James Robert Neergaard

-A A +A
By The Staff

NEERGAARD – James Robert Neergaard, 72, of Cookeville passed away Wednesday, July 16, 2008, at the Masters Home Health Center after a brave battle with cancer. Funeral services will be held at 11 a.m. Friday in the Cookeville chapel of Hooper Huddleston & Horner Funeral Home. Visitation will be from 9:30 a.m. until time of services at the funeral home. Burial will be in the Crestlawn Cemetery in Cookeville. Dr. Randall Adkisson and the Rev. Charles Hutchinson will officiate.

Robert is survived by his wife of 48 years, Janis; son Lynn and wife Judy of Huntsville, Ala.; son Daryl and wife Sherry of Brentwood, Tenn.; and son Mike and wife Misty of Oak Ridge, Tenn.; grandchildren: Miriam, Ben and Steven of Huntsville; Corey of Brentwood; and Maitland and Marcel of Oak Ridge; brother David and wife Jo Ann of Jackson, Tenn.; sisters Vivian Youngblood and husband H.D. of Roulette, Penn., and Faye Neergaard of Kingsport, Tenn.

James Robert Neergaard was born March 27, 1936 in Kingston, Tenn., to William Forest and Bertha Minerva Cate Neergaard. His parents and brother, Howard Neergaard preceded him in death.

Robert graduated in 1954 from Sequatchie County High School in Dunlap. He graduated from Lincoln Memorial University (LMU), Harrogate, Tenn., in 1957 and earned a master’s in mathematics from Florida State University in Tallahassee in 1959.

While walking on Sunday morning with groups of students from LMU to the First Baptist Church in Harrogate, Tenn., Robert met Janis Owens, his future wife, in his senior year. They were married at the First Baptist Church in Harrogate in August 22, 1959.

Robert began his professional life at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he worked the summer after his graduation from Florida State.

Robert and Janis moved from Oak Ridge to Tallahassee because Robert had been hired as an instructor in the math department at Florida State. While teaching at Florida State, Robert interviewed for jobs at Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Mitre Corporation in Montgomery, Alabama; and Los Alamos National Laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M. He received offers at all three places. He favored going West.

In June 1960, he began his new job as a computer programmer at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), where he worked until his retirement in November 1995. His colleagues at LANL knew him as Jim Neergaard. Jim worked as a computer programmer and software engineer in several different divisions of LANL. He also worked for a few years as systems manager for the lab’s Sun computers. He took numerous math and computer courses at the lab and at the University of New Mexico and often attended conferences around the country to further his professional development.

Jim’s professionalism at LANL was outstanding. In 1984, Jim was honored with the Distinguished Performance Award for developing the Geological Database Evaluations System (GEODES), a database management system used at the Nevada Test Site. This award includes cash and is the highest award given by the Los Alamos National Laboratory. In 1985, he was presented the Award of Excellence for his significant contribution to the Underground Test Containment of Nevada Test Site Experiments of the Nuclear Weapons Program. In 1988, he received the Award of Excellence a second time for developing two major databases in support of Test Containment of Nevada Test Site Experiments. The lab awarded him the Award of Excellence a third time in 1992 for outstanding technical accomplishment associated with Containment of Underground Nuclear Weapons Tests.

After Robert’s retirement from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Robert and Janis sold their home in Los Alamos and moved to the Memphis, Tenn., area where Robert took a computer programming job with International Paper in February 1997. After a heart attack, Robert decided to retire from International Paper the first part of February 2000 to spend more time exercising for his health and doing things he enjoyed.

Robert can look back over his life with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction for being an outstanding family man as well as climbing the ladder of professional success. He began as a small farm lad in East Tennessee and ascended step by step, finally standing high up the ladder as a computer scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, honored with its highest award. Three major factors in his success were his brilliant mathematical mind, his demand for explicit and precise documentation in computer programming, and his quiet-mannered public relations skills, used in teamwork.

In January of 2003, Robert and Janis moved to Cookeville, Tenn., to their final retirement home. In Cookeville, they attended First Baptist Church and joined the Fellowship Sunday School class.

Pallbearers will be Jim Wilson, Ralph Carl, Bud Gaddy, Wendell Kendrick, “Gus” Rich and Earl Stephens. Honorary pallbearers will be the members of the Fellowship Sunday School class of First Baptist Church, Tom and Vonda Graham, and Robert and Bonnie Ray.

The family wishes to thank the Cookeville Regional Cancer Center, Masters Home Health Center and Lazarus House Hospice for their care, and to thank all their friends, neighbors and the people of First Baptist Church, who gave vital support and necessary assistance.

Hooper Huddleston & Horner Funeral Home and Cremation Services is in charge of arrangements. You may send condolences to www.hhhfunerals.com, or call 931-526-6111.