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Asheville - Walter Koester, Jr., 91, passed away peacefully at home on February 11, 2014, after an extended illness.
He was born on March 23, 1922 in Grass Creek, Indiana to Walter Gerhart Koester and Orpha Ramsey Koester. He spent his early years in South Bend, Indiana. Shortly after graduation from Purdue University as a Chemical Engineer, he joined the United States Army and was secretly recruited into what would become known as the Manhattan Project, a highly classified effort to produce an atomic bomb to end World War II. He met his wife of 62 years, Merle Silver, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they were both working for the Manhattan Project. After World War II ended, Walter joined the Korean War effort as a commissioned officer assigned to engineering and intelligence. When he returned home, he continued his previous line of work with the Atomic Energy Commission. When AEC was reorganized into part of the Energy Research and Development Agency in 1974, he was recognized as one of a very few members that had been with the AEC from its inception until its dissolution. They raised their five children in Tennessee, Ohio and Maryland before settling in Asheville in 1978.
He is survived by his four daughters, Mel Squiers and husband (Ralph) of Asheville, Patti Smith and husband (John) of Swannanoa and Atlanta, Terry Walton Callahan and husband (Tony) of Kentucky, and Karolyn Hudson and husband (George) of Charlotte. He was preceded in death by his wife, Merle Silver Koester; and his son, Walter James Koester III. He is also survived by seven grandchildren, Andy Squiers, Susan Ingle and husband (Kenneth), Tyler McLeod, Betsy McLeod, Joey Squiers, Katy Hudson and Fred Hudson, and two great-grandchildren, Kailyn Ingle and Shane Ingle.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, February 18th from 6 to 7 PM in the chapel of Wilson Family Funeral Service in Black Mountain. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, February 19th at 3:30 PM at the Western Carolina State Veterans Cemetery.
Arrangements are entrusted to Wilson's Funeral Home in Black Mountain. Memorials may be made to the Koester Benevolence Fund in care of King of Glory Christian Church, PO Box 365, Swannanoa, North Carolina 28778.
Those who would like to leave words of comfort for the family may do so at www.wilsonfamilyfuneralservice.com
Published in the Asheville Citizen-Times on Feb. 15, 2014