Robert William Peelle

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Service Information
Weatherford Mortuary
158 S Jefferson Cir
Oak Ridge, TN

Robert William Peelle, 89.8 years old, died in his home on Nov. 19, 2018, due to complications of congestive heart failure.
Bob is fondly remembered for his dry wit and sense of humor; his warm, engaging smile; and as a beloved family member. A memorial service will be held at the Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church, 809 Oak Ridge Turnpike, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 17. Reception will follow the service.
Bob is survived by his wife of 63 years, Elizabeth Brown Peelle; his two daughters, Evelyn (Gary Jerauld) of Houston, Texas and Annette (Eric) Sargent of Birmingham Mich.; and grandson, William Sargent.
Loved ones include the children of his late brother Harold (Faithe) Peelle; David (Baiba) Peelle, Kathy Douds, Karyl (Tony) Petruccione, Doug (Darla) Peelle, Karen (Tim) Stone, Tina (Bill) Onion and Derek Peelle. Also beloved are the wife and children of his late brother-in-law, Richard (Marina) Brown, Lara Brown (John Wakeman) and Marco Brown (Ellen Rowe).
He was born in Toledo, Ohio, on Jan. 13, 1929, to William Ruskin Peelle and Nellie "Marie" Mitchell Peelle. Bob enjoyed playing ball with neighborhood kids and his father, played the flute and piano, had a paper route, loved reading and excelled in school. He graduated high school at 16 and entered the University of Rochester in New York where he received a bachelor's degree in physics. Bob earned his Ph.D. in Physics from Princeton University. Moving to Oak Ridge in 1954, he began work in nuclear physics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory while still completing his thesis on Experimental Nuclear Documentation (1958).
Bob and Beth met in Oak Ridge and married in 1955 at Beth's alma mater Western College for Women in Oxford, Ohio. At home in Oak Ridge, they grew their family, pursued professional interests, and became deeply involved in the social, political and environmental life of their community. They have been members of Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church for over 55 years.
Bob retired from his position as head of nuclear data measurement and evaluation at ORNL in 1991 due to declining health. He was widely recognized in his field for the accuracy and significance of his team's research data into reactor design, shielding, and other nuclear applications from Oak Ridge Electron Linear Accelerator.
Bob received a liver transplant in December 1992 and after a lengthy recovery, enjoyed 26 bonus years with family and continued pursuing his many interests.
Throughout his life, Bob Peelle enjoyed photography, birding, tennis, classical music and the natural world. He photographed family, grand landscapes and tiny ephemeral spring wildflowers during dozens of trips to national parks and wilderness areas across the USA and in the woods near his home. Even as his mobility declined, necessitating the use of a walker, Bob preferred walking where he could "see something." With his trademark modesty, Bob would deny being good at any sport. Yet, he joined and greatly enjoyed playing on various teams with work friends in bowling, volleyball and basketball. His favorite sport, by far, was tennis, which he began playing in college and continued playing into the early 1980s in the Oak Ridge Summer Tennis Leagues.
Bob was deeply committed to public service and volunteered innumerable hours to improve and protect his community and the environment. Combining his scientific knowledge, analytic yet thoughtful approach, and listening skills, Bob worked towards constructive solutions in complex and often contentious situations. He was the first Oak Ridge resident elected to the Roane County Commission, where he represented Oak Hills, Oliver Springs and Orchard View for 22 years, worked to desegregate Oak Ridge in the 1950s, was an officer and worked on the interracial Community Relations Council, helped found and worked with Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning on strip mine regulation and reclamation,; chaired the Health and Safety Committee of the Clinch River Monitored Retrievable Storage Task Force; was elected to the Oak Ridge Charter Commission in 2003; was the first chairperson of the DOE Site Specific Advisory Board for mercury clean-up in East Fork Poplar Creek; and worked on the Tennessee State Health Department: Oak Ridge Health Agreement Studies Panel to examine local environmental contamination and health impacts. Bob has been recognized with numerous community service awards and honors.
The family requests memorial contributions, in lieu of flowers, to The Nature Conservancy's Tennessee Chapter or Aid to Distressed Families of Appalachian Counties (ADFAC, PO Box 5953, Oak Ridge, TN 37831-5953). An online register is available at
Published in Roane County News on Feb. 8, 2019
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