Cecil E. "Chuck" Leith
1923-2016
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Cecil "Chuck" E. Leith

Chuck Leith passed away peacefully early in the morning on October 13th at home with his wife Mary in Eugene, Oregon. In their 75 years together, Chuck and Mary truly "saw it all".

Chuck was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923. After graduating from Scituate High School, he travelled west by bus and enrolled as an undergraduate student in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1940. Chuck and Mary met at one of the dances organized by their respective co-operative residence halls in the fall of 1941. As Mary tells it, she realized he was "the one" when they met again by chance at the top of the UC Berkeley Campanile on the morning of Dec 7th, 1941 - Pearl Harbor Day, although they didn't know about it at the time. They were married on Mary's 19th birthday in July 1942.

After his graduation in the fall of 1943, Chuck was hired by the (now Lawrence) Radiation Laboratory at UC Berkeley. A few months later, he was sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to work as a civilian physicist on the secret Manhattan Project. In 1944 he was drafted into the US Army and, after basic training, was sent straight back to Oak Ridge to continue in the same work. This was the beginning of a very productive scientific career spanning 60 years, first in weapons research and later in the development of computer models designed to predict global climate patterns. In mid-career, Chuck spent fifteen years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and, from there, he made sorties for teaching terms at several member universities: the University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Florida State University, and in Melbourne, Australia. For full details, in Chuck's own words, go to: https://www.aip.org/history-programs/neils-bohr-library/oral-histories (in "Search Oral Histories" box at middle of page, type in "Cecil E. Leith").

In the meantime, Chuck and Mary raised three children mostly in Livermore, California. As a family, they enjoyed great vacations backpacking and skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains, as well as road trips to the desert or the Pacific coast whenever they could get away. Chuck loved hiking and set himself the successful goal of climbing all the mountains over 14,000 feet in Colorado while he and Mary lived there in the 1970s. Later on, having returned to California, he enjoyed bicycling throughout the Livermore Valley and would sometimes reward himself with a stop for fresh doughnuts at the midway point of a 20-mile ride. Together Chuck and Mary enjoyed concerts, opera, theater, and fine dining wherever they went.

In 2010, Chuck and Mary moved to Eugene, Oregon to be nearer to their daughter Ann and her family. They came to love the Willamette Valley and especially enjoyed scenic "country drives" in all directions during all the colorful seasons.

Chuck was pre-deceased by his sister Sally Gaubeca Ayala earlier this year, and by his sons John Francis and Paul Benedict Leith many years ago. He is survived by his wife Mary, daughter Ann Leith, son-in-law P. Katsoyannos, grandson Jason Leith Katsoyannos, and half-brother John Kimball.

He is also survived by many nieces and nephews and their respective families. His sister Sally's children include Lisa Patella (and her children Marni Atherton and Andrew Patella), Michael Gaubeca, Juan Valentin Gaubeca (and his son Val Gaubeca), Vicki Gaubeca, and Susan Arzac (and her children Paula Baird and Jorge Arzac Jr). His half-brother John's children include Christopher Kimball (and family) and Nick Kimball (and family).

At Chuck's request, no services were held. If you wish, you could honor his memory with a contribution to your favorite charity. We will all miss his sweet presence in our lives! May he forever rest in peace.


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Published in Eugene Register-Guard on Nov. 6, 2016.
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Memories & Condolences
Guest Book sponsored by His Loving Family
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9 entries
November 1, 2020
I paraphrase my original statement: from the beginning of my career at NCAR, Chuck was supportive of my work on numerical methods. His encouragement still means the world to me.
Piotr Smolarkiewicz
October 31, 2020
I echo my comments of 1916. Hard to believe it's been four years. Bob Serafin
January 4, 2017
Chuck was a very supportive boss of mine. His ideas about the distinction between weather and climate were inspirational to me. I am grateful to have known and worked for him. Roland Madden
December 30, 2016
From the beginning of my career at NCAR, Chuck was supportive of my work and the concept of MPDATA. His encouragement still means the world to me.
Piotr Smolarkiewicz
December 23, 2016
At NCAR I knew Chuck as a kind and gentle man and an exceptional scientist.

Bob Serafin
December 20, 2016
I never met Chuck in person, but I have spent years working on just a few of his contributions to geophysical fluid dynamics. He leads the field even now.
Baylor Fox-Kemper
December 19, 2016
Chuck was a both a great scientist and a kind and generous colleague. I value his friendship in science and on the mountain trails.
Len Margolin
November 8, 2016
1987-Uncle Chuck and Aunt Mary
Thank you, cousin Ann and Aunt Mary, for Uncle Chuck's moving obituary. I enjoyed seeing a picture of him in his military uniform for the first time. What a full life he (my father's sister's husband) lived! He was blessed with such a brilliant mind. He accomplished so much, and had a zest for experiencing life to its fullest. I knew of his climbing feats, but never knew he was an avid bicyclist! My most notable memories of him as a young adult were: 1) his explaining to me the genetics of colorblindness (which he had), and 2) taking my husband and I on a tour in 1979 of the huge mainframe computers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, CO. We were all so fortunate to have had him in our lives.
Cheryl Henry Perry
November 6, 2016
Our Uncle Chuck, so gentle and kind
Dry in humor, spectacular in mind
Boston bred, for short a while
California, much more his style

Met his Mary of pioneer lore
Raised a family in Livermore
With Ann, John and little Paul
Spirited days and love for all

Math and science, his essential being
Problems solved, discoveries seeing
Well renowned, university and college
Traveled the world, shared his knowledge

Strong and able, climbed mountain peaks
One after another, over rocks and creeks
Enjoyed good books, both serious and witty
Read aloud with Mary, played with kitty

He worked until he could no more
But life for him was never a bore
Road trips, concerts, daily walks
PBS, papers, friendly talks

He loved to dine, try a new dish
Everything tasty, fowl or fish
Favorite of all, dessert on high
In spite of Mary's watchful eye

Finally settled near Ann in Eugene
Loved the beauty of Oregon's green
Together with family, as life slowed down
Excursions to fields, forests, and town.

While memory began to drift apart
Chuck retained his kindness of heart
A life enriched with love and endeavor
Uncle Chuck, remembered forever
Jean Henry
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