In Memoriam: John Elias
|John Elias, on the right, at dinner during a 1996 meeting between teams working on the CMS hadron calorimeter in the town of Dubna, Russia.
John Elias, who worked at Fermilab for more than 30 years before retiring in 2005, died Oct. 7 at the age of 69 while visiting family in Seattle.
The cause of death was a heart attack, his family said.
Colleagues described Elias as relentlessly upbeat, wise and always willing to lend his extensive technical expertise.
"If we had noise in a detector, we'd bring John in to try to figure out how we had screwed it up," said Fermilab physicist Julie Whitmore, who worked with Elias on the CMS experiment.
Elias came to Fermilab in 1973 to work in the Meson Department, a department he would later head. In 1980 he began working on the design of the CDF calorimeter electronics, later joining a collaboration for the Superconducting Super Collider. He joined the CMS collaboration in 1994, where he was in charge of electronics for the detector's hadron calorimeter until he retired.
Elias was well known in the field for getting groups to work together. Even after retiring in 2005, Elias continued to contribute and still had a desk near his former colleagues.
Fermilab scientist Dan Green, who began working with John in the 1970s, said Elias was mellow, didn't have an ego and had a balanced home life. While not at the lab, Elias often got away to the Wisconsin vacation home he built. There he fished, took care of his border collies and spent time with family.
"He was just a very happy guy who lived life to its fullest," said Fermilab scientist Jim Freeman, who worked with Elias for 25 years. "He'd come up to you and be genuinely happy to see you."
He is survived by his wife, Carol, his daughters, Jennifer and Catherine, and two grandchildren. Visitation begins at 1 p.m. and services begin at 2 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the DuPage County Historical Museum, 102 E. Wesley St., Wheaton, Ill. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to any environmental charity or the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
— Chris Knight