Theo Karl Bierlein

02/06/1924 — 08/10/2006

From Richland, WA, US | Born in Ansbach, Germany

Theo Karl Bierlein

Theophil “Ted” Karl Bierlein, of Richland, Washington, died of Advanced Parkinson’s Disease in his home on August 10th surrounded by his loving family and friends.

Born in Ansbach, Germany, on February 6, 1924, Ted came to this country as a young boy and settled in Portland with his parents, Johann Karl and Julie Marguerite Elizabeth Bierlein, and sister, Elfriede. He graduated from the University of Washington in 1945 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and earned his Doctorate of Philosophy in 1950 as he began his science career at the Hanford Reservation where he worked for more than 30 years before retiring. . He lived in the same home on Warren Court for 56 years, raising six children and spending much of his precious leisure time fishing on the Columbia, where he likely caught more fish than any man, woman or child ever did, or ever will. He enjoyed many other pursuits, often with his dear wife Ruth at his side, such as traveling the world, snow skiing, playing tennis, jogging and scuba-diving in some of the most spectacular places – but his heart always remained close to his family and home.

Equally comfortable teaching a six-year-old the intricacies of nightcrawler-catching or the allure and power of metallurgical physics to an international group of scientists, Ted’s passion for life was punctuated by humility and integrity, inspiring all who were blessed to know him.

Ted is survived by his beloved wife of 57 years, Ruth, and his six children, John Sherry Mathers Bierlein of Seattle, WA, Jim Suzanne Bierlein of Castle Rock, WA, Karla Bierlein of Richland, Tom Bierlein of Mercer Island, WA, Judi Myron Stamey of Stanwood, WA, and Sherri Jim Williamson of Richland. He is also survived by his sister, Elfriede Henry Wuckert of Gleneden Beach, OR, sister-in-law Peggy Boasen of Richland, nine grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.

My father was very sure about certain matters pertaining to the universe. To him, all good things, trout as well as eternal salvation, came by grace and grace comes by art, and art does not come easy. – Norman Maclean: A River Runs Through It

Ted asked that no formal funeral service be held. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be directed to fund research on Parkinson's disease. An example of a worthy organization is the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. http://www.michaeljfox.org/help.

Guestbook for

Theo Karl Bierlein

Your email address will not be published.

PUBLIC ENTRY

Your guestbook entry will be visible to the public.

  • To the Bierlein family: I am so sorry about your loss. I always enjoyed your mom and dad’s company when ever they were over at the Williamson’s. Your dad always had a hug for me. I will always remember that. He was a very special man. And everyone one of you kids and grandkids were special to him. If I can help in any way please let me know.

    Teresa Hall
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • I didn’t work with Ted, but I got to know him when our children were growing up, especially Karla & Tom. So I would on occasion visit him in 326 Bldg. I went fishing with him once to gain a few tips, but never was successful like he was. Being Ted & Ruth were snow ski nuts we continued our friendship on the slopes, especially at Mission Ridge. I use to envie his ski trips to Sun Valley, so Donna & started to go there in 1981. My best rememberence was his daring ski runs, through the trees on Mission Ridge, with Tom Evans & myself in pursuit. Take care until we meet again.

    Leo Kocher
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • A wonderful man – when you talked to Ted you felt like the most important person that he had visited with that day. Ted was cheerful, had a smile on his face and loved life to its fullest…. He loved Ruth so very much and spoke in glowing terms about her. It is very sad that we have to say good-bye but we were so lucky to have known him and could call him a friend.

    With Affection, Donna Kocher

    Donna R Kocher
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • I offer my condolences to Ted’s family. I worked with Ted in the 326 bldg at the Hanford Site. I remember Ted telling me about how he lived at the school when he went to graduate school. I also remember the day when the company offered an early out package and Ted came running into my office to get the paperwork signed. Finally my fondest memory was when Ted took me steelhead fishing and I caught one that was 35″. Ted was one of the most friendly, enjoyable people that I had ever worked with.

    Jerry Johnson
    November 4, 2014
    Kennewick, WA, US
  • What a wonderful obituary for a wonderful man. We thought so much of both Ruth and Theo and all their children especially when we were younger and got together for Family time with our parents.

    My thoughts are with you.

    Doris Korber
    November 4, 2014
    Portland, OR, US
  • My thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this time of loss. I lost my father four years ago and I have found this helpful. Remember at times like this people seem to relive how much that person meant to them, how much joy and happiness they brought to their lives, and the lessons learned from their teachings. All that remembrance is soothing to the heart, but don’t forget YOU provided the same joy and happiness and yes, you taught your dad things too. So let that, too, comfort you in these times. He was a proud man and he was very proud of his family. Take care and God bless.

    Mike Davis

    Mike Davis
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • To the Bierlein family: I am so sorry about your loss. I always enjoyed your mom and dad’s company when ever they were over at the Williamson’s. Your dad always had a hug for me. I will always remember that. He was a very special man. And everyone one of you kids and grandkids were special to him. If I can help in any way please let me know.

    Teresa Hall
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • I didn’t work with Ted, but I got to know him when our children were growing up, especially Karla & Tom. So I would on occasion visit him in 326 Bldg. I went fishing with him once to gain a few tips, but never was successful like he was. Being Ted & Ruth were snow ski nuts we continued our friendship on the slopes, especially at Mission Ridge. I use to envie his ski trips to Sun Valley, so Donna & started to go there in 1981. My best rememberence was his daring ski runs, through the trees on Mission Ridge, with Tom Evans & myself in pursuit. Take care until we meet again.

    Leo Kocher
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • A wonderful man – when you talked to Ted you felt like the most important person that he had visited with that day. Ted was cheerful, had a smile on his face and loved life to its fullest…. He loved Ruth so very much and spoke in glowing terms about her. It is very sad that we have to say good-bye but we were so lucky to have known him and could call him a friend.

    With Affection, Donna Kocher

    Donna R Kocher
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • I offer my condolences to Ted’s family. I worked with Ted in the 326 bldg at the Hanford Site. I remember Ted telling me about how he lived at the school when he went to graduate school. I also remember the day when the company offered an early out package and Ted came running into my office to get the paperwork signed. Finally my fondest memory was when Ted took me steelhead fishing and I caught one that was 35″. Ted was one of the most friendly, enjoyable people that I had ever worked with.

    Jerry Johnson
    November 4, 2014
    Kennewick, WA, US
  • What a wonderful obituary for a wonderful man. We thought so much of both Ruth and Theo and all their children especially when we were younger and got together for Family time with our parents.

    My thoughts are with you.

    Doris Korber
    November 4, 2014
    Portland, OR, US
  • My thoughts and prayers are with all of you at this time of loss. I lost my father four years ago and I have found this helpful. Remember at times like this people seem to relive how much that person meant to them, how much joy and happiness they brought to their lives, and the lessons learned from their teachings. All that remembrance is soothing to the heart, but don’t forget YOU provided the same joy and happiness and yes, you taught your dad things too. So let that, too, comfort you in these times. He was a proud man and he was very proud of his family. Take care and God bless.

    Mike Davis

    Mike Davis
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, US
  • We enjoyed being with Ted on the Atomic Duck dive trips. He had a wonderful sense of humor. Bob was a scuba instructor.

    Marion Spurck
    November 4, 2014
    Kennewick, WA, US
  • Bierlein Family-

    Sorry to hear about Ted’s passing. My Dad had kept me up to date re: his visits with your father.

    I’ll always remember seeing he and your mom walking by Chief Jo tennis courts I teach at CJO and run the tennis program after school in the spring on their way to the track for their daily walk.

    They were always together and always had a smile.

    My Condolences,

    Kristy Kocher Umek

    Kristy Kocher Umek
    November 4, 2014
    West, Richland, WA, US
  • My dad was an extraordinary man in many ways and dearly loved by all who really knew him. He was and still is an inspiration. Among other things, he was a good planner. He was also frugal. In his will he stated some of his desires quite clearly. He wrote, “It is my wish that my body be cremated and my remains disposed of with the least possible expense, and further that no funeral services be held.”

    Many people knew my dad only for the last short segment of his life. His Parkinson’s disease and other medical problems became significant only during the last two years or so. He was quite vigorous and healthy during the other 98% of his time here on earth with us. That’s 80 years of good health and happiness when you start to think about it. His was a life well lived – full of love and an enduring sense of aliveness.

    Our entire family is grateful for the time that Hospice staff and other caregivers spent with Dad during the last year of his life. My dear brother Jim, who recently lost his mother in law, once said “Hospice is not about putting more time into life. It’s about putting more life into time.” Hospice staff and other caregivers, including my dear sister Karla and other family members, added quality to Dad’s last times here on earth. My gratitude for your love and care transcends the possibility of words; just know that my thanks is truly heartfelt.

    Dad was born in Ansbach, a city in Bavaria, Germany. He was little more than a year old when he embarked on his first boating adventure and it was a long one — all the way from Germany to the U.S. Along with his parents and older sister Elfriede, he took that long boat ride to America in April of 1925. My Aunt Elfriede, who is 84, wrote: “Always, we will be seeing your dad’s wonderful smile, which will hover over us all–no matter where any of us are in the real moment.” She also recalled some memories from her childhood and wrote: “…I do have lifelong memories from as early as age three, when our trek to the USA began. I always carried a vision of the ship leaving the harbor….Yes, I remember your dad as a toddler, learning to walk on the deck of that ship, playing “roll the ball” with him, a ball that magically rolled backwards when the ship swayed a little. I can even still see the bags of jelly beans we were given, as it was Easter on board, and we, your dad and I, had never seen such candies before.”

    Dad took his first unassisted steps on board a ship and this may offer at least a partial explanation for why he had such good “sea legs” on the deck of any boat I ever watched him walk upon.

    With the help of a church and other German immigrants, Dad’s family settled in Portland, Oregon, where he lived until he graduated from high school. His given name was Theophil but, throughout his childhood and through high school, he was known by his nickname “Theo.” In fact, the name “Theo” Bierlein is inscribed on a trophy he was awarded for being the outstanding student at Jefferson High School. This was the Hopkins Jenkins Award, named for the school’s most revered principal, who wanted to honor, annually, someone who had contributed greatly to the school. In addition to being an outstanding student, Dad ran the small office-store that opened onto the main hall of his high school. His smile and energetic personality were known to many and, in those days, they called him “Theo.” He assumed the nickname “Ted” only after he became an adult and moved away from Portland.

    Dad’s family immigrated to America during a time of great economic hardship in Germany. His parents were in search of a better life and a brighter future for their children. They could not have predicted the Great Depression, which began in 1929 – just about the time Dad was entering kindergarten. Economically, times were tough for almost everyone, including the Bierlein family in Portland. Add to economic challenges the reality of social prejudice against Germans who—regardless of their political views, their loving humanity and the real truth — were often associated with the atrocities of Hitler on a different continent altogether. Here in America, Dad was nine years old when Hitler came to power in Germany. Dad’s interest in boxing and English vocabulary may very well have started from the necessities of self defense and diplomacy in an environment that was somewhat hostile to those of German descent.

    Dad didn’t talk much about the challenges he faced growing up; he didn’t complain about the poverty or ethnic hostility that were undoubtedly part of his personal observations and experience. Throughout his childhood, his parents stressed the importance of education, self-discipline, hard work and frugality. In spite of the Depression and the fact that Dad’s parents both spoke English with German accents, his parents never gave up on the American dream of peace and prosperity; neither did Dad.

    As an adult, Dad would often say “Waste not, want not.” Throughout his life, he was a consummate recycler. Part of his perspective was undoubtedly shaped by the fact that he grew up during the longest and most severe economic downturn in American history. In his world, from the age of nine to 17, everything had to be used and used again — whenever possible. If something was broken, it was not thrown away until it was beyond fixing.

    It was only during Dad’s last year in high school that hope returned once again to the American economy. After high school, Dad attended a Catholic University in Portland and, at the same time, worked the swing shift as a pipe fitter in the shipyards of north Portland to help pay for his tuition. His professors wanted him to pursue his original major, math, and helped him get into The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. From D.C. he went to the University of Washington in Seattle. World War II was in full force as Dad went to college and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry from the University of Washington in 1945, the same year the war ended. He was only 21 years old at that time. A bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, just a few months after he earned his first degree and this event essentially ended a war that raged through Dad’s first four years in college. He was only 26 years old when he earned his PhD in Chemistry specializing in crystallography and metallurgical science from the University of Washington in Seattle.

    Dad met Ruth Boasen my dear motherin Seattle and they were married there in 1949. Mom and Dad moved to Richland where Dad finished his dissertation as he simultaneously began his career at the Hanford Reservation. They purchased a house where Mom continues to live and where Dad lived for 56 years, raising six children. They now have nine grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

    Dad’s career was challenging and illustrious. He was known professionally for his knowledge of physical chemistry and atomic and molecular structure, and he was often called upon to share his expertise, both nationally and internationally. At the Hanford Reservation he worked as a chemist and later as an engineer for General Electric from 1950 – 1955. He was a senior scientist for General Electric from 1955 through 1963. For the next seven years he worked for the Battelle Memorial Institute as manager of the physical metallurgy unit. From 1970, until his retirement in 1984, he worked for Westinghouse as manager of material properties, focusing on alloy microstructure and damage analysis.

    His demanding career never overshadowed his love for his family. Particularly during the last 20 years of his career, he also pursued many personal interests such as fishing, snow skiing, tennis, jogging and scuba diving. After retiring, he and Mom continued to enjoy many of these pursuits together and traveled to the Caribbean and Mediterranean seas, to Alaska, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, and to the Copper Canyon of Mexico — in addition to many National and State Parks, as well as local destinations. What a full, adventuresome and inspiring life they had together!

    This brief overview of my dad’s life is, by nature, only superficial. He gave much to the world but the greatest gift was his love. His life was not primarily about how much or specifically what he accomplished during his time with us here on earth as amazing as it was. In my view, his life was more about the continuity and resilience of his love — whether it was helping any of our family members or a neighbor across the street. His most significant contributions are more about the way to live your life, not about what status you achieve or where you get to here on earth. The great theme of my father’s life is love — and an enormous capacity for forgiveness. God knows that we all need plenty of both and my personal prayer is that we are all able to give plenty of both — just as he did. What a great model he was and is for us.

    Ted Bierlein’s life is meaningful in different ways to different people. Perhaps all of us want to know that what we do with our lives matters, that our existence forms a pattern with the lives of others, that we are loved, and that our individual selves are part of some greater design beyond the fleeting span of mortal years. I believe that Dad understood and achieved this—quite remarkably. I pray that, if you’re reading this, you know that you are loved and appreciated. Please do not stay sad for very long. May God continue to bless you. Amen.

    John Karl Bierlein: 2006

    John Bierlein
    November 4, 2014
    SEATTLE, WA, US