Bion Dwight Barger|
Bion Barger died unexpectedly on February 16, eleven days after his ninetieth birthday.
Bion was born in Oak Park, IL on February 5, 1924, the oldest child of Bion and Ruth Eveleth Barger. He had four younger siblings. When he was very young the family moved to Glen Ellyn. He attended public schools there and graduated from Glenbard High School.
In September 1941 he enrolled in the chemical engineering curriculum at the University of Illinois, Urbana. Then Pearl Harbor was attacked. He was too young to be drafted so he stayed in school but did poorly. High school had been easy so he had never learned to study or organize his time. After that bad year he returned home and worked at factory jobs until his draft number came up a week after his nineteenth birthday. He later reflected that the delay probably saved his life because earlier he would have been in the 101st Airborne and gone to Normandy.
Sworn in and still in civilian clothes with a pack of new recruits he saw a paratrooper strut thru the railroad station. He decided right then if one was to be a soldier, that was a good way to do it. Volunteering to do something both dangerous and worthwhile permanently changed his estimation of himself.
He was sent to the 11th Airborne Division where he went to jump school and other training and then to the Pacific. He was stationed in New Guinea and then jumped into combat on Luzon. That secured, they moved on to the battle of Manila. They were waiting to jump into Japan when the atomic bomb was dropped. He judged that the bomb had saved thousands of American and Japanese lives.
Bion often said "Emperor Hirohito is my hero---(time for the listener to say "What?') because when he said "We must bear the unbearable" and surrendered, countless lives were saved on both sides." His unit arrived in Tokyo the day before the surrender ceremony and became part of the army of occupation. He returned to the States and was discharged in December 1945.
It was back to the University of Illinois, where he taught himself to study and made excellent grades. The campus was over run with men on the GI Bill who had survived and had a strong sense of purpose. He graduated in June, 1949, Jobs were not easy to find so he returned to his parents home, now in Seattle, and earned a Masters in Chemical Engineering at UW.
Bion then decided to explore several branches of chemical engineering, thinking he wanted to teach. He worked for four companies in New York City and Niagara Falls, learning various aspects of the chemical and petroleum industries. He really enjoyed living in New York and took advantage of the many opportunities there.
In 1956 he decided it was time to pursue the academic career but one semester at Ohio State convinced him that this was not what he had imagined. So he left.
In 1957 he joined Standard Oil of Indiana, later named Amoco. He stayed there for twenty four years, progressing thru a variety of functions in the research department. He designed refinery units, then evaluated research projects for possible commercial application and later supervised a small group doing that work. He transferred to the headquarters business office for eight years, where he explored ways for the company to expand into other kinds of business. He returned to the Corporate Development Department to lead a small group which identified early-stage technologies with a potential for commercial application. This effort resulted in major development programs in biology, battery chemistry and blue diode lasers, among other things. He retired in 1981.
In 1958, at the urging of his mother, he took his second cousin Pat May out to dinner. She was a new graduate student at Northwestern, which Ruth had attended and of which she was very proud. They were married in August 1958. They lived in Chicago for 30 years. It has been a long, exciting marriage.
Bion broadened his interests after being pretty bookish until he was forty or so. He and Pat were active in the Sports Car Club of America and he yearned for a Lotus Elite, which he got and enjoyed for several years. He learned to ski and enjoyed trips to ski in Colorado, Utah, Vermont and Washington. He went to rock climbing school at Grand Teton, climbed often in Wisconsin and climbed Mt Rainier twice. With some guidance from a friend he became a fine woodworker and built some elegant pieces for the house.
Bion retired at 58 and spent the first year reading the entire works of Shakespeare. Then he read and played five more years while Pat still worked. Finally she decided she didn't need to catch the commuter train or plane every morning while he was having fun so she retired.
They moved to Seattle to join the Barger clan and have enjoyed the active family life and living with their dream view on Queen Anne Hill for the last 26 years.
Bion is survived by his wife Pat, his brothers William (Clare), Richard (Marsha), and Robert, Pat's siblings Priscilla Armstrong (Walter) and William May (Susan). Numerous nephews and nieces and their children and very special friends--Claudia Noyes, Caroline Chan, Erin Gray, James Gleeson and Richard Podmore survive.
Bion wrote a short autobiography at the request of his niece Alyssa May. In summary he said "This has added up to be a very satisfactory life. I have never had any really bad luck. My health has been excellent. It has always seemed that today is all right and tomorrow will be better---and so it has come to pass."
There will be no services. In memory of Bion, please do a random act of kindness.
Published in The Seattle Times from Feb. 27 to Mar. 2, 2014