On Sunday, March 14, 2021, Richard C Wingerson passed away at the age of 91. He was lovingly attended by his wife, Janice Lindgren, Tru Community Hospice, and Home Watch Caregivers.
Dick had great stories about growing up in Alaska. Before settling in Juneau where Dick and younger brother, Don, attended public school, the family lived for some time completely isolated at an abandoned fish cannery. His Father, a master mechanic was commissioned to tear down the cannery. Dick received his own set of tools (age 7 – 8) and was turned loose to explore, tear apart, and learn how things worked. Thus began a life time of exploring, designing, and building.
Imagine this young man graduating from high school in Juneau Alaska, going directly to Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn a degree in Chemical Engineering. (1948-1952)
Upon graduation he entered the US Air Force, continuing his education at the Air Force Institute of Technology earning a Master’s Degree in Nuclear Engineering, Fission Reactors. (1957-1959)
He returned to MIT to complete a Doctor of Science, ScD, in Nuclear Engineering, Fusion Option. (1959-1961)
Dick had a distinguished career in the US Air Force until retirement in 1974. His assignments included Assistant Professor of Physics at the Air Force Institute of Technology; Director of the Plasma Physics Research Laboratory, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base; Assistant to the Deputy for Engineering involved with development of advanced technology sensor systems for Southeast Asia. His last position was as an analyst at the US Atomic Energy Commission in Washington D.C. The Chairman of the AEC honored Colonel Richard C. Wingerson with a commendation specifically mentioning ‘His ability to communicate the results of his analyses in clear and lucid staff papers in minimum time is particularly unique and worthy of special commendation.”
Then there was another side of Dick, the guy who upon leaving the spit and polish of military life, outfitted an old van (1974….think hippie) and traveled west to find a home in Crested Butte, Colorado. He became an active member of the community. He was Chairman, Board of Directors of the Crested Butte Fire Protection District, Vice-chairman, Gunnison County Planning Commission, co-founder and Member of the Board of Directors of the High County Citizens’ Alliance, and Member, State of Colorado Governor’s Committee on Low Level Radiation Waste. He designed, selected dead standing timber, and constructed a private residence featuring solar heating, energy conservation and energy management. Had you visited Crested Butte during these years you might have walked by him and not recognized him as that guy in farmer-bib overalls, with long bushy hair and beard.
The following story, narrated by his elder son, gives us the feeling for Dick’s recognized position in the community. Marcus was directing comments to Dick, when a local eight year old girl, turned to Marcus and said…."stop that, don’t talk to him, and don’t interrupt him………he’s thinking.”
During these years he continued to engage his deep chemical knowledge to develop a process to extract useful products from biomass. He co-founded Pure Vision Technology, located in Fort Lupton, Colorado. Here he designed and constructed a Continuous Countercurrent Reactor (patented) which is the heart of a biorefinery that converts diverse cellulosic feedstocks into pulp, lignin and sugars, all intermediate materials for creating thousands of biobased products including ethanol.
Two additional facets of Dick require mention. He was a superb athlete…..a runner, a skier, a sailor, a dancer. He had a whimsical nature that came forth with verbatim renditions of limericks, songs, and poems. During the last five years he was a contributing member of the Carillon at Boulder Creek community. Dinner companions often left asking “does he remember everything?” He found his place here, as an original thinker, joining in on discussions both historical and current.
Dick is survived by his wife, Janice Lindgren; son Marcus Wingerson and daughter-in-law Jeannine Treese; daughter, Sharon Naderman; son James Wingerson and daughter-in-law, Leticia DelRosario; and granddaughter, Jessica Naderman.
Dick closed his Juneau High School Graduation address with this poignant reflection of his passion and genius:
“A feature of the ancient Greek games was the relay race in which the runner, at the end of his lap, handed on the lighted torch to his successor. This is a parable of all life. The torch of our history was kindled at the sacred alter of liberty. It shall be our pledge to bear it…..”
High like a beacon,
Till our strong years be sped
And sinews weaken;
Till others in our stead
Take from our loosening hand
The torch full-streaming which we pass at Death’s command.
Heritage Funeral & Cremation Services of Lafayette is handling arrangements.
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