James Rayford Nix

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By The Staff

NIX – James Rayford “Ray” Nix, age 70, passed away suddenly May 8, 2008, at the Los Alamos Medical Center from complications arising from an injury sustained while traveling in Southeast Asia.

He was born Feb. 18, 1938 in Natchitoches, La., to Edna and Joe Nix. He lived there until moving to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie-Mellon University in 1956, where he soon discovered his academic passion for physics. He also served as president of the local Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity chapter.

After graduating in 1960 he began graduate studies in theoretical nuclear physics at the University of California, Berkeley. While living in International House, he met Sally Ann Wood, and they were married Aug. 19, 1961. Upon completing his Ph.D. in 1964, the couple lived in Copenhagen for a year where he had a post-doctoral fellowship at the Niels Bohr Institute. Subsequently, he continued his research at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California.

In 1968, Ray and Sally moved to Los Alamos, where he worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory until his retirement in 1998. He served as group leader of the Theoretical Nuclear Physics Group, T-9, from 1977 until its dissolution in 1990 when he transitioned to T-2 until his retirement.

In 1980, he and his family lived in West Germany, as he was awarded a fellowship sabbatical with the Alexander Von Humboldt Foundation. He was named a Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellow in 1994 and was also a Fellow of the American Physical Society.

Besides nuclear physics, his passions included skiing, hiking, trekking, sailing and exploring the world. He visited all seven continents by age 65 and celebrated his 70 birthday on a small cruise ship on the Mekong River in Vietnam. He was an avid member of the Los Alamos Ski Club, enjoyed frequent hikes in the local mountains, participated in treks in Nepal and Pakistan, and traveled extensively in Europe, Africa, India, China and South America. He climbed the Matterhorn in Switzerland in 1969, later summitting Kilimanjaro and Mt. Rainier, and trekking to the Mt. Everest base camp in 1973. He was also an accomplished sailor, joining many friends in chartering sailboats in the Caribbean, the South Pacific and the Mediterranean.

Ray is survived by his wife, Sally, of Los Alamos, and his children, Patricia, also of Los Alamos, and David, now of Palo Alto, Calif. He is also survived by his sister and nephew Kitty and Scott LaBarre of New Orleans, La. A private burial service was held last week at Guaje Pines Cemetery, and a public memorial service is planned for late June. Memorial contributions can be made to the Los Alamos Ski Club, to Friends of the Mesa Public Library or to the charity of your choice.