“To Die Would Be An Awfully Big Adventure”
 
Dr. Jethro Flench, a regular contributor to TheSmogBlog, died peacefully at his home in Livermore, California, on Sunday, January 8, 2012, after a ten-month battle with cancer.  He was 77.
 
Jethro, an only child, was born on October 28, 1934, in Aberdeen, South Dakota.  His father's profession as a G-man frequently moved the family around the country; Jethro had lived in 15 states by the time he was 19.  Jethro, always an honor student, received his BS from the George Washington University, Washington, DC, in 1955, and earned his MA (1957) and Ph.D. in physics (1959) from Princeton University.  He was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
 
He married his high school sweetheart, Margaret "Jill" Thompson, in the summer of 1956.  Their three children, two girls and a boy, were born while the couple were living in Princeton.  After graduate school, Dr. Flench spent a year teaching physics at Princeton.
 
In 1960, Jethro (along with astronomer Carl Sagan) received an appointment as a post-doctoral Fellow of the Miller Institute for Basic Research In Science at the University of California at Berkeley.  In August the family of five moved to the San Francisco Bay Area: renting a house in Oakland, before settling in Pleasanton in 1962.
 
Jethro accepted a position at the University of California Radiation Laboratory (later the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) in Livermore in 1962, beginning a 31-year career at the "Rad Lab."  He began work as a physicist, but soon shifted to the relatively new computer sciences.  Throughout his years at the lab he worked on and programmed the most advanced computers of the day, writing operating systems, becoming a group leader, and working on pioneering projects such as the Octopus computer network, at the time one of the largest concentrations of computing capability in the world.  Many of his algorithms, such as his checksum, have become standards still in use today.  He also taught computer science at the Department of Applied Science, UC Davis Extension at Livermore.  Jethro retired on October 31, 1993.
 
In retirement, Jethro lived in Livermore with his second wife, Gail Shearer, whom he married in August 1987.  A lifelong environmentalist and humanitarian, Jethro donated generously to many benevolent organizations.  He spent his retirement hiking, traveling, working in the family vineyard, and enjoying his interest in movies and music.  A thoughtful agnostic, Jethro explored his philosophy of life in regular articles that were published on the internet.
 
Jethro is preceded in death by his daughter Linda (d. 1965) and wife Jill (d. 1986).  He is survived by his daughter Barbara, son David, wife Gail, stepsons James and Peter, Peter's wife Susan, and their daughters Rachel, Hannah, and Sarah.  Remembered as an infinitely fair and generous man with a wonderful wit, he was loved and will be sorely missed by all.
 
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
    And I laid me down with a will.
 
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
    And the hunter home from the hill.
                        -RLS
 
A memorial service to celebrate his life will be held at 2:30 p.m. on January 29, at the Robert Livermore Community Center, Palo Verde Room, 4444 East Avenue, Livermore.
 
Jethro requested that donations be made to the Center for Inquiry, P.O. Box 741, Amherst, NY 14226 (http://www.centerforinquiry.net/support).
 
 
 
January 16, 2012
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