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Joseph M. Clifford


1925 - 2016 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Joseph M. Clifford Obituary
November 11, 1925 - April 10, 2016 Joseph Michael Clifford, Jr. died peacefully at Webster House in Palo Alto, California on April 10, 2016. The cause of death was mesothelioma. Joe was born in Oak Park, Illinois to Marie Davis and Joseph Michael Clifford and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He graduated from (Detroit) Central Catholic High School in 1942 and entered Harvard College as a scholarship student. His Harvard studies were interrupted by two years in the army artillery. He saw combat in the southern Philippines (Zamboanga, Mindanao) and after VJ day was part of the team studying the devastating effects of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He graduated from Harvard in January 1948 with a bachelor's degree in physics, and enrolled as a graduate student at Lehigh University, from which he received a master's degree in physics in 1949 and a PhD in 1955. He worked for several years at the Lehigh University Institute for research, during which he developed an interest in operations research. On graduation he began work at the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group under the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon. While in Washington DC, Joe met his wife, Mary Margaret McLaren. They were married on April 4, 1959, and made McLean, Virginia their home. They soon began moving westward, to Littleton, Colorado in 1961 where he worked for Martin Marietta and then to San Bernardino, California in 1963 when he joined the Aerospace Corporation. He transferred to El Segundo in 1969, making his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, where he and Mary raised their children, hosted family and friends from all over the world, and relentlessly spoiled their grandchildren. Joe loved viewing the ocean by day and using his telescope to stargaze at night. He remained at Aerospace, working with the Navigation Satellite Systems Directorate developing and implementing the GPS program until his retirement in 2001. In his later years, as GPS became common, the GPS application was always the first one he opened on his mobile phone. Mary died in 2010, and Joe missed her terribly. She had been his lover, friend, confidant, advisor and encouragement. In 2013, Joe relocated to Webster House in Palo Alto, where he immediately immersed himself fully into the Webster House activities. He was the impresario of Movies to Enjoy (older and/or light comedies), proprietor of Joe's Sports Bar (TV showing Stanford and 49ers football, Stanford women's basketball, and championships as requested) and served as vice chairman of the residents' council. He truly appreciated the friendship and camaraderie he found at Webster House. Joe was preceded in death by Mary, his wife of 51 years, and survived by their five children: daughters Mary Elizabeth (Charles Bisbee) and Margaret Mary Koga, sons John William, Michael James (Susan Knepper), and Patrick Joseph (Kathy Arbaugh), six grandchildren, Joseph and Heather Clifford, Adam and Kendall Koga, and Christopher and Danielle Bisbee, and many nieces and nephews. A funeral mass will be celebrated on Friday, April 22nd at 11am at Saint John Fisher Catholic Church in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Catholic Relief Services, 228 West Lexington Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201-3413, St. Thomas the Apostle School Heritage, 2632 West 15th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90006, or Doctors without Borders.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Apr. 20, 2016
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