1933 - 2019
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Neil D. Opdyke, Ph.D, age 86, a Gainesville resident, passed away April 7, of complications due to congestive heart failure. Neil was born February 7, 1933 to Beatrice Opdyke Bird. He grew up in Frenchtown, NJ where he was captain of his high school football team. He attended Columbia University in NYC on a football scholarship eventually becoming the Captain of the football team and earning a Bachelor's Degree in Geology. He attended Cambridge and Durham University in England where he received his Doctorate degree. After coming back to the US, he married his loving wife of 60 years, Marjorie Wilson. After the wedding they moved together to Houston for post-graduate work for a year at Rice University. From there he took a post-doctoral fellowship in Australia where his oldest son Scott was born, after 2 years he moved to another post-doctorate fellowship in what was then called Southern Rhodesia in Africa where his second son, Bradley, was born. He returned to the United States in the early 1960's where he and his family settled in Valley Cottage, NY and the family welcomed their third son, Clifford. Neil joined the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University as a researcher eventually becoming its Director. In the early 1980's he and his family moved to Gainesville, Florida where Neil became a Full Professor upon joining the faculty of the University of Florida. He eventually retired as a Distinguished Professor Emeritus.
He is survived by his wife, Marjorie, three sons, Scott and his wife Pennie of Houston, TX, Bradley and his wife Nancy of Canberra, Australia, Clifford and his wife Lea of Atlanta, GA. and 9 grandchildren- Melissa Hurtado, Colleen Dowling, Kristen Rodriguez, all of Houston, TX; Brittany Opdyke of Cincinnati, OH; Myra Opdyke and Nigel Opdyke of Canberra, Australia; Alexa Opdyke, Brendan Opdyke and Kyra Opdyke of Atlanta, GA, and 5 great-grandchildren.
He is well known for his groundbreaking research in the 1960's on magnetostratigraphy, paleoclimate and continental drift, he worked on the documentation of magnetic reversals in deep-sea sediments, which led to proof of the Vine-Matthews-Morley hypothesis (the governing paradigm for marine magnetic anomalies). Neil pioneered magnetic stratigraphy in terrestrial sediments and produced some of the most impressive records, notably from Pakistan and southwestern USA. These studies led to a vastly improved time frame for vertebrate evolution and allowed the documentation of mammal migration.
Prof. Opdyke was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a fellow of the Geological Society of America and the American Geophysical Union. He received an honorary Doctor of Sciences from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
When Neil was not enjoying research in the sciences, he was an avid vegetable gardener and loved reading history. He enjoyed fishing and hunting, and a bit of singing around an open campfire. Neil was a long-time member of Trinity United Methodist Church, often serving as an usher. He will be missed.
There will be a memorial service held at Trinity United Methodist Church, April 30, 2019 at 1 pm. In lieu of flowers, if desired, donations in Neil's name may be made to the charity of your choice. He will be interred at the family plot in Frenchtown, NJ. Arrangements are under the care of the Johnson-Walton Funeral Home, 24 Church Road, Milford, NJ.
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Published in Gainesville Sun from Apr. 10 to Apr. 11, 2019.
Memorial service
01:00 PM
Trinity United Methodist Church
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4 entries
April 27, 2019
Dr. Opdyke was always full of wisdom, knowledge and a great sense of humor. A great scientist and his legacy will continue with the scientific community he helped to instruct. We will never forget his stories about watching the landing in the moon in the only television set available in Maicao (Colombia). Carlos Jaramillo & Maria Barreto
carlos jaramillo
April 12, 2019
My Mom always enjoyed the visits from Neil and your family, the day she enjoyed the most was at Christmas when you all sang carols for her, she knew it would be her last time seeing all of you. I am so sorry for your loss, he is a great man and will always be remembered. He is in our hearts for ever.
Denise Reigle-Avila
April 12, 2019
Marjorie I am so surprised to read about the passing of Neil. You will be in my thoughts and prayers.
Carol Campbell
April 11, 2019
May God grant rest to Neil. My sincere condolences to the whole family.
Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou
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