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Albert E. Belon
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October 24, 2013
I shared an office with Al and Jerry Romick for the better part of ten years, following my arrival as a fresh graduate student in 1958. It was a turbulent time at GI and in organized research in general, with IGY, the race to the moon, and a University of Alaska unprepared for notoriety. Fred Rees was my academic advisor, but Al and Jerry were senior graduate students and mentors to whom I could relate. There were many adventures, including the solar eclipse expedition, nights at the observatory and the everyday process of figuring out what to do in a system that, at that time, had few rules and regulations. In this environment, we all looked to Al because he seemed to know the right thing to do in any given situation.
Al read all of our publications for scientific content and English composition, which was remarkable enough, considering that it was a second language for him. I still remember most of the grammatical rules that he imparted in a very kindly and understanding manner. Beside the ordinary rules of grammar, his intent was to remove as many sources of ambiguity as possible: use “approximately” instead of “about”, “because” instead of “since” etc. His contribution in this effort was extraordinary also because of the magnitude of the production. Neil Davis surveyed the literature in the 60's and found that yearly number of publications out of the Geophysical Institute exceeded that of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Another impression is the great good humor that Al both radiated and reflected. It is true that Jerry was more easily heard, and we depended on him to laugh us out of desperate trouble. Al, however, made us see ourselves as a team possessed of strengths and foibles, the sum of which was a source of great good humor. This did not go unnoticed at Geophys. One day, Director Keith Mather wandered to our office, leaned against the counter, puffed his pipe and said “I hear gales of laughter coming from this office most of the time, and I just dropped by to find out what makes geophysics so much fun!”
The last publication we worked on together was in 2004. By that time, I had sufficient command of English to pass muster, but Al had significant comments on the scientific content, as did the other authors, Jerry, Fred and Dirk Lummerzheim. We had a great last laugh when it was pointed out that we were using data we took forty years earlier to correct a mistake we made thirty years ago. The biggest laugh came when Fred said he was not an author on the publication with the mistake in it, and we looked to find that he had forgotten that he had been one of the two reviewers. The word “data”, by the way, is a plural noun, and deserves a corresponding plural verb. Thanks, Al.
Chuck (& Tone) Deehr
October 24, 2013
I shared an office with Al and Jerry Romick for the better part of ten years, following my arrival as a fresh graduate student in 1958. It was a turbulent time at GI and in organized research in general, with IGY, the race to the moon, and a University of Alaska unprepared for notoriety. Fred Rees was my academic advisor, but Al and Jerry were senior graduate students and mentors to whom I could relate. There were many adventures, including the solar eclipse expedition, nights at the observatory and the everyday process of figuring out what to do in a system that, at that time, had few rules and regulations. In this environment, we all looked to Al because he seemed to know the right thing to do in any given situation.
Al read all of our publications for scientific content and English composition, which was remarkable enough, considering that it was a second language for him. I still remember most of the grammatical rules that he imparted in a very kindly and understanding manner. Beside the ordinary rules of grammar, his intent was to remove as many sources of ambiguity as possible: use “approximately” instead of “about”, “because” instead of “since” etc. His contribution in this effort was extraordinary also because of the magnitude of the production. Neil Davis surveyed the literature in the 60's and found that yearly number of publications out of the Geophysical Institute exceeded that of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
Another impression is the great good humor that Al both radiated and reflected. It is true that Jerry was more easily heard, and we depended on him to laugh us out of desperate trouble. Al, however, made us see ourselves as a team possessed of strengths and foibles, the sum of which was a source of great good humor. This did not go unnoticed at Geophys. One day, Director Keith Mather wandered to our office, leaned against the counter, puffed his pipe and said “I hear gales of laughter coming from this office most of the time, and I just dropped by to find out what makes geophysics so much fun!”
The last publication we worked on together was in 2004. By that time, I had sufficient command of English to pass muster, but Al had significant comments on the scientific content, as did the other authors, Jerry, Fred and Dirk Lummerzheim. We had a great last laugh when it was pointed out that we were using data we took forty years earlier to correct a mistake we made thirty years ago. The biggest laugh came when Fred said he was not an author on the publication with the mistake in it, and we looked to find that he had forgotten that he had been one of the two reviewers. The word “data”, by the way, is a plural noun, and deserves a corresponding plural verb. Thanks, Al.
Chuck (& Tone) Deehr
October 19, 2013
As I recall, Albert (Al) Belon arrived in Fairbanks from Die, France at the invitation of his uncle who was working for some mining company in rural Alaska. Al was to arrive at Fairbanks, but his plane could not land there for some reason one evening and landed at Ladd Field. He was then brought to Fairbanks by bus and dropped off on 2nd Ave. not speaking English very well and totally lost without contact with his uncle. He not only survived this unfortunate and perplexing entry to Alaska he seemed to thrive on it with good humor. I met Al at the end of the International Geophysical Year at the Geophysical institute when he was working on height determinations and spectrophotometry of the aurora and later Al became Associate Director of the Geophysical Institute. Al was a careful and skillful mediator and with a sense of humor always lurking behind his decision-making. He was a supportive administrator and a careful decision maker. Mostly I remember interactions directly affecting me. One time the Institute had a picnic on one of the patios around the Elvey Building. As part of the event Eugene Wescott was to perform some American Indian Dances for the group including a rain dance. Al came into my office and remarked on this event and simply said to me with a twinkle in his eye, "Wouldn't it be interesting if it rained..." and left the office without further comment. Yes, sir, Al. So I grabbed my wastebasket, went to the 8th floor roof with it filled with water, and as Gene danced, magically it rained!

Gene was mad at me for a week and then calmed down. Al laughed later and no one knew he had been involved. I'd never tell. There were several other such events instigated by Al that were funny. The one that always clearly illustrates both his humor and his restraint was where one of the seismologists at GI, perhaps Paul Perrault, told me he needed to put a seismograph on an island in the Aleutian islands and so needed permission from whomever owned it.
Armed with the location I went through the process of gaining the name of the landowner and proceeded over some time bring the process to its last phase. After I was done Al entered my office and just left a note on my desk and walked out. He said in his note, this Aleutian Island land business has taken up a great deal of your time and that of others, it had to go to the State and to the University Lands office and be put on the Regents agenda and get voted on by the Regents! Now after all this time, work and messing about I discover we don't need the land anyway! "Merritt, some day I'm going to kill you, and perhaps today is the day!"

I greatly respected Al and felt he was an essential and very important element of the Geophysical Institute and the advancement of research. He was nice, skillful and caring person not only at the University, but also in the community. His work as a researcher, his collaborations and his work as an administrator advanced the operations of the Geophysical Institute, scientific research and the acquisition of information about the world. I enjoyed knowing him, learned from him and respected him greatly. I will miss him.
October 01, 2013
Thank you for all the comments about Al. As his wife, I did not fully appreciate the impact he had through his profession life at the Geophysical Institute. As a family man, he was very supportive and knowledgable about so many things. I learned so much from him and he enriched our lives in so many ways. We'll all miss him, but are comforted to know that he is now in a much better place -- heaven is his home!
Shirley and family
September 28, 2013
In memory of Al Belon
Al was one of the best bosses I had at the GI, he was fair and always reasonable. He had a great sense of humor in both the giving and receiving. As a boss he always treated me as an equal partner in our work the pursuit of science. Al demanded high quality work and I always worked hard to see he got what he wanted and deserved, that was as it should be, and was fair.
One day Gerry Romick, Jim Baldridge and I were all in Gerry's Office. We were working out details of some improvements to Gerry's auroral instrumentation. Into the Office stormed Al, as only he could, and very upset. Here is the story.
It seems that it was the end-of-year time. That was always stressful for all of us, especially Al, as the demands on him were high. Al had sent out a Memo earlier that week requesting Purchase Orders for year-end monies. Yes in those days the GI ended with surplus funds! The Memo went to all of us, and said that year-end charges to “Unrestricted Funds” needed to be submitted to him ASAP.
This was during the era where some US government agencies thought only one computer per University was enough. Jim, always wanting a newer and faster computer system did not know the rules for year-end funds. But, Jim did see an opportunity when one was present. He wrote a $20,000 Purchase Request for a new computer system. In the place where a contract number or code was supposed to be, Jim had written “Unrestricted Funds”. After all if the funds were Unrestricted, then one could buy anything with them.
Purchase Requisitions needed a PI's signature, so he gave it to Gerry with a copy of the Unrestricted Funds Memo. Gerry knew the rules, but also saw an opportunity when one was presented to him. He signed it and sent it upstairs for Al's signature. Al being busy signed it along with a stack of other things.
But what Al missed was not missed by eagle-eye Neta Stilkey who ran the business Office. She sent it back to Al, with a “NO WAY EVER” note attached. Al rightfully proceeded to quickly fume and go downstairs to Gerry's off where we were all sitting.
Al entered and caught all of us together. Putting the Requisition down on Gerry's desk, Al started to chew us out, Saying that this Requisition was not funny and that the GI was serious business. We all looked at the requisition and quickly noticed that Al had signed it. Brave Gerry, an old student friend of Al's, asked why Al had signed it and if Al actually read the requisition before he signed it? Al proceeded to unload his full year end stress onto us. Ending with, “Do you expect me to read everything I have to sign, how could anything ever get done if I had to do that!”
We were all left biting our tongues, trying not to laugh at our boss who had just shared his stress with us. Al left and went out around the corner to the elevators. We kept biting our tongues waiting for him to go up. In those days every Elvey Building elevator rang a bell when the doors opened on any floor. We were waiting for the bell to ring and hear the closing of the door. We heard the bell ring, the doors close and could not hold it any longer. Bursting out into laughter, we were soon incapacitated. That is when Al again appeared in Gerry's office. All red in the face saying that this really was NOT FUNNY, then he said that the bell was for a down elevator. Al had caught us doing what you never want your boss to do, we were laughing at him. Quickly sobered, we stopped laughing and Al left a second time. We again waited in silence, biting our tongues, to hear the bell and the doors to close. And just as the Doors were closing, we heard Al start laughing and we heard the laughter continue even through the closed doors.
Such was life and work with AL all serious and fun. Daniel Osborne
September 27, 2013
Al was such an extraordinarily good boss that he made me feel more a colleague than a hireling--a graceful, clever way to elicit a better performance from a staff member (but then much of his dealing with all of us at GI was both graceful and clever). He taught me much, about science and humankind, but perhaps the most memorable was that from him I learned that it was possible to laugh with a French accent. Who'd have thought it? My thanks to Shirley and the rest of his family for sharing him with us. His departure leaves an Al-sized hole in the universe.
September 27, 2013
Al's most important work with Jerry Romick is a detailed mapping of the auroral emissions; I quoted his work in the book with Chapman (Oxford book p.684). GI director has both external and internal functions. My observation was that Juan Roederer was taking care of external functions, so that GI day-to-day operation was greatly in Al's hand, and he did very well. He had a great personality for the job.
September 27, 2013
As a student/employee of the Geoph. Inst. in 1950-52 Albert was my chief assistant in measuring auroral heights and analyzing Sporadic-E/r-f radio absorption/auroral relationships. We shared our first JGR paper in 1952. Albert will always be remembered as one very admirable person.
September 27, 2013
Dear Shirley and family, very sorry to hear of Al's passing, but I feel blessed to have known him and was encouraged by his faith, intelligence and kindness. God Bless.
September 26, 2013
Al and I attended the Univ. in Fairbanks in 1950 and after graduating in 1952 we went to UCLA and roomed together until we got our Master degrees in 1954. In 1956 we returned to the Geophysical Institute where we were deeply involved in atmospheric science for the next 30 years. In the summer of 2009 we visited Fairbanks and saw Al and Shirley and enjoyed talking and seeing each other.
He will be missed by his family and his many friends.
Jerry Romick
September 26, 2013
Al is a gentleman and a good mentor to me when I started working at GI in 1972. We car pooled to work for a few year, although only a ~5 miles distance one way, obviously not for saving gas.

I miss him when he retired from GI, only saw him once or twice since his retirement!
September 25, 2013
Al was many things for me. My principal thesis advisor. My writing and professional mentor. I learned how to be professionally compassionate and fair by Al's examples in how he dealt with problems. Things and conversations that occurred in the Romick, Deehr, Belon office in the old GI, now the Chapman building on campus today, were enjoyable, professional, and sometimes a bit crazy and off the wall. Al became a consummate professional, liked by everyone, and admired by many. Best wishes to his family who knew him and will remember him best.
September 25, 2013
Mrs. Shirley and Family , it was truly a blessing to be one of Mr. Belon's caregiver at FMC. I will keep you and children in my prayers. Mrs. Kim Wshington
September 25, 2013
Al was one of my good friends and a wonderful man and will be missed.

Bob Hunsucker
September 25, 2013
Al was a good friend and mentor to me during my 18 years at the GI. His door was always open and he always handled problems in a fair and even handed manner. I could not have asked for a more capable administrator during his time in the executive officer chair. He even tolerated my fractured French.
September 25, 2013
Shirley and Family,
I am very sorry to hear of your loss.
Jane Russo
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