Editor’s note: Often someone lives in our midst, but we don’t have a true appreciation of their life’s work until after they are gone. Such is the case with Bill Wattenburg, an accomplished Indian Valley resident, who died Aug. 2. Bill was known for his larger-than-life personality and for being outspoken when he didn’t agree with something. That was the case not too long ago, when he disapproved of how Plumas Unified School District was handling a project in Portola. We knew that Bill was a scientist and a radio personality, but the following letter provided further insight into the man, and we thought it worthy to share. It was written to his widow, Carole Wattenburg, after his death. We are reprinting it here with her permission.
As director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, I would like to express my sincere condolences on Bill’s passing. He was a true American patriot and dear friend of the Laboratory with a strong passion for our mission. Bill was never timid about taking on the toughest challenges related to national security, law enforcement, and the most pressing local or national “problems of the day” across a wide range of topics. His solutions were always practical, simple by their elegance, and eminently executable.
Bill made important contributions to the nation’s nuclear deterrence mission during the period when the Laboratory was conducting underground nuclear tests. In a manner that was to become a signature approach throughout his career — Bill solved a challenging diagnostic measurement problem with a solution that was extremely clever and elegantly simple in application. He also worked closely with our weapons designers on complex modeling and simulation problems, which contributed to our knowledge of weapons physics.
More recently, Bill’s interest in education and providing opportunities for students to acquire hands-on experience resulted in a long-running program between California State University, Chico, and the Laboratory. Engineering students from Chico worked on myriad projects relevant to our Laboratory over the years while acquiring the skills and experience necessary to enter the workforce or continue their studies in graduate school.
As recently as three months ago, Bill reached out to the Laboratory to offer his thoughts on solving a serious national security challenge receiving attention in the news. Frequently, the Laboratory would provide the proof-of-concept experiments that could turn his ideas into reality. Bill never asked for recognition and he had a great respect for our scientists and engineers — a respect that was mutual.
It bears repeating that Bill was a true American patriot. He will be missed by all our scientists and engineers who knew and worked with him.
With deepest sympathy,
William H. Goldstein
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory