Leon Gregory Keller Jr., passed away on Aug. 9, 2021, in Livermore, California, at the age of 79.
He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on Oct. 31, 1941.
Leon’s love of travel was sparked in childhood. The oldest of three siblings, he grew up in a military family and started school in Puerto Rico. He lived and studied all over the U.S. from Maine to Texas and attended high school in Germany and Missouri. His interest in language, history and culture came naturally. He went on to graduate from Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, in 1964 and obtained his PhD in physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1970.
Leon and his wife, Janice, met while playing on a softball team. They also ran into each other while attending their sons’ Little League games. They enjoyed almost 37 years of marriage together.
Leon was an avid reader and enjoyed backpacking in his earlier years. He and Janice traveled extensively in Europe and especially France. He had a large library reflecting his passion for France. His intellectual curiosity for language, culture and history, particularly medieval times, was remarkable. On his frequent trips to France, Leon would inevitably visit old churches, military forts and castles. He became fluent in the language, which he continued to study, and was comfortable conversing with native French speakers.
Leon served his country as a physicist and a system designer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1972 to 2018. His designs were cornerstones of the U.S. nuclear deterrent during the Cold War and remain so today. He had a unique sense for design optimization and created some of the best performing warheads while including modern safety features for the benefit of the warfighters and general public.
Beyond Leon’s outstanding technical achievements, he was a patient and insightful mentor and role model for several generations of physicists and designers at Lawrence Livermore. He is highly-respected and well-loved by his peers and numerous proteges. As his legacy lives on, his guidance ensures that the art of design is passed on and the U.S. continues to have a viable deterrent to safeguard the nation’s safety and security for years to come.
Leon is survived by his wife, Janice; two sons, David Keller (Hannah) and Michael Keller; daughter Tracy Smith; step-son Michael May; brother, Karl Keller (Patricia); and sister Judy Davidson. He also leaves behind eight grandchildren. He was expecting his first great- grandchild in December. Due to COVID-19, a celebration of life will be held sometime in the future. The family asks that any donations in his memory be made to research on Parkinson’s Disease such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation.