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Los Alamos to honor Living Treasures

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By The Staff

It is once again time to invite northern New Mexicans to come together to celebrate the contributions of those who have so greatly enhanced life on the Hill. During the ceremony, each Treasure is introduced.Living Treasures of Los Alamos was founded to honor elders — older members of the community who have made a difference.Living Treasures of Los Alamos will honor Ralph Partridge, John “Jack” Clifford and John C. Hopkins at 2 p.m. April 13 at the Betty Ehart Senior Center. The public is invited to attend the ceremony and reception, sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank.For those who have not yet attended a Living Treasures ceremony, after biographical information is shared, those in attendance are invited to share stories and remembrances about the Treasures. Each Treasure then addresses the gathering. The celebration concludes with a reception.Family and friends will be traveling to Los Alamos from all over the country to honor Ralph, Jack, and John as Living Treasures of Los Alamos.Ralph PartridgeA summer position at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in May 1952 brought Ralph Partridge to Los Alamos for the first time.“I was only to be here for three months that summer,” he said. “I thought I was born to be an engineer, but then I learned more about science. I found that there was going to be a huge explosion of the first thermonuclear device, so I transferred to LANL’s Weapons Testing Division and became really entranced with fieldwork. Various things that we did got us known all over the world. We chased solar eclipses and studied cosmic rays in a research aircraft, so we rarely knew where we would be at the end of the day, sometimes winding up in California or Florida or Australia or Samoa.”While back in New Haven to work on his Ph.D., Partridge met Ann Foster, a fellow graduate student at Yale.“We met in January 1954,” Partridge said, “and were married on Dec. 23, 1954, in the ancient Congregational Church in Hamden.“In 1955, Ann received her master’s degree and I got my Ph.D. on the very same day,” he said. “We then came to Los Alamos. We lived in the Gold Street apartments. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) rules about government housing were such that when we decided to start our family (of four daughters: Valerie, Linda, Betsy and Nancy) they let us move into a single-family home on Orange Street. That was a pretty nice change.”He continued, “Almost every year, I would be gone for months at a time. But we were in the middle of the Cold War and Ann knew it was important to get this work done.”Partridge moved his family to Hawaii in 1958 to create the University of Hawaii’s Electrical Engineering Department. He was chairman of the department and the youngest full professor that the University of Hawaii had at the time. He returned to LANL in 1963.“Between 1953 and 1996 I left the Lab ‘forever’ three times,” he said. “Now less testing was going on. I particularly liked being involved in atmospheric testing, but underground testing can sometimes be interesting, too, so I returned from retirement and continued working part time until we stopped underground testing in 1992.” He was a LANL associate from 1992-96.Partridge founded “Computers for Kids” at the Betty Ehart Senior Center (BESC) in 1996.“Businesses and individuals would donate computers,” he said. “We refurbished them and gave them to underprivileged children throughout the state until we had saturated the Los Alamos market. Then we began to modify some computers so that it would be possible for people with handicaps to use them. Now, we are more involved with providing computers for senior citizens.”Partridge keeps the computers at the BESC computer lab running “even though inexperienced people are in the lab using them,” he said. “That is a challenge because there’s no telling what will happen when novices attempt to use the machines. I have to come in and straighten out the hardware two or three times a week.”Co-chairman of the Laboratory Retirees’ Computer Users Group, he also taught computer classes at the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos and in Los Alamos.He was a member of the both the Los Alamos County Traffic Board and a sports car club when the “Los Alamos Police Department was just starting to use radar,” he said. “The police needed training, so I was asked to teach a few classes on how radar works and how to use it properly.”The Socrates Caf (started by Los Alamos Living Treasure Martin Gursky) meets at the BESC.“This group discusses philosophical topics by asking questions of one another, as did Socrates. Socrates himself never wrote anything, but Plato, who was a student of Socrates, wrote it all down,” said Partridge, who now leads the group. “The people who are in the group (there are about a dozen or so of us) think up questions of interest such as ‘What is beauty?’ or ‘What is our ultimate authority?’ or ‘What is love?’ for our weekly meetings. We try to look at the philosophical basis for whatever question is posed. Philosophy is about trying to understand the world.”John “Jack” CliffordIn 1948, John “Jack” Clifford purchased a 1936 Ford by using his mustering-out pay plus bonus money the state of Massachusetts paid to returning servicemen. He then drove from Boston to New Mexico.“My brother Ed was a bartender at a veteran’s club in Los Alamos,” Clifford said. A few days after Clifford had been in town, he was on Trinity Drive when an axle broke.“Heaston-Thomas, the only garage in town, didn’t have a good reputation,” Clifford recalled. “I told the fellow at the garage that I drained the radiator at night because I didn’t have antifreeze. They didn’t drain the radiator. The engine block cracked. I was stuck.” And Clifford was here to stay.“Los Alamos has been very good to me,” he said. “I was hired at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) without a clearance. I worked with Wright Langham (a renowned biomedical scientist who died in a Ross plane crash in which eight LANL employees were killed in 1972) at the Medical Research Lab, better known as the ‘Rat Lab.’”After receiving his clearance, Clifford worked at Technical Area One for a couple of years.“Because I was single, I was asked if I would be willing to travel to the Pacific,” he said. “I was a novice photographer when I went to Eniwetok. The trip only lasted four months. Then I went to Nevada, Johnson Island and Hawaii. This went on for 12-14 years before I transferred permanently from the main photo lab to L- Division. I had worked for LANL for 41 years by the time that I retired in 1990.”A self-professed “night owl,” Clifford began tending bar “at the Civic Club in the late 1940s and early 1950s,” he said. “I went to the old Golf Club in 1953. I also worked at the Carriage Inn restaurant and at the Pub restaurant in White Rock. None of these places exist now. I also tended bar at official functions for the Laboratory. It was a fun job. I met President Ronald Reagan when he was a governor and former Vice President Hubert Humphrey. I served drinks to actor Ernest Borgnine and to singer Burl Ives. I worked on New Year’s Eve for 36 years.”Clifford married Mary Lyon in Mexico City, Mexico on Sept. 6, 1953, and the two became parents to three daughters: Jean, Michelle and Tina.Clifford is a long-standing member of the White Rock Senior Center (WRSC) steering committee, a group of energetic volunteers who (with the assistance of a part-time coordinator) make the policies, determine agendas, assure repairs to donated equipment, allocate contributed funds for a wide variety of activities and keep everything running smoothly.He and other committee members take turns opening and closing the WRSC and serving as “Boss of the Week.” Clifford has opened the WRSC for a Thursday evening “bull session” for more than a decade.Clifford has amassed hundreds of photos that he has taken of the rock at the entrance to White Rock’s Rover Boulevard. For more than a decade, he has chronicled the face of the rock - from marriage proposals to White Rock’s 50th anniversary celebration when the rock was painted to look like a chicken.He photographs the artwork and the numerous messages that appear on the rock. Clifford then sends the photos he has taken to honorees, but acknowledges that he “misses one or two here and there.”“The Main Gate,” the LANL Retiree newsletter so named by Clifford, is mailed to former employees several times a year. Clifford provides photos, catalogs obituaries and writes copy for the newsletter.“A wonderful White Rock success side story,” Clifford said, “is the Wednesday breakfast at the White Rock Baptist Church. When the White Rock McDonald’s restaurant closed, the Rev. Chuck McCullough, with the help of WRSC’s Bill Todd, enlisted church volunteers to cook breakfast for the group on Wednesdays. What began as a breakfast for 25 people one snowy morning a couple of years ago has become a much anticipated and very well attended Wednesday morning delight which Clifford has coined “McBaptist Breakfast.”“I like Los Alamos so well I already bought a gravestone at Guaje Pines Cemetery,” Clifford said of the town he has called home for the past 60 years. “All I have to do is fill in the date.”John C. Hopkins“The people who volunteer to work on tasks to improve the community, the state and the nation are all very interesting people,” said John Hopkins. “It probably isn’t true that all interesting people volunteer, but I think it is true that all volunteers are interesting people who are focused on making Los Alamos a better place to live. They take an interest in the horse stables, the ski area and a myriad of other things. I also think it is good that we have so many experts here. From lumens of lights on our street to controlling erosion in Pueblo Canyon, there are people who are knowledgeable about subjects that interest them, and who care what happens. Locally, land use, environment and preservation of open areas are subjects of extreme importance to people. I suppose a lot of small towns are this way, but I believe Los Alamos is extraordinary in the number of people who volunteer, and who bring their expertise to the issues at hand.”Hopkins and his late wife, Adele, traveled to Los Alamos to work at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) for the summers of 1955 and 1956.“I loved Los Alamos from the first time I drove up the front hill in 1955,” he said. ”At the time, you had to have a pass because Los Alamos was still a gated town. It really looked like a World War II Army camp that was meant to be temporary.”Hopkins met Adele in Seattle at the University of Washington.“Adele’s maiden name was Herrigel,” he said. “I took a freshman chemistry class when I was a sophomore. The students were arranged alphabetically and we were side by side, both in class and in labs. We first became friends and then started going out together. We got married in Seattle on June 13, 1954.”Hopkins earned both his undergraduate degree and his Ph.D. at the University of Washington. A nuclear physicist, he became a staff member in P-Division in 1960, and the Hopkins’ two daughters, Anna and Barbara, were raised in Los Alamos.The first third of John’s LANL career was devoted to nuclear physics research that “resulted in 50 technical publications and election to fellowship in the American Physical Society,” Hopkins said. The second third led to “the best job at LANL, being a test director. There was an enormous amount of freedom and flexibility. I was named J-Division leader two years later, which is the second-best job. The final third was as leader of nuclear weapons development, culminating with my leadership of the entire nuclear weapons program at Los Alamos. This was, of course, very rewarding, but I really loved the field work.”A founding member of Leadership Los Alamos, Hopkins was on the board and was a participant of the first yearlong course. “It was a brilliant idea to develop a course for people who want to participate in county government to learn their way around,” Hopkins said. “Leadership Los Alamos has encouraged a lot of people to expand their horizons.”The Los Alamos County Council appointed John to the Citizens Review Panel in the late 1990s. Since its inception the Citizens Review Panel has sought to improve citizen involvement and participation in the government of Los Alamos. Hopkins served as chair and has convened the Citizens Review Panel a number of times; made recommendations “to the County Council and the county administrator regarding such topics as rental policy for county facilities and restructuring the boards and commissions policies,” he said.Hopkins began working with community groups looking at land use policy for Los Alamos County in 1994. He also served as a member of several groups that studied Open Spaces Policy proposals.He is an advisory committee member for Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC). A life member of the Los Alamos Historical Society, he serves on the board of directors.“Adele and I used to play a game when we traveled,” Hopkins said. “We would ask ourselves ‘if we were willing to leave Los Alamos, would we want to live wherever we happened to be visiting?’ We found lots of places that we liked very much. We never found a place that we liked better.”