room schoolhouse that a gifted teacher recognized his quick intellect and inspired his pursuit of science. The war effort (WWII) eventually provided the family with stable employment in California.

Niels attended Pasadena City College and UC Berkeley, with studies in metallurgical engineering, though the Korean War interrupted his education for a few years. The Army trained him as a Field Radio Repairman at Camp Gordon, Georgia, to prepare him for the front lines. But fate and luck intervened. During training, he and a friend refurbished a small motorboat for fun. They caught the eye of a Colonel, who diverted them from the battlefield to a posting on American Lake in Washington, servicing boats for Fort Lewis. This was one of Niels’ favorite stories.

Niels obtained a Master of Science in Physical Metallurgy from UC Berkeley in 1957 with focused study on the properties of Beryllium and a groundbreaking thesis on deformation in metals. His education led to a career in materials science with Texas Instruments, Stauffer Chemicals, Lawrence Livermore National  Laboratory, and finally the Los Alamos National Laboratory. All told, he served the national labs for over thirty-one years. In his career, Niels was granted several patents, focusing on innovative scientific instruments, and, for a short time, he designed and manufactured a precision device used to prepare samples for electron microscopes. He published papers in Metallurgical Transactions (1971) and Nature (1987).

In Los Alamos, Niels raised his two children along with his second wife, Adda Moldt. The beautiful location in New Mexico provided great schools and a launching point to pursue and share his interests – skiing, boating, sailing, camping, and flying. He always had an eye towards service and was active in the Kiwanis Club, Explorer Post 20, the United Church of Los Alamos, the Civil Air Patrol, and was on the board of the Economic Development Corporation.

Niels’ lifelong love was flying. He became a pilot during college, paying for lessons by fixing cars at a service station, and flew for the next fifty-seven years. He enjoyed mild acrobatics, flying his family on trips, taking people sightseeing, participating in search and rescue, and giving rides to young people interested in aviation. He spent his later years maintaining and flying his beloved yellow Ercoupe.

In retirement Niels lived a second and very different life in Santa Fe. He discovered meditation and actively participated with the Vipassana community, regularly practicing ten-day silent retreats. He found friendship and growth in the New Mexico Men’s Wellness community and founded a men’s group. He was active with the Center for Spiritual Living and trained as a hospice volunteer, assisting many people through their last days. He became fascinated with conscious aging and elder communities. Eventually, Niels led the development of Elder Grace (now Sand River), a 24-unit intentional community on Cerrillos Road.

Niels is preceded in death by his first wife, Shirley Hutchison, brother Robert Borch, sister Sue McKenzie, and his last partner, Eleanor Breslin.

He is survived by his brother, Albert Borch (wife Ingrid), Adda Moldt (divorced), their children Anne Marie Borch (husband Evan Baker) and David River, his granddaughter, Lily River, and numerous nieces and nephews.

An online memorial will be held on Saturday, September 10, 11am MT. Please RSVP to to receive a link.

LOS ALAMOS website support locally by OviNuppi Systems