Dec. 28, 1921 – March 28, 2014
John Albert Jungerman died peacefully at home in Davis surrounded by family and friends on March 28 at age 92.
John was born Dec. 28, 1921, in Modesto, the only son of Albert and Freda Jungerman. A resourceful, determined and somewhat puckish child, he survived an early near-fatal pneumonia followed by a bout of TB, to become a robust teen, developing a habit for swimming that he maintained into his 90s. John attended public schools in Modesto until transferring to UC Berkeley as a junior to major in physics. He lived in Bowles Hall, the University’s first dorm. He continued at Cal as a graduate student, teaching physics to ROTC students as WWII began. John wanted to join the Navy but was encouraged by a faculty advisor to instead talk to Dr. Ernest Lawrence, developer of the cyclotron particle accelerator and a leading nuclear physicist on the Berkeley faculty. Lawrence arranged for the 22-year-old to be selected to join the classified Manhattan Project on which he served at both Oak Ridge and Los Alamos. He was a witness to the explosion of the first atomic bomb at Alamogordo in 1945. He returned to Berkeley after the war to complete his Ph.D. There he met Nancy Kidwell in spring of 1948. They were married in October of that year and celebrated their 65th anniversary this past fall. John is survived by Nancy; sons Mark (Molly Miller), Eric (Katie Meadow) and Roger (Stephanie McAllister); daughter Anne; granddaughters Joanna Jungerman and Aeryn Jungerman; and grandsons Reid, Grady and Owen Weber.
John became one of the earliest members of the Physics Department at UC Davis in 1951. He was instrumental in helping the department grow from a faculty of three to more than 50 and developing the graduate program. He was at the center of building world-class nuclear physics research facilities at Davis, becoming the founding director of the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory in 1976. John subsequently served as chairman of the department. He retired in 1991 but continued to teach a couple of favorite courses for a few years thereafter. The building housing the lab was renamed in his honor in 2011.
John had numerous interests in addition to physics. Besides his love of swimming, he was an avid tennis player, cyclist and backpacker with a particular affection for the Sierras and hiking the John Muir Trail. He enjoyed gardening and putting up olives harvested from around the UCD campus. He painted, studied and played piano and wrote poetry. He had a knack for languages and loved the adventure of traveling for sabbaticals in France, Chile and Japan.
Nearing retirement and beyond, John looked to broader science education. He developed courses on nuclear arms, society and the environment for undergraduates and high school teachers and co-authored a book on nuclear weapons and arms control. He became interested in the relationship between physics and spiritual issues, giving seminars at Starr King School for the ministry. He won an award to investigate process theology and wrote a book on the subject.
John and Nancy were founding members of the Unitarian Fellowship (later the Unitarian Universalist Church) of Davis. They have remained active there throughout their lives in Davis.
In 2005 John and Nancy together with several long time friends founded one of the first senior co-housing developments in the nation, Glacier Circle in Davis, where they have lived ever since.
A celebration of John’s life will be held at 1 p.m. May 23 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorial gifts to the Nancy and John Jungerman Graduate Award in Physics, payable to the UC Davis Foundation and mailed to the UC Davis Department of Physics, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616. Donations may also be made to the Unitarian Universalist Church and the Food Bank of Yolo County.