Bart Bechtel (1918 - 2014)

Obituary
  • "I had the good fortune of growing up as a next door..."
    - Catherine Webking
  • "Sue, Russell, Ethan and other family - please accept my..."
  • "Bart was a friend and associate to me at Texas Instruments...."
    - Russ Logan
  • "Dad was just a great guy. He was very modest and private..."
    - Tom Bechtel

Bechtel, Bart Radar Pioneer "Bart" Bartow Bechtel was born on August 23, 1918 in Ithaca, NY to Albert Reiff Bechtel and Lenore Bartow Bechtel while his Dad was a PhD student at Cornell University. He grew up in Crawfordsville, IN and attended Wabash College, where his Dad was a professor of Botany. He told numerous stories of all the adventures he experienced in the surrounding woods and on Sugar Creek. He courted our mother, Maxine Anderson, for several years before asking her to marry him---saying that "his foot got caught in the screen door" as in the musical Music Man-and that made all the difference. They were introduced by mutual friends in 1946. Dad had earned a B.A. in Physics at Wabash, lettered in tennis, and enjoyed camping, golf, and the outdoors. Our mother enjoyed none of that but their union lasted 52 years. They called each other "Maxie" and "Bartsie". Shortly before Dad passed away on Tuesday, April 15th, surrounded by his children, son-in-law Russell and grandson, Ethan-I told him to look for Maxine and his eyes danced like a young man! They were separated for nine years and during that time; Dad enjoyed life but visited the cemetery every week to place flowers at his beloved Maxine's grave. Bart served four years as a commissioned officer in the US Navy Reserve during WWII. He attended the Navy's Radar School at MIT in 1942 and spent three years as a Radar Electronics Officer on numerous destroyers in the Aleutian Islands and South Pacific: the U.S.S. Hull, the U.S.S. Phelps, the U.S.S. Monahan, the U.S.S. Yosemite, and the U.S.S. Dewey, ending his service as a lieutenant. After the war, he pioneered the development of terrain-following radar in the 1950s, a now essential type of radar for low altitude navigation and control in aircraft, drones and weapon systems. Bechtel first developed air to ground radar concepts at the Naval Avionics Facility (NAFI) in Indianapolis. Later at Texas Instruments, a fully operational terrain following/terrain avoidance radar was developed and produced in 1958-59, using transistors, a brand new technology at that time. These concepts gave rise to a large extended family of radars all over the world. Bechtel also developed the first radar to produce a video image from radio frequency signals. This system gave pilots a real-time video image of nearby aircraft on the ground as aircraft landed or taxied. He holds several patents for his work at Texas Instruments and was recognized as a Senior Member of the Technical Staff. He was a genuinely modest man, and we never knew the extent of his contributions until he retired in 1985 and a TI newsletter article highlighted his achievements. He was 'retired' only two months when he was offered the F-111 (RADAR) Update consulting position. Dad taught us how to live. We had a family dinner every night by kerosene lamp or candlelight, said Grace before meals and went to church every Sunday. He taught us to appreciate the outdoors and we camped as a family in just about every National Park west of the Mississippi a passion he inherited from his father. He taught us to finish what we started and to find and pursue a career doing what we loved. We always knew we could come home and we did-several times during difficult or transitional times in our lives. The door and our parents love was always there. Bart is preceded in death by his wife, Maxine Anderson Bechtel, our sister, Sarah Bechtel Nicholson, his brother John Isaiah Bechtel and his sister, Alberta Bechtel Rollins. He is survived by his children John Bechtel and his partner, Dean Wong of Los Angeles; Sue Bechtel Haas, husband Russell and son, Ethan of Richardson; Tom Bechtel, wife Laurie and children, David and Lindsay Bechtel of Plano. Dad was well read and had a curiosity and joy for life up until his final brief illness. The last three and a half years of his life were enriched by his friendships at the Wellington at Arapaho. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Richardson Public Library and First Presbyterian Church of Richardson. Our family would like to thank Dr. Robert Myers and his dedicated staff,: Dr. Tiffany Ynoscensio and Vivian Lewis RN in the Truett Hospital ICU, Baylor Medical Center for their sensitive care during the last years/days of his life. Bart wanted a simple Presbyterian graveside service with family and close friends. His service is at Restland, Saturday, April 26 at 1:00pm.

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Published in Dallas Morning News from Apr. 25 to Apr. 27, 2014
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