Thomas David Chikalla

09/09/1935 — 08/05/2014

From Richland, WA, US | Born in Milwaukee, WI

Thomas David Chikalla

Thomas David Chikalla was born on September 9, 1935 to Paul and Margaret Dittrich Chikalla in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended the University of Wisconsin, obtaining a degree in Metallurgy, then joined the General Electric Company at Hanford in 1957 and worked on the development of nuclear fuels. He obtained a MS from the University of Idaho and returned to the University of Wisconsin to get his PhD in Metallurgy. In 1965, he joined Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory where he conducted research on the thermochemistry of actinide oxides. In 1972, he was named manager of the Ceramics and Graphite Section; he subsequently managed the Waste Technology Program Office; the Chemical Technology Department; and from 1986 thru his early retirement in 1995, was the Director of Facilities and Operations.

Tom was extremely efficient and well organized. If a family ski trip was scheduled to leave at 6 am, it would leave at 6 am, and not a minute later. Bathroom stops were only for the most significant emergencies. Tom not only worked hard, but played hard as well. He was active in skiing, mountain climbing, tennis and golf. Tom started golf as a caddy at age 9 and played until the week before he died. He owned a cherry orchard for 15 years and enjoyed working outdoors while building it into a successful business. He had a great sense of humor. Tom treasured his friends, many of whom he met through the Desert Ski Club in the 1950s.

He met the love of his life, Ruth, at the University of Wisconsin and they were married in 1960. They raised three children in Richland and as a family enjoyed many outdoor activities, including skiing, backpacking, and swimming in the pool he built in their backyard. Tom and Ruth travelled the world. They also enjoyed trips throughout the US in his beloved 1965 Austin Healey and RV. The most meaningful trip for Tom was retracing his roots in Europe and then visiting the beaches of Normandy.

Tom is survived by his wife of 54 years, Ruth, and his three children, Paul, Mark Debra and Karyn Brian Oldfield; and his three grandchildren Lindsey, Grant and Reid, whom he absolutely adored.

The Memorial Service is Saturday, August 16 at 11 am at Christ the King Catholic Church in Richland, WA. Donations in Tom's name may be made to The Tri-City Union Gospel Mission, PO Box 1443, Pasco, WA 99301-9978.

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Thomas David Chikalla

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  • Sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. We go back a lot of years. I worked with him in the 308 Bldg building fuel elements for PRTR. I used to wave at him at Meadows Springs Golf Course as he played by my place on the #3 green. My prayers go with the family.

    Ron and Barbara Feaster

    Ron Feaster
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • Dear Chikalla Family, please accept my sincere condolences for the loss of Tom.I worked for him for many years at Hanford. He was always such a special man, kind to everyone.

    Craig Buchanan

    Craig Buchanan
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • Sorry to hear of Tom’s passing. We go back a lot of years. I worked with him in the 308 Bldg building fuel elements for PRTR. I used to wave at him at Meadows Springs Golf Course as he played by my place on the #3 green. My prayers go with the family.

    Ron and Barbara Feaster

    Ron Feaster
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • Dear Chikalla Family, please accept my sincere condolences for the loss of Tom.I worked for him for many years at Hanford. He was always such a special man, kind to everyone.

    Craig Buchanan

    Craig Buchanan
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • To My Dearest Ruth and Karyn,

    Oh what fun memories I have of Tom tinkering, tinkering, tinkering! I can still see him walking down the hallway of your home to his beloved “shop” with Penny close behind or studying something in his office – the walls papered in maps! Fourty nine years later it still strikes me how purposeful he engaged and grew his mind. I remember well Tom laboriously building that pool and Karyn and I relentlesly questioning “when’s it gonna be done?” We couldn’t wait to jump in and we spent countless hours enjoying it!

    I will always treasure the security your home brought to me all through my childhood and cherish in more current years how much I loved to squeeze in a stop at your house to see Tom’s latest remodel or project. That grin and twinkle in his eyes is how I remember him best.

    May Tom’s memories bring you warmth and comfort. He will always remain dear to me and live in our hearts forever!

    All my love,

    Bones

    Joani McGowen
    November 4, 2014
    Riverside, CA
  • Ruth.

    Carol and I are saddened to learn about Tom’s passing. Carol wanted me to also give your our apologies for not being able to attend the memorial service as we are in Arizona.

    Tom and I both became managers at Battelle in 1972. One of my most fortunate moves was to link up with Tom and his organization. He was a team player and so easy to work with. His group provided a great deal of credibility to the Lab’s waste management technology accomplishments, by providing a scientific foundation. Tom turned out to be one of the Lab’s most versatile managers, managing both science and technology and facilities/operations organizations.

    Tom and I went looking for land many years ago for a possible business venture. Tom made the best decision by buying an orchard. I will never forget his excitement as we were told about “punching” in roads during one of our excursions.

    We will all miss Tom very much. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

    Jack and Carol McElroy
    November 4, 2014
    Kennewick, WA, USA
  • Dear Ruth,

    Although I did not know Tom, the obituary describes a brilliant man, a loving husband and father. I am so sorry for your loss. I’ll always remember Ruth when you came to our door and offered us a bowl of cherries in June 1995 when we lost our son, Andy, age 22 from a tragic loss. Thank you so much for being there and your quiet kindness. I will always cherish that quiet love as we were in deep grief for a long time with our loss. God Bless You and Keep You and Yours,

    ~Beccy Chiaramonte

    Beccy Chiaramonte
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, USA
  • Ruth and family,

    As you all know, only “the best of the best” are born on September 9th!! I am so sorry for your loss. I will keep you in my thoughts & prayers.

    Merrily

    Merrily Cearlock
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA, usa
  • Karyn and Brian,

    Our thoughts and prayers are with you and the kids. So sorry for your loss.

    Mike and Megan Sutey
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • To my loving neighbors,

    I was so heartbroken to hear about Dr. Chikalla. I always had so much fun w/Karyn growing up next door, & loved running over to say hi, when I came home to visit my parents. Dr. & Mrs. Chikalla were so nice, caring & helpful to my own parents, who also loved them dearly. I still remember Dr. Chikalla pruning Dad’s cherry tree, because Dad wasn’t “doing it correctly”. It since has flourished! I’m sorry I can’t be there for the funeral. Take care!

    Martha Franco Kennedy
    November 4, 2014
    Parker, CO, USA
  • My finest memories of my career at Hanford were the years that I worked with Tom as his Engineering technician. NUF said. We have lost a great Scientist.

    Larry Bruggemawn
    November 4, 2014
    Pasco, WA, USA
  • Karyn and Ruth–so sorry you have lost your husband, Dad and Grandpa. He certainly lived a full life surrounded by a wonderful family.

    Teresa Knirck
    November 4, 2014
    Richland, WA
  • “My Sincere Thought’s and Prayers” are with you Ruth and the Chikalla family.

    Terry Noonan
    November 4, 2014
    Pasco, WA, Franklin
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