In Memoriam: Robert J. Riddell, Jr.
Robert J. Riddell, Jr., of Oakland, California, died August 16, 2007, at the age of 84.
Bob and his wife, Kay, are 30-year members of California Chapter, and Bob will be remembered as a wonderful, thoughtful man with a wealth of knowledge about the plant world. Bob and Kay have both been generous with their time and in sharing their beautiful El Cerrito garden with us.
Bob was a theoretical physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a longtime volunteer in the local community. In addition to his career at LBNL, Bob served Pacific School of Religion over a 30-year period as a trustee and was a lifetime trustee at the Graduate Theological Union, a consortium of nine seminaries, including the Pacific School of Religion.
Bob was born and raised in Peoria, Illinois. He was recognized as one of ten outstanding high school students in 1941 with a George Westinghouse scholarship. He earned a bachelor's degree from Carnegie Institute of Technology before entering the Navy. After World War II, he earned his master's and Ph.D. in high-energy particle physics at the University of Michigan.
In 1951, Bob joined the faculty at University of California, Berkeley, at the invitation of Edward Teller, the father of the hydrogen bomb. In 1955, he joined the Theoretical Physics Group of the UC Radiation Laboratory (now the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory), where he served until his retirement in 1982, apart from two years on assignment at the Atomic Energy Commission in Washington, DC from 1958 to 1960.
In retirement, Bob and Kay began to satisfy their deep passion for horticulture by gradually developing a magnificent garden at their home in El Cerrito. It was filled with unusual rhododendrons, proteas, and other plants from around the world. He was invited to join the Board of the Friends of the University of California Botanical Garden. He later became president and worked to revitalize the Friends Group, which in turn revitalized the Botanical Garden and helped reestablish it as one of the preeminent botanic gardens in the United States.