Walter William Laity

03/09/1940 — 04/16/2013

From Richland, WA, US | Born in Helena, MT

Walter William Laity

Walter William Laity, beloved husband and father, passed away at home in Richland on the evening of April 16, 2013, from complications of peripheral T-cell lymphoma. He was 73 years old.

Walt's incredible life began on March 9, 1940, in Helena, Montana, the eldest son of Clifford and Lila Laity. Growing up in the nearby mining town of Butte with his younger brother John, Walt enjoyed playing trumpet, working on cars, downhill skiing, and ski jumping. Except for ski jumping thankfully, he continued to enjoy these activities throughout his life. Walt attended the University of Washington on a Navy ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1962 with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering. He subsequently served on active duty from 1962 to 1967 with the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, working primarily in Washington D.C. Following active duty, Walt returned west with his new wife Wilma for graduate school at Oregon State University, where he earned his Ph.D. in mechanical engineering in 1974. He then moved to Richland to commence a remarkable career as a research engineer and engineering manager at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory PNNL. He retired in 2008.

Walt's professional pursuits extended far beyond PNNL. Walt proudly volunteered with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers for nearly 20 years, eventually serving as the Vice President for Engineering Education, and he was on the Board of Directors for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. He volunteered on engineering advisory boards for Oregon State University and Walla Walla College. Walt's vast service in engineering was recognized by multiple awards. Among these, he was inducted into Oregon State University's Academy of Distinguished Engineers in 1998, and named the Tri-Cities Engineer of the Year in 2001. Beyond engineering, Walt served as president of the Kadlec Medical Center Board of Trustees, and served on the Board of Directors for the Tri-Cities Cancer Center. Following retirement, he continued his volunteer service as a certified mediator for the Dispute Resolution Center.

As exhaustive as Walt's professional achievements were, he maintained consistent devotion to his family and friends. His life was characterized by identifying ways he could be of use to them, and then doggedly pursuing practical solutions. Walt could not prevent himself from going overboard when performing a task. His work ethic demanded that he proceed with meticulous attention to detail, no matter how small or unimportant the task. Walt's attention to detail extended to grammar as well. Indeed, his grammar was impeccable. Walt inherited a love for the English language from his father, who was a college history professor. Any document that had endured Walt's critique was invariably beyond reproach. No doubt, this piece would have benefited from Walt's review.

Walt is survived by his wife of 46 years, Wilma, his daughter Kirsten Medford, Oregon, and his son Douglas San Diego, California. Walt is dearly missed by his family – and missed by his two cats, Callie and Jasper, both of whom he rescued from the streets and who returned the favor by keeping him company as he rested following leukemia treatments.

The family would like to extend a special thank you to Dr. Iyad Hamarneh of Columbia Basin Hematology and Oncology, to Dr. John Pagel of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance SCCA, and to the medical teams at SCCA and the University of Washington Medical Center.

A memorial service for Walt will be held on Tuesday, April 23 at 11 AM at West Side Church, South Building at 615 Wright Avenue in Richland. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center or to a charity of your choice

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Walter William Laity

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  • Praying for the entire Laity family at this time. In knowing Walter’s son Doug, I can imagine how amazing of a man he was. I had the opportunity of meeting him once, and having dinner with him. God Bless you.

    Rajeev Nandakumaran
    November 4, 2014
    Los, Angeles, CA, USA
  • “Walt” was a superior person who enriched the lives of all who brushed his. Honest, smart, dutiful, noble…. are a few of the adjectives to describe him. He was a fine colleague at Battelle Laboratory and a warm companion in retirement. He died too soon of a unique disease that he studied and fought to the end. Let us hope that his experience will contribute to finding a cure : allowing another to live the full life that was denied to Walter.

    My heartfelt sympathy to his family

    Rudy Allemann

    Rudolph Allemann
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • I will seriously miss Walt’s advice and council on the Walla Walla University Engineering Advisory Board. A great man, very giving in his time and devotion to the development of young engineers.

    Richard Raymond / Chairman Walla Wally University Engineering Advisory Board
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, USA
  • I first met Walt at the University of Washington. His room in Lander Hall was next to mine so we got to know one another. He was in mechanical engineering and I was in electrical engineering. After graduation I went to work at PNNL and a few years later Walt joined PNNL. What a surprise that we would work our careers together at the lab. we served together each managing a research section in the Engineering Physics Dept. Walt was an exceptionally good manager and leader. I admired his integrity and caring attitude about people. The Laity family can be proud of the heritage left by Walt.

    Marvin Erickson
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • To Wilma and the Laity family-

    Our sincerest condolences to you on the passing of a truly great gentleman and colleague. Walt was a brilliant engineer and an equally great friend, mentor, and true patriot. He never failed to share his knowledge and know how with green young engineers such as myself. I will be forever grateful.

    Jim Bates
    November 4, 2014
    Kennewick, WA, USA
  • Praying for the entire Laity family at this time. In knowing Walter’s son Doug, I can imagine how amazing of a man he was. I had the opportunity of meeting him once, and having dinner with him. God Bless you.

    Rajeev Nandakumaran
    November 4, 2014
    Los, Angeles, CA, USA
  • “Walt” was a superior person who enriched the lives of all who brushed his. Honest, smart, dutiful, noble…. are a few of the adjectives to describe him. He was a fine colleague at Battelle Laboratory and a warm companion in retirement. He died too soon of a unique disease that he studied and fought to the end. Let us hope that his experience will contribute to finding a cure : allowing another to live the full life that was denied to Walter.

    My heartfelt sympathy to his family

    Rudy Allemann

    Rudolph Allemann
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • I will seriously miss Walt’s advice and council on the Walla Walla University Engineering Advisory Board. A great man, very giving in his time and devotion to the development of young engineers.

    Richard Raymond / Chairman Walla Wally University Engineering Advisory Board
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, USA
  • I first met Walt at the University of Washington. His room in Lander Hall was next to mine so we got to know one another. He was in mechanical engineering and I was in electrical engineering. After graduation I went to work at PNNL and a few years later Walt joined PNNL. What a surprise that we would work our careers together at the lab. we served together each managing a research section in the Engineering Physics Dept. Walt was an exceptionally good manager and leader. I admired his integrity and caring attitude about people. The Laity family can be proud of the heritage left by Walt.

    Marvin Erickson
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • To Wilma and the Laity family-

    Our sincerest condolences to you on the passing of a truly great gentleman and colleague. Walt was a brilliant engineer and an equally great friend, mentor, and true patriot. He never failed to share his knowledge and know how with green young engineers such as myself. I will be forever grateful.

    Jim Bates
    November 4, 2014
    Kennewick, WA, USA
  • To the Laity family,

    My heart goes out to you over the loss of Walt. He has left a legacy of love and memories that will never be forgotten. Hold tight to those memories…Lean on family and friends for support…And look to God’s Word, the Bible, for comfort and strength. 1Peter 5:7 encourages; “…throw all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.” My deepest condolences. Galatians 1:3; John 5:21, 28-29.

    Sharon Elaine
    November 4, 2014
    WA
  • Wilma, Kirsten, and Doug,

    Walt was one of the finest people I knew at PNNL, and working with him was a true pleasure. I appreciated his analytical approach to things and meticulous attention to detail, but I loved how it was balanced with a great sense of humor, unabashed love and affection for his family, and care and concern for others.

    My deepest sympathy to you as you miss this wonderful man. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

    With love,

    Julie Wiley

    Julie Gephart Wiley
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA