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William Dichtel ’42

As a captain in the U.S. Navy during World War II, Bill served in the Pacific theater as an expert in mine warfare and guided missile systems. After watching A- and H-bomb tests from the bow of a ship, he went on to see many antimissiles that he had developed launched at sea. Following his service, he worked as the top civilian in the Washington Navy Yard, and at the Maryland Proving Grounds became the chief architect and developer of the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, still used in the United States as the first line of defense against warhead missile strikes.

Bill was born in Portland, and during the Great Depression moved with his family to a farm in the Oregon countryside, where he developed a lifelong interest in farming. With his brothers and father, he built a large barn and developed a penchant for becoming a Rube Goldberg–style fix-it man. At Reed, he studied physics and wrote his thesis on the physical properties of electrets with Prof. A. A. Knowlton [physics 1915–48]. He went on to get joint MBA degrees from George Washington University and the United States Army War College.

Bill was a voracious reader, excited by new scientific advancements and discoveries. A true renaissance man, he enjoyed opera, theater, art, calligraphy, sailing, and hiking, and was a member of MENSA. He was awarded the navy’s highest civilian honor, as well as numerous commendations. In 1979, he returned to his farming roots, moving to Farmcolony, Virginia, a subdivision nestled on the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains that contains 150 acres of working farm, 95 acres of home sites, and 40 acres of open space. He worked to restore the ancient land grant farm buildings, and helped with developing the cattle herd, haying, and planting the orchard, vineyard, and garden. Bill loved this farm deeply and left his imprint on it. He is survived by his wife, Malou Stark Dichtel,  and his son, William Jr., daughter, Anne Dwiggins, and stepdaughters, Stormy and Courtney Stark. His first wife, Ruth, predeceased him.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2017

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