Charles "Chuck" R. Walthers was born in Queens, N.Y., in 1936. He was raised there and attended the NYU School of Engineering where he earned a Bachelor's Degree in Mechanical Engineering and later a Master's Degree in Business Administration. While getting his engineering degree, he joined Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in 1957.
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Chuck worked on an entire generation of aircraft at that time including the Intruder, Hawkeye, Gulfstream and Mohawk. In 1962 he was assigned an important position on the Lunar Excursion Module (LM) program, as part of the Apollo spacecraft mission that delivered a crew of two men from the lunar orbit to the surface of the moon and back six times between 1969 and 1972.
Chuck was the Group Leader of a team whose function was to test individual components and whole vehicle function for thermal behavior in the harsh environment of low pressure and thermal extremes of space.
At the conclusion of the LM program, he provided engineering assistance on the Tritium Fusion Test Reactor (TFTR) located in Princeton, New Jersey. This led to an assignment on the Tritium Systems Test Assembly (TSTA) at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) in 1978.
He retired from Grumman in 1986 at the age of 50. He remained as a part-time engineering consultant at LASL (later, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)) on several tritium-related programs until 1996, at which time he rejoined LANL as a full-time staff member until his retirement in 2000.
Chuck married Dianne Simon, who also worked on the LM program at Grumman, in 1964.
They spent their month-long honeymoon in Europe, skiing and staying in castles in the Swiss Alps and Dolomites.
Chuck and Dianne had a passion for skiing, hiking and the outdoors, and as a result decided to buy 90 acres in Northfield, VT, where they built a log cabin for weekends and vacations. In 1971, they had daughter, Gretchen, followed by daughter Eliza in 1972. Gretchen and Eliza spent the early part of their lives in backpacks on Chuck and Dianne's backs, skiing, hiking and motorcycle riding.
Chuck had a single engine pilot's license with both IFR and VFR ratings. Dianne earned her pilot's license in 1978 so she could take over if Chuck fell asleep.
Together, the family spent many hours flying to Vermont from Long Island, NY, and later took many trips in their Cessna 172 throughout the Southwest. Upon moving to Los Alamos, NM, in 1978 to work at LASL, Chuck and Dianne took up running, biking and swimming, and competed in triathlons and marathons.
They ran the Boston Marathon in 1982, completed a half Ironman, rode several 100 mile bike tours/races, and ran several Pikes Peak Ascents, with Chuck doing the Pikes Peak Marathon in 1984.
The family's athletic pursuits, along with camping, became their primary form of entertainment in Los Alamos from 1978 to 1986.
In 1986, the family took a six-week camping trip to Alaska in their 1967 Bronco with one of the first 4-Wheel "pop-up" campers installed. Chuck made a plywood box with windows to tow behind the Bronco for Gretchen and Eliza to sleep in while in Grizzly Bear country. The Bronco and Walthers family made traditional winter xmas camping trips to Big Bend National Park at least 30 times from 1977 until 2013.
In 1986, upon retirement from Grumman, Chuck and Dianne and their teenage daughters moved back to Northfield, VT, to the weekend vacation cabin that they built in 1968. They lived in it for two years, but at 600 square feet the cabin was a bit small for a family of four.
Chuck, with help from his daughters and Dianne, built an additional residence on the property, known as The Barn, where he and Dianne lived full time until 1996.
Chuck and Dianne split their time between Vermont and New Mexico since 1996 to spend time with their children and grandchildren, and to enjoy the great outdoors of both places.
In November 2012, Chuck and Dianne hiked 14,000 ft Quandry Peak with daughter Eliza outside of Breckenridge, Colorado, in snow. In August, 2013, Chuck, Dianne, Gretchen and grandsons Gage and Beck climbed Camel's Hump in Vermont, and enjoyed "trivia night" and some good beer at a local Brewery in Waterbury, VT.
Chuck had a wonderful life with many adventures and a grand amount of fun and good humor. He is very proud of his wife and daughters and grandsons. He will be dearly missed for his keen wit and humor, acuity, and incredible memory, and for his wonderful companionship.
Chuck is survived by his wife of 49 years, Dianne; daughters, Gretchen Walthers Ellis (Steve) of Los Alamos, Eliza Anna Walthers (Dan) of Ft. Collins, Colorado; grandchildren, Gage and Beck Ellis, and Axel Manter; cousins, John Schmidt (Michelle) of Great River, NY, Francine Holland (George) of Northampton, MA, and Margo Breault (Richard) of Hernando, FL.
The family of Charles "Chuck" R. Walthers has entrusted their loved one to DeVargas Funeral Home & Crematory of the Española Valley. 505-662-2400 – www.devargasfuneral.com
Published in Los Alamos Monitor on Nov. 6, 2013
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