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Charles M. "Chuck" Rice

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Charles M. "Chuck" Rice Obituary

Charles "Chuck" Merton Rice, a longtime Idaho Falls business and community leader, passed away Monday, Sept. 2, 2013. While noted for his endless volunteerism and philanthropy, Chuck often stated that his greatest joy and contribution was in family.

Chuck was born the second child to Allen Buckner Rice and Ethel Kaake Rice in Whitmore Lake, Mich., on Jan. 26, 1925. Having graduated from high school at 16, he enrolled at Wabash College, where he ran on the track team and graduated with a science degree. Post-graduate work was recognized by the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology with a subsequent master's degree awarded in physics from the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Rice served his beloved America as a communications expert for the U.S. Navy in World War II.

In 1947, he married Mary Esther Buelteman. They had eight children from 1950 to 1960.

Chuck's early contributions included design work for the U.S. Army's ML-1 mobile low power portable nuclear power plant, management of the Army Gas-Cooled Reactor Systems program and the AEC/NASA Nuclear Rocket Program (NERVA).

After nearly a dozen moves, Rice stated that when he arrived with his family in Idaho Falls in 1969, he had found a permanent home. He was right. Chuck served as president and CEO of both the Idaho Nuclear Corporation and Aerojet Nuclear Corporation, with responsibility for management of the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory. In 1972, he founded the first successful technology spinoff company from the INEL -- Energy Incorporated. He went on to do management consulting in fields ranging from utility/regulatory disputes, nuclear power plant operation management and space defense initiative efforts.

Chuck was involved in professional associations over the years, including service as chair of the Technology Advisory Board of EITC; chair of the INL Citizens Advisory Board; member of the Engineering Advisory Council and a President's Associate at ISU; board member of Development Workshop Incorporated; fellow and charter member of the American Nuclear Society; and member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.

Also known for his community connections, Rice played a significant leadership role in the local Rotary Club, CHC Foundation, United Way, Bonneville Museum Foundation, Hospice of Eastern Idaho, SCORE and Idaho Foundation for Parks and Land.

Education and family were always paramount to Chuck. He was instrumental in encouraging and helping to finance the higher education of his children, grandchildren and many other family and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents; three siblings; his oldest son, Greg; and granddaughter, Stacey Heim.

He is survived by his children, Jo Finne of Seattle, Gayle Eaton of Donnelly, Maribee Sovereign of Hayden, Steve Rice of Portland, Randy Rice of Idaho Falls, Mike Rice of Clarkston and Ginny Kuhl of San Clemente. He leaves behind his beloved 14 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren.

Please join the family for a celebration of life from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, at the Willard Arts Center, with story sharing at 2 p.m.

Published in Post Register on Sept. 8, 2013
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