Dr. John A. Leonowich, 53, died on May 21, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada. John was born in New York City on July 16, 1953. John moved to Richland, Wash. in 1987 and lived there until 2006 after which he changed jobs and moved to Nevada to be the Radiation Safety Officer at UNLV.
John prepared for his long and successful career in health physics at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, receiving a B.S. in Physics in 1974, an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering in 1976 and a Ph.D. in Radiological Engineering in 1985. He also studied for a Master of Public Health at the Harvard School of Public Health from 1978 to 1980 as a USAF-sponsored student.
John was a commissioned officer in the Biomedical Science Corps of the United States Air Force from 1976 to 1986, and was both a health physicist and industrial hygienist on active duty. During this period of time he was stationed both at Brooks AFB, Texas, and Patrick AFB, Florida. John was responsible for the radiation safety program at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. After leaving the Air Force, John served as a radiological engineer with Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG) in Salem, New Jersey.
John worked at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) from 1987 to 2006, managing health physics programs for Department of Energy headquarters. John worked on Homeland Security related projects at PNNL that included training at the HAMMER facility in the use of radiation detection instrumentation for customs officers from the U.S. and Eastern European countries. He was also highly regarded as an instructor for the Health Physics Society summer school. John also served as attending health physicist during a monitoring trip to Siberia, Russia since he was fluent in the Russian language. He also worked on the evaluation of handheld personnel radiation detectors, and provided support to the security work at the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City.
John was a unique individual with a personality that encouraged friendship and fun. He was an avid collector. These collections included stamps, guns and airplane/ship models. He had a particular affinity towards Godzilla, collecting all sets of memorabilia and even flew to Tokyo, Japan for the premiere of the new Godzilla movie. John's contributions to the field of radiation health physics are significant but he will be mostly remembered at PNNL for his engaging personality, wit and big heart.
John had recently started work at the University of Nevada Las Vegas and was happy with the prospects of continuing his work at this new location. During his short time there, he quickly became a well-liked and well-respected member of the staff. John showed kindness and generosity to others on numerous occasions. His good humor and camaraderie will be greatly missed.
John is survived by his aunt Tina Leonowich-Perry and his cousin Paul Leonowich. He was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, New York on May 30, 2007. Any gifts in memorial for John can be sent to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York.
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Published in Tri-City Herald from Jun. 2 to Jun. 4, 2007.