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Peter Louis Portanova

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August 13, 1929 - June 26, 2015 Pietro (Pete) Portanova, born 13 August 1929 in Mount Vernon, New York, died peacefully on 26 June 2015 in Torrance, CA surrounded by his loving family. Dr. Peter L. Portanova is survived by his three children, Jaye-Jo (Bruce), Jo-Ann (Barry), and Steven (Janet), and his seven adoring grandchildren, Jolie and Shayna; Jason and Sarah; Jaclyn, Jake, and Jaidyn. With the assistance of the G.I. Bill, Pete earned degrees from the State University of New York and Georgia Institute of Technology in engineering, culminating in a master's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California. He earned his Ph.D. from the Peter F. Drucker School of Management, Claremont Graduate University. Pete met his wife to be, Carolyn, at college in New York. This relationship blossomed into a strong love affair, resulting in the couple getting married in Atlanta, Georgia on March 27, 1954. Prior to his academic achievements, Pete proudly served in the United States Navy for four years, from 1947-1951. Pete was a true American patriot, and reminisced about his years of service fondly. Pete held a number of prestigious engineering positions and was the consummate American engineer during the Cold War era. He worked diligently at Douglas Aircraft Company, before joining The Aerospace Corporation in 1962. Pete worked at Aerospace for about 50 years, including an assignment at the Pentagon for the Office of the Undersecretary and the 1994 Space Launch Modernization Plan. A hard worker by nature, he pulled on his expansive educational background to hold a multitude of positions within this corporation, including systems engineering, integration, and management. Pete became the first principal director for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV), and he was also assigned to the National Reconnaissance Office. During his time at Aerospace, Pete also helped successfully launch two EELVs, the Delta IV and the Atlas V. Pete was a dreamer, a visionary, and a prolific author of many works on the genesis of the EELV, with the hope of encouraging future generations to continue this line of work. He persevered against significant resistance and his ideas were revolutionary for the time. Many people considered him the father of the EELV program. Although he was very proud of his life's work, he was a very humble man and often attributed his success to his wife and co-workers. Throughout his years of work, Pete grew his loving family. His eldest daughter, Jaye-Jo, was born on his final day of school at Georgia Tech. His second daughter, Jo-Ann, was born in England, while Pete worked on various military bases for Project Emily. The family finally settled in West Los Angeles, where Steven, their youngest, was born. Shortly after he went to work for Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California, where he continued to pioneer space exploration for about 50 years. Despite his passion for his work, he was a family man at heart. Pete was the intellectual force behind his growing family, in addition to being a loving son, brother, husband, father and grandfather. He was fiercely proud of his seven grandchildren, who lovingly called him "Papa Pete" and who he constantly encouraged in their various pursuits of study. Pete will be deeply missed and always loved. Private Funeral Services were held on Monday, June 29, 2015, 11:30 AM at Mount Sinai Memorial Parks and Mortuaries in Hollywood Hills. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Keck Medical School, the California Science Center, the United Service Organizations (U.S.O.) or any veterans' organization of your choice.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 11, 2015
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