George Robert Keepin Jr.

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By The Staff

KEEPIN – George Robert Keepin Jr., age 84, passed away peacefully at the Los Alamos Medical Center Monday morning, Dec. 31, 2007. His wife of 59 years, Madge, was by his side.

Bob, as he was known to family and friends, was a longtime resident of Los Alamos. He arrived in Los Alamos Dec. 31, 1951, to complete research related to his doctoral dissertation. Bob had first discovered his deep love for New Mexico 11 years earlier while working for the summer at his uncle’s general store near Ruidoso, N.M.Born on Dec. 5, 1923, to Erlene Bennett Keepin and the Rev. George Robert Keepin Sr., in Chicago, Ill., Bob graduated from high school in Oak Park, Ill., in 1942. He joined the Navy and under the officer training program studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass. It was there in 1944 that he met his wife, Madge Mary Twomey. The couple was married June 13, 1948. After receiving his Ph.D. in physics from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., Bob held post-doctoral research positions at the Universities of California and Minnesota, before he and Madge settled in Los Alamos.Bob had an illustrious scientific career until his retirement in 1990. He joined Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now LANL) in 1952, and was a delegate to the First United Atoms for Peace Conference in Geneva in 1955. He headed the Physics Department at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna from 1963-1965. Upon his return from the IAEA in 1966, he founded the Los Alamos Nuclear Safeguards program, where he pioneered the development of non-destructive assay (NDA) technology for accurate detection of nuclear materials in whatever form they are found throughout the world. According to the Jan. 3, 2008, LANL announcement of his death, “Bob Keepin was not only the father of nuclear safeguards at Los Alamos, his intelligence and leadership inspired generations of Los Alamos staff in N Division and elsewhere. One of the principal goals of Los Alamos was ‘to be certain that nuclear weapons were never again used in anger.’ Over the forty intervening years, the Los Alamos Safeguards and Nuclear Proliferation Program has contributed to that goal. It has remained an important part of the Laboratory’s mission and has become the largest such program in the world. ‘Bob Keepin was the inspiration and driving force behind that program,’ said former Laboratory Director Sig Hecker.” Non-destructive assay (NDA) technology is now in active use in every nuclear facility in the world and by every nuclear regulatory agency – “Keepin ee is recognized worldwide for his tireless leadership in developing nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation.”Bob returned to the IAEA in 1983-1985 as a special advisor to the deputy general for safeguards. The IAEA was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005, in recognition of its contributions to world peace. According to Olli Heinonen, head of the IAEA Department of Safeguards, the Nobel Prize award “was due in no small part to our technical verification capabilities. We are well aware that many of our instruments and methods for detection and measurement of plutonium and uranium are the results of the pioneering efforts of Dr. Keepin and the program he established at Los Alamos.”Bob received a Special Award from the American Nuclear Society in November 2006, citing his lifelong commitment to promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy, especially his pioneering role in nuclear materials safeguards and non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. He also received the Distinguished Service Award in 1982 from the International Institute for Nuclear Materials Management (INMM). He was a Fellow of the American Physical Society, LANL, the American Nuclear Society and the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM). The main conference room on the first floor of the Nonproliferation and International Security Center (NISC) at LANL was named for Dr. Keepin in late 2006, marking the 40th anniversary of nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation at the laboratory.Bob was an outdoor enthusiast who enjoyed many years of hiking and skiing with friends and family. In his later years, especially after retirement, he developed a keen interest in the universal spiritual truths that are shared in common by the major religions of the world. Earlier in his lifetime, he was an enthusiastic clarinetist, performing in competitive events as a young adult, and later organizing jam sessions in his home with other Los Alamos musicians in his early years at LANL.Bob is survived by his wife Madge; five children: Trey Keepin, Will Keepin and wife Cynthia, Ardis Keepin Davis and husband Scott, Mavis Keepin, and Denice Keepin and husband Marcus; eight grandchildren: Isaiah Keepin and wife Meghan, Naomi Keepin, Mikaela Keepin, Jennifer Davis, Kimber Davis, Alexandra Gramps, Adrian Gramps, Andrea Gramps; and one great-grandchild, Valliant Keepin. Bob is also survived by one brother, William Keepin and his wife Arja.Memorial services for the public will be held at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2008, at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Los Alamos, N.M. An informal lunch reception will follow the service. A private family burial service will follow in Santa Fe. Public viewing of the open casket will be available between 1 - 3 p.m. Monday, Jan. 7, 2008, at the Berardinelli Funeral Home in Santa Fe, N.M.In lieu of flowers, Madge Keepin has requested that donations be made to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, New Mexico chapter (www.nmapda.org). Donations can be mailed directly to NM Chapter ADPA, 10817 Griffith Park Dr. NE, Albuquerque, NM 87123.Arrangements are under the direction of Berardinelli Family Funeral Services, 1399 Luisa St., Santa Fe, NM 87505 – 505-984-8600.