OBITUARY: Robert Allen Hardekopf Oct. 14, 1940–Dec. 21, 2013

ROBERT ALLEN HARDEKOPF Oct. 14, 1940–Dec. 21, 2013

Robert Allen Hardekopf (Bob) was born October 14, 1940 in St. Louis, MO and died in Los Alamos on December 21, 2013 after a long battle with leukemia and related complications.

His parents Charles Frederick and Hazel Wilma Hardekopf, and an infant daughter Elizabeth Ann Hardekopf preceded him in death. He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Priscilla (Grovenstein) Hardekopf of Los Alamos; by his children and their spouses Catherine Lynn Freudenreich (Oliver) of Arlington, MA; David Warren Hardekopf (Lenka) of Prague, Czech Republic; Kenneth Charles Hardekopf of Albuquerque, NM; and by grandchildren Sheldon, Sophie, Michael, Matias and Tomas. Two sisters, Carolyn Ruth Yuziuk of Burnsville, NC and Shirley Jean Schomburg of St. Peters, MO, and one brother, James Douglas Hardekopf of Tijeras, NM, also survive him.

Bob was raised in St. Louis, MO through junior high school, and in West Palm Beach, FL where he graduated from Palm Beach High School as valedictorian of his class in 1958. He attended Auburn University on a US Navy scholarship and graduated Summa Cum Laude with a BS in Physics in 1962. He was president of his fraternity, Theta Chi, during his senior year, and was inducted into honor societies in math, physics, leadership, and overall scholastic achievement, as well as receiving the Auburn President’s Award in the School of Science and Literature.  He was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship for graduate studies, which he deferred until after his Navy obligation.

Bob was commissioned as an officer in the Navy in 1962 and served on the initial crew of the USS Bainbridge (DLGN-25), the Navy’s first nuclear-powered destroyer. In addition to being a “plank owner,” Bob served on the commissioning crew and on the first deployment of the Navy’s “nuclear task force” to the Mediterranean. Bob then volunteered for nuclear power training, and after interviewing with Admiral Rickover, the “father” of the Nuclear Navy, was accepted into the program. He graduated first in his class at the US Navy’s Nuclear Power School in Maryland and the Prototype Reactor Facility in Connecticut. He then volunteered for the Submarine Service and spent 6 months at the New London Submarine School, receiving the Spear Foundation award for highest academic achievement in his class. He was assigned to the crew of the ballistic-missile submarine, USS Von Steuben (SSBN-35), where he qualified as diving officer, engineering officer, and conning officer. He made three patrols in the North Atlantic before resigning his commission in 1967 to attend graduate school.

Bob attended Duke University as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow from 1967 to 1971 and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a PhD in physics. He came to Los Alamos in January 1972 as a post doc in nuclear physics research in the Physics Division. He was hired as a staff member later that year and continued his research at the Van de Graaff Accelerator Facility, specializing in experiments with polarized beams. He built the world’s first (and only) polarized tritium ion source, allowing experiments that could be done nowhere else in the world, in the process publishing with co-authors over 100 papers in refereed journals.

In 1976, Bob took a sabbatical for a year in Zurich, Switzerland, where he worked with colleagues at the Technical University ETH and the Swiss Meson Factory, SIN (now PSI).  During this year he and his family lived in the small village of Greifensee, where the children attended Swiss schools and learned the local Swiss-German dialect.  They traveled extensively during weekends and holidays, exploring much of central Europe in their VW “bus.” Following his return to Los Alamos, Bob was appointed to management positions at the Van de Graaff Facility in the Physics Division. He transferred to the Accelerator Technology (AT) Division in 1981 to work with a team developing a new Proton Storage Ring (PSR) for the LAMPF accelerator, and he rose to deputy group leader and group leader during its construction and early commissioning in 1985. Bob’s group in AT Division designed the output beam optics for the Neutral Particle Beam (NPB) program as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), and he directed the successful installation and test of a first-of-its-kind NPB “telescope” at Argonne National Laboratory in 1987.

In 1988 he was appointed Deputy Division Leader of AT Division, and partnered with various DOE agencies to advance research in particle beams and to set up a high-power advanced accelerator demonstration facility at Los Alamos that formed the technical foundation from which the Accelerator Production of Tritium (APT) program was created and eventually funded. It was also during this period that Bob was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, which he battled the rest of his life.

When the Laboratory reorganized in 1993, Bob accepted the role of Senior Executive Advisor to the Laboratory Leadership Council, at that time the highest leadership body at the Laboratory. During his two years in this position, he attended the Executive MBA program at the University of New Mexico, receiving an MBA in 1995. It was near the end of this period that complications from his leukemia resulted in a life-threatening illness, including viral encephalitis that left him completely blind. Following a lengthy recovery during which he regained partial eyesight, he returned to the Laboratory to work on program development in the Defense Program Office.

Bob returned to AT Division in 1999 as project leader of R&D for a proposed major DOE facility, the Spallation Neutron Source (SNS), which was to be built by a collaboration of six National Laboratories. He continued leading LANL’s R&D program during the construction period and helped in the formation and leadership of the SNS Division, created to build the beam chopper, linear accelerator, and diagnostics. Upon the completion of this project, SNS Division disbanded and Bob joined LANSCE Division for a year before retiring in 2005. During his retirement, Bob continued as an affiliate in AOT Division at the Laboratory, consulting on and archiving the records of the SNS project. 

In addition to his work life, Bob loved New Mexico and enjoyed many varied activities such as camping, skiing, fly fishing, tennis, golf, and traveling. He was a long-time member of White Rock Baptist Church, where he served in multiple capacities including treasurer, council member, and deacon. After retiring, he and his wife traveled to visit his daughter in Boston, his son in Prague, and went on a genealogy trip to the small village of Lindhorst near Hanover in Northern Germany from which his great grandfather emigrated in 1855 as a 15-year-old farmer to make his way in America. Bob was enthusiastic about his German heritage, and spent a lot of time updating his genealogy database for the benefit of his grandchildren. In recent years he gradually shifted his emphasis to maintaining fitness by walking daily around White Rock, most notably to the White Rock Senior Center where he enjoyed various interest groups and drinking coffee.

Bob will be interred at Guaje Pines Cemetery in Los Alamos. A memorial service will be held at noon on January 18 at White Rock Baptist Church.





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