Nov. 11, 1944 - March 17, 2009
John Lahr was surrounded by family when he peacefully passed away at home on Tuesday, March 17, at the age of 64, from malignant brain cancer.
John was gentle, caring, imaginative and passionate. He was born Nov. 11, 1944, in Indianapolis, Ind., to Paul and Irene Lahr. The family moved to Buffalo, N.Y., in 1951. Growing up, he enjoyed baseball, track, Boy Scouts, science, performing magic tricks and teasing his big sister.
Curiosity defined John. Throughout his life he loved taking things apart simply to understand how they worked, sometimes fixing them or building something new.
He earned a Bachelor of Science in physics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and went on to earn a doctorate in seismology at the Lamont-Doherty Geological Observatory of Columbia University in Palisades, N.Y.
From 1971 through 2003, John studied earthquakes as a research seismologist for the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., and later Fairbanks, Alaska, and Golden, Colo. His primary focus was earthquakes and tectonic processes in southern Alaska, and for many years he was the project chief of the Alaska Seismic Studies Project. John's 1994 paper on the seismic activity accompanying the 1989-1990 eruptions of Alaska's Redoubt volcano is widely regarded as a landmark paper clearly defining different types of seismic events related to volcanic processes. His earthquake location computer program, Hypoellipse, continues to be used throughout the world. He also provided important early research on the use of earthquake location techniques to find the origin of gunshots in a community. As a scientist, John took pleasure in collaborating with others, and will be remembered for his generous nature.
One of John's special joys was science education outreach. He felt that the earth sciences are being seriously neglected in the U.S. educational system. John loved the Exploratorium, San Francisco's hands-on science museum, where he helped teach in several summer teacher-training programs.
John and his wife, Jan, moved to Corvallis in 2005. The activity closest to John's heart in retirement was the Seismographs in Schools Program of the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS), for which he taught teacher workshops, traveled to schools throughout the country, worked with many more teachers via e-mail and phone, and helped in the development and trouble-shooting of the equipment and software.
John's inquiring mind was always active and he loved the arts of science and illusion. In addition to various professional groups, he was a member of the Corvallis Secular Society, Oregonians for Science and Reason and the International Brotherhood of Magicians. He was a lifelong Unitarian Universalist and the church was always an important part of his life.
Of all his passions, the greatest was his family. He was an incredible father, husband and friend and was loved by many. John will be remembered for his joy in the wonder of life.
He is survived by his wife, Jan; sister, Marybeth Ketz, and husband, Gerry, of New York; daughters Taya Lahr of Bainbridge Island, Wash., and Elizabeth Cooper and husband, Justin, of Salinas, Calif.; son Nils Lahr and wife, Kristi, of Redmond, Wash.; and grandchildren Bjorn and Elodie Lahr, Kyla LaMasters and Sienna Cooper.
Thanks go to Benton Hospice, Mennonite Home Care and the "helper brigade" of the UU church. A celebration of John's life will be at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis.
In lieu of flowers, donations in John's memory can be made to the John C. Lahr Educational Seismology Fund. Checks should be made payable to IRIS, Reference John C. Lahr Educational Seismology Fund, and mailed to IRIS; 1200 New York Ave. N.W., Suite 800; Washington, DC 20005.