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H. Rush Spedden

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1916 ~ 2013
H. Rush Spedden, Engineer/Scientist, Teacher, Historian and Skier passed away on December 27, 2013 at the age of 97. Born in Colville, WA in 1916, Rush grew up in a west in transition from horses to cars. As a teenager he witnessed the impact of the Great Depression. To pay for college, he worked summers in a silver mine in the mountains of Idaho, advancing from an underground mucker to a mill operator. He graduated from the University of Washington in Mining Engineering and went on to receive a Master's degree at Montana School of Mines. In 1940 he was recruited to MIT to join Dr. A.M. Gaudin's new mineral processing group which became world-renowned for advancements in the science of mineral processing. In 1942, as part of the war effort, Rush was sent to Bolivia to boost production of tin. In 1944, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the Army and sent to Europe in the Corps of Engineers. He was stationed in Bavaria with responsibilities for reinstituting coal production. In 1946, he returned to MIT as an Assistant Professor.
A skilled white water canoeist, Rush met his future bride, Betty (also a skilled canoeist) on an Appalachian Mountain Club trip in 1948. They were married in 1951.
Rush joined Union Carbide in New York in 1952, advancing to Director of Research. His duties took him to Africa and South America working on recovery of exotic metal used in batteries and nuclear devices. It was in this period that he received the first of his many patents for inventions in the field of metallurgy. In 1964 he was recruited to be Director of Research for Kennecott Copper's Western Mining Division in Salt Lake City, UT. Also in that year he was awarded an Honorary Professional Degree in Mineral Dressing by the Montana School of Mines. Rush was a life-long advocate of the Society of Mining Engineers of AIME starting as president of his student section to being named President of the Society of Mining Engineers in 1970. Rush also mentored many young engineers, encouraging them to join the mission to meet the growing need for efficient recovery and utilization of mineral resources. For his dedication to the advancement of mineral processing technology. Rush was honored with the Robert H. Richards award by AIME. Rush retired from Kennecott in 1977, but continued to consult in the field for many years after that.
Rush had a broad range of interests. He was always an avid historian and geologist, and a professor at heart. He could be counted on for absolutely fascinating impromptu lectures on a broad range of subjects. His family has fond memories of driving around the country learning of the flow of history both in geological and human terms. In 1972 he started tracing the pioneer trails through Utah, correcting many misconceptions through the use of science, great detective work and the latest technologies. The Bureau of Land Management asked Rush to mark the route of the Hastings Cutoff west of Salt Lake (the route taken by the ill-fated Donner party and by those heading west for the California gold rush). In later years he directed his attention to the trails near Fort Bridger. He was the author of numerous historical articles and he wrote the Hastings Cutoff section of Peter DeLafosse's 1994 book Trailing the Pioneers. Rush's work has also been cited by others in their publications. In 2011 at the age of 94, Rush was awarded the Oregon-California Trails Association's Merrill Mattes Award for Excellence in writing for his article published a year earlier titled "Lansford Hastings, Orson Pratt, Google Earth and GPS" in which Rush used modern technology to calculate the "instrument error" in Orson Pratt's sextant and then based on that and ground observation (in Rush's Jeep), he successfully identified a lost section of the trail the first Mormons took to Salt Lake. In another enthralling piece of detective work, Rush gives a compelling argument for the T.H. Jefferson of an early map of the Hasting's Cutoff being Thomas Hemings Jefferson, the son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings.
Rush has been a life-long skier. He told of skiing on barrel staves as a young boy. Rush and Betty went skiing at Mt. Tremblant in Canada for their honeymoon. Rush was a founder of the "Wild old Bunch" at Alta, a nationally known collection of older skiers. He coined the name when he produced a home movie of his friends skiing powder and put it to music. Many will remember his graceful powder skiing style and the fact that he continued to ski the powder into his 90's.
Rush is survived by his wife and lifelong companion in many wonderful adventures, Betty, and his four children, Sarah, David, Rick and Catherine and four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in the early spring; a time and place will be posted on www.WildoldBunch.org. In lieu of flowers, please make donations to the Alf Engen Ski Museum Foundation or your preferred charity.
Published in Salt Lake Tribune from Jan. 2 to Jan. 3, 2014
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