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Jean Christophe Schwarzenbach


1918 - 2017 Obituary Condolences
Jean Christophe Schwarzenbach Obituary
August 6, 1918 - January 19, 2017 At age 64, Chris Schwarzenbach decided he wanted to hike the Himalayas in the rugged region of Ladakh, India. He routinely flew friends and family to Catalina Island or his beachside home in Saint Malo at the controls of his twin-engine Cessna to age 83. His deep, warm laugh punctuated his conversations about his beloved outdoors. "He had a curiosity about the world," said his wife Katherine "K.B." Schwarzenbach. His curiosity was not limited to mountains and geography. Chris recently delighted in talking about how scientists had only last year confirmed Albert Einstein's 1916 prediction of the existence of gravitational waves, pointing out that it had taken science 100 years to catch up with Einstein's initial insight. "100 years is hardly enough time to confirm anything," said Chris, who graduated from the California Institute of Technology in 1942 with Master's degrees in both Science and Aeronautical Engineering years after Einstein was a visiting professor there. Chris, whose full name was Jean-Christophe Schwarzenbach, was born on August 6, 1918, to Marguerite Fro¨elicher and Robert J. F. Schwarzenbach on the 6th of August, 1918, in Quogue, New York. Chris was the third of three children. His father had established and ran a silk weaving business in New York, and his brick building at 460 Park Avenue South, although no longer in the family, still bears the Schwarzenbach name. His mother, a native of Winterthür, Switzerland, survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, by escaping the ship in a rowboat with her parents. Chris attended The Browning School in Manhattan but moved with his family to Switzerland in 1930 where he resided through completion of his baccalaureate education at the Polytechnicum Zurich Hochschule, ETH Zurich, in 1940. Alongside his academic career, he was an avid and accomplished skier, mountain climber, tennis player, and pilot. Chris was a member of the U.S. Alpine Olympic Team in 1939, but due to Hitler's invasion of Poland the Winter Olympics were cancelled. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he enlisted as an airman in the U.S. Naval Air Force in April, 1942. In 1943 he started U.S. Propellers, an aeronautical manufacturing company in East Pasadena. Their principal product was laminated wooden propellers, but they also experimented with honeycomb construction and laminated wood manufacture. They designed, secured the patent for, and manufactured the first safety ski binding: the infamous U.S. Star Binding. In 1944, he married Katharine Margaret "Kay" Loughran of Washington, D.C. They raised four children: Marguerite Liselotte, Joseph Christopher, Frederick Nicholas, and John Gerald. After the sudden death of his wife Kay in June of 1957, he married Katharine "Katie" Nevins Washburn in May of 1958. She brought into their growing household her four children from her previous marriage: Edward Story Washburn, Susan Bass Washburn, Timothy Nevins Washburn, and John Lawrence Washburn. Together, Chris and Katie had twins: Alexander Richard and Robert Otto. He was a principal and co-owner of Paschall International, an aviation import/export business, where he worked with his son, Fred, and served as president until his retirement in 2003. The modernist office building on Raymond Avenue is still owned by the family. Later in life, he was able to serve his community, promoting two of his passionate interests: education and aviation. He served as a trustee of Harvey Mudd College, on the board of Catalina Island School, as a commissioner of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority, and as a member of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences. He is survived by his loving wife of 37 years Katherine Bache Schwarzenbach, her daughters: Alexandra Trower Lindsey and Andrea Trower Scharff, his six children, and six grandchildren: Alexander Blake Schwarzenbach, Maximillian Schwarzenbach Smith, Alexander Robert Schwarzenbach, Sophia Ann Schwarzenbach, Christopher Schwarzenbach Plourde and Emery Maxime Schwarzenbach. On Thursday morning, January 19th, 2017, Chris came to a final, peaceful rest, in his home alongside his beloved Arroyo Seco in Pasadena, California. He was 98 years old. Chris's delight in ideas and warm conversation will be missed. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Planned Parenthood.
Published in the Los Angeles Times from Feb. 15 to Feb. 16, 2017
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