John Herbert Pitts

John Herbert Pitts was born April 2, 1932, in Spokane, Washington, and died June 18, 2020, after a brief illness, in Oakland, California.

He is survived by his children, Liane Benedict (Welden) and David Pitts (Christine Grosh), and his grandchildren, Helen Wheeler (Anthony) and Nora Pitts (Sando Hamilton). His wife, Carol, died on June 19.

John served in the U.S. Air Force, earned engineering degrees from Stanford University in 1955 and the University of California, Berkeley, in 1958, and received his doctorate from the University of California, Davis, in 1976.

His professional life included positions at Westinghouse in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and as a consultant for General Atomics in San Diego. But most of his career was spent as a mechanical and nuclear engineer at the University of California Radiation Laboratory at Livermore (now the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) from 1959 until his retirement in 1995. He was particularly proud of his idea for the cascade fusion power reactor, which was intended as a means for harnessing energy from a laser fusion reactor.

John viewed the world with a sense of humor and curiosity. He was appreciated for his outgoing personality, as well as his love of family, nature, travel, the arts (particularly painting and music), bicycling, and East Bay Regional Parks. He participated in many community organizations, including the Livermore Planning Commission, Friends of the Livermore Library, Lab Retirees Association, Valley Study Group, Sons in Retirement, Livermore Hillhikers, and Del Valle Fine Arts.

John and Carol were married for 65 years and lived in Livermore, California, from 1959 until 2017, when they moved to Piedmont Gardens in Oakland.

Private graveside services were held in Monterey, California. A memorial page is available at The family has also established an online site for reminiscing about John and Carol at Memorial donations may be made to The Nature Conservancy, Oakland Public Education Fund, or Del Valle Fine Arts.