Landscapes 12

Richard Guenther Schlecht

July 8, 1936 ~ May 29, 2022 (age 85)



Richard Schlecht passed away on May 29, 2022 at age 85 in his home in San Jose. Richard was born in Neptune, New Jersey on July 8, 1936, to Louise and Frederich Schlecht, along with his identical twin Robert. Richard lost his twin at the age of 14 months because of an infection caused by improperly treated milk from Carnation Dairy.

He was the youngest in his family, with older brothers, Frederich and Werner. When Richard and his twin were born, his mother had three children in diapers, with no washing machine. She said that time was when she learned the meaning of the word “work.”

Richard grew up, first in Lititz, Pennsylvania, eight years in Columbus, Ohio, then three years in Little Falls, New York, on the Mohawk River. He graduated from New Brunswick High School in New Jersey, in 1954.

Richard joined the Air Force at 17, right out of high school. Owing to his outstanding test scores, he was assigned to be a nuclear technician in Albuquerque—the only one in his group without a college degree. He was able to complete more than two years of college while in the service, and was discharged from the Air Force as the Korean War ended. He completed his undergraduate work at the University of New Mexico, thanks to the new GI Bill, and married Alison Heath. They had two children, Erich and Anna Marie.

Richard completed his Ph.D. in low-energy nuclear physics at the University of California at Berkeley in 1963. He was presented with a problem that six Ph.D. candidates had taken turns in solving and failed.  It was to build a piece of equipment that would precisely measure the difference between isotope 6 and 7 of lithium. Richard solved the problem in one year.  He and his theoretical physics associate submitted a paper to the Physical Review Letters, the most prestigious physics journal, which was accepted. This paper qualified him for his Ph.D. But his advisor did not want to grant it in just one year. That had never been done. He added another topic for him to solve first, and Richard still completed his physics Ph.D. in three and a half years, about half the average.

Richard started his career in industry at Westinghouse Electric followed by Ford Aeronutronics. In 1969, he returned to academia as a Physics Professor at the University of Southern Illinois (SIU), and from there moved to the University of Virginia at Charlottesville for three years.

In Charlottesville, he and his wife Alison divorced. Richard moved to Washington D.C. to work for Science Applications Incorporated. In 1981 he married Susan Bonnette and became stepfather to her two children, Matthew and Cory Johnson.

Susan and Richard moved to San Jose, California shortly afterwards, where he spent the rest of his life. He worked for GTE for three years, and then started a research company, Lasergenics Incorporated. His company focused on government-funded research in the areas of defense, health, and space.

Richard retired in 2006 at the age of 70, closing his company. He spent his retirement traveling extensively, and disposing of the laboratory equipment from Lasergenics, and his extensive library of physics literature. He loved to work in the garden and fix things around the house.

Richard became an expert at making marmalade. The peach harvest in his backyard supplied jam for an entire year. He made authentic German Christmas cookies every year. He also dived into coffee roasting, buying green beans from around the world.  At the age of 80, he was declared a perfect specimen of his age group by his doctor, with knees that compared to people under 50, and with zero medications. He was loved by any animal that met him, and had an interest in the natural world, donating to many organizations and visiting national parks.

Richard died from an aortic dissection caused by an aneurysm. He will be greatly missed by his friends and family, especially for his sense of humor and gentle nature. Obvious to all who knew Richard, he and Susan cherished one another—and celebrated their 41st anniversary in April.

Richard is survived by his wife Susan Bonnette, four children, Erich Schlecht (Debbie Noble); Anna Heath-Delaney (Nalani), Matthew Johnson (Mary Catherine Plunkett), Cory Johnson; seven grandchildren, Sophie Worthington (Dan Miller), Morgan Worthington (Sabina), Abigail Schlecht, Cole Johnson, Duncan Johnson, Maxwell Johnson, Georgia Johnson, and great-granddaughter, Althea Miller.

All are invited to a memorial at 11 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at Los Gatos Memorial Park, 2255 Los Gatos-Almaden Road in San Jose.


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Memorial Tree
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Memorial Service
June 18, 2022

11:00 AM
Los Gatos Memorial Park
2255 Los Gatos-Almaden Rd.
San Jose, CA 95124

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