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Los Alamos’ treasures offer diverse contributions

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By The Staff

Next Sunday, Mary Brooks, William “Bill” Deal, Jr. and Roy N. Hopwood will be recognized and honored as the newest members of Living Treasures of Los Alamos (LTLA).  The ceremony and reception, sponsored by Los Alamos National Bank, will begin at 2 p.m. at the Betty Ehart Senior Center.  The public is invited to attend.

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This annual event is an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of individuals who have so greatly enhanced life on the Hill.  Friends, family and co-workers are encouraged to participate in the ceremony by sharing stories and remembrances about each new Treasure.

Living Treasures of Los Alamos pays tribute to seniors whose volunteer activities have made a notable difference in the quality of life for community residents.  These remarkable individuals are role models and mentors, providing inspiration as they demonstrate commitment, perseverance, hope, heart and wisdom. Their contributions are wonderfully diverse but they share a common outlook, which is to live life to the fullest.  

LTLA honors these people by sharing their life stories and acknowledging their contributions. More information about the Living Treasures program may be found at www.livingtreasureslosalamos.org.

Mary Brooks

A pixie with white hair and sparkling eyes – that’s Mary Brooks. A woman who finds comfort in permanence and stability but who continually uses that solid base as a launching pad for new experiences.  

Brooks was raised in Allegany, N.Y., and credits much of her character to growing up in a small house on a farm “with lots and lots of chickens and Holstein cows,” doing chores, living through the Great Depression and having a good family.  “And, of course, frugality,” she added. Brooks learned at an early age how to make due, use it up and wear it out.  

Engineering was not a field populated by women in the 1940s but Brooks graduated from Syracuse University with a degree in chemical engineering.  Syracuse University is also where she met and married Tom Brooks. The couple arrived in Los Alamos in 1960 when Tom joined the lab.  In 1961, Brooks landed a job in HRL Division (health research) where she remained for the next 40 years – even in the same building. It wasn’t what she’d been trained for but she loved the work and learned on the job.

Brooks’ life in Los Alamos consisted of her husband, the lab and golf. Tom was an avid golfer and Brooks pulled his cart but carefully qualifies that she never gave advice. She loved being with him, being out of doors and participating in the golf-related social activities and events.

Tom passed away in 1993, and through friends Brooks began to become involved with groups such as the Art Center, Republican Party and the United Church. When she retired from the lab in 2001, she added to those activities, noting that people who get involved are the prime suspects for more volunteer jobs. She appreciates the opportunities that volunteer and board memberships offer - learning more about specific issues, meeting new people and keeping you “in the loop”.

Some of Brooks’ volunteer activities include work with the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), Friends of the Senior Center, Retired Public Employees Association, Republican Women’s Club, American Association of University Women, Friends of Mesa Public Library, Los Alamos Women’s Golf Association, American Cancer Association Relay for Life, Alzheimer’s Association Memory Walk, United Red Cross Blood Mobile, Art Center at Fuller Lodge, Los Alamos Historical Society and the United Church of Los Alamos.  Other “behind the scenes” activities include reading to a blind friend, and transporting people for medical appointments and treatments both in and out of town.

Brooks calls herself an avid fan of Los Alamos and a ‘transformed Easterner.’ She still lives in and loves the home she and Tom built – one of the first on Barranca Mesa - with her housemate and friend Jackie, an energetic shelter rescue dog. Brooks also notes she’s an avid fan of the lab, an avid fan of Syracuse University (especially the basket ball team), the Dallas Cowboys, dogs, golf, the arts, the Senior Center and the people who “have really contributed to this town.”

Sometimes Brooks wishes she wasn’t so busy, but she doesn’t want it the other way around either.  She acknowledges it’s a challenge to reach a happy medium. She’s thankful for her good health and feels it’s important to enjoy every day, every opportunity and to be open to new things. “Don’t be too set in your ways,” she said, admitting she’s reluctant sometimes to try things she hasn’t done before but will usually go ahead and try it – whatever ‘it’ is.

Roy N. Hopwood

Living life is a passion for Roy Hopwood.  In addition to his volunteer activities over decades to the benefit of Los Alamos residents and beyond, he restores old cars. “I’m a Mustang freak,” he said.  Hopwood also renovates his family’s homes, skis on snow and water, hikes, dabbles in golf and is as down-to-earth a man as you’ll ever find.

Hopwood was born in Fayette, Ala. In high school, he was in a ‘diversified occupations’ program where part of the day was class work and the remainder was spent with a contractor – in his case in the electrical trade.  He graduated in 1949 and arrived in Los Alamos a week later, moving in with one of his sisters whose husband was a contractor for the lab.

In 1951, Hopwood joined the Army’s First Armored Division, trained at Ft. Hood, was stationed in Germany and traveled extensively in Europe. He returned to Los Alamos in 1953 and began working for the Zia Company, an entity created in 1946 to maintain and operate the community of Los Alamos and lab facilities. Hopwood worked for Zia and it’s successors until 2008. Why go elsewhere? “I loved my work and the craft and all the people,” he said, adding he was “10 minutes from work, 10 minutes from the golf course and 20 minutes to the ski run – spoiled rotten.”  

Hopwood’s volunteer activities commenced in the late 1950s by operating a concession stand for the Bombers, an early adult baseball team in Los Alamos.  He was active in the collection for the JFK Gate at the entrance to Sullivan Field.  In the early 1970’s, Hopwood served two terms on the County Personnel Board, the second term as chairman. He was also active with the golf course and served on their board of directors. He undertook various tasks on the course like watering fairways with large Rainbird sprinklers tapped into an underground water line.  Sometimes, on release of the sprinklers, a valve wouldn’t close, spraying effluent 25 feet into the air and “you couldn’t outrun it … get the umbrella,” he joked. He also dealt with an antiquated effluent watering system, which seemed to break down in the middle of the night just before each annual July 4 tournament.

Hopwood volunteered electrical expertise when the first chair lift was being installed at Pajarito Mountain and the contractor had “lots of equipment malfunctions.” That meant some nights past midnight in a shack with no heat, dealing with very heavy equipment. The crew celebrated with champagne the night they load-tested the lift.

In coordination with the Los Alamos Senior Center, Los Alamos National Laboratory makes a cash donation to various nonprofit organizations in recognition of volunteer activities by seniors.  

Casa Mesita received a $500 check last year in recognition of Hopwood’s 1,146 volunteer hours between 2007-2008.  Not all hours went to Casa Mesita, but he has volunteered there for more than a decade.  He has also run AA meetings at the Los Alamos Police Department Detention Center for more than 10 years.  “I thoroughly enjoy helping people,” Roy said.

Another passion of Hopwood’s is the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park in Angel Fire. He feels strongly about those veterans and continues to volunteer time to helped make the park feel more user-friendly and make the founders grave look more like a national cemetery.

Hopwood has three sons but lost his beloved Sharon in 1989. He said he has been very blessed and continually finds himself in the right place at the right time. He is grateful for the good health that allows him to continue to do the things he “really, really enjoys doing” and with a twinkle in his eye said, “Old age and cunning can outdo youth and ambition.”

William “Bill”

Deal, Jr.

Bill Deal is a bright, energetic, inquisitive and charming man who has channeled much of that force into contributions that have built and enhanced Los Alamos County.  

Deal spent his first nine years in San Antonio, Texas, then moved to Panama when his father – an Army sergeant – was assigned to Ft. Clayton.

He thoroughly enjoyed this “magnificent opportunity” to swim, play golf and fish to his heart’s content. The family returned to Texas and at 17, Deal started college at the University of Texas in Austin. He’d planned on becoming a chemical engineer but after reading Sir James Jeans book on cosmology, he discovered his true passion was physics.

World War II was still raging so two years into his studies, Deal volunteered for the Navy Electronics Technician Program.

He went into the service navy and eventually volunteered for submarine duty.

He happily describes sub training including time in a 120’ water-filled tower.  “Some people might feel claustrophobic,” he said.  

His sea duty was served on the USS Trutta (SS 421) and the USS Tuna (SS 203).

Deal adopted his father’s belief in education and once out of the service, he jumped on an educational fast-track completing his a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1948, his masters in 1949 and a doctorate in 1950 for a grand total of six years in college. Years later he also earned an Executive MBA at UNM.  

Deal and his wife, Mary were married in 1949 and moved to Los Alamos in 1950 when Deal joined Group GMX-6, which worked in shock wave physics and explosives science.  

Over time he served as GMX Group Leader, Associate Division Leader and M Division Leader. Deal describes the 1960s and ‘70s as “the golden era of the lab” when they “did so many things so well … we did more work in a month than you can get done in a year now.”  

In 1979, Deal became Deputy Associate Director of Weapons with oversight of a $50 million dollar R&D program but “absolutely no authority.”  He retired a year later.

Physics was only one of the hats Deal wore. In 1968, he began his career in business, helping Mary (Mary Deal Realty) in ways ranging from refrigerator deliveries to creating an early computer-generated spreadsheet for accounting.

And, he is the father of four who today have                 10 college degrees between them.

Over the years he served on various boards and committees.  

He was instrumental in the creation of East Park Pool and was a leader in the development of new housing for the young community when he served on the nonprofit Boards of Directors for both Pajarito Acres Development Association and Cliffside.

Then in 2002, Los Alamos lost the movie theater it had patronized since the 1950s. Deal and his daughters saw a perfect opportunity to restore a much-needed entertainment venue to the community as they considered how to utilize vacant property just north of the Mary Deal Building – land Mary purchased in 1972.

Though calculations suggested it wasn’t the ‘highest and best’ use of the land in terms of financial return on investment, it would certainly fill a significant community need.  Despite numerous challenges and bureaucratic obstacles Deal persisted and the Reel Deal Theater opened just before Christmas, 2003.

Despite community size, the theater is positioned for first run movies and just added 3-D capabilities.  

Deal tells the story of someone asking if Mary, was a “liberated woman” to which he replied, “No, she was never captured.” He lost his beloved Mary in 2008 and clearly misses her companionship. But, he said, “I believe in living until you die.”

 He takes great pride and comfort in his family, enjoys his own cooking, his wine and his Jaguars.