Remembering Mark Ketchum, prominent bridge designer

Mark Ketchum and his wife Valerie Knepper stand on the pedestrian bridge over I-80 at a dedication ceremony in Berkeley in Oct. 2013. Ketchum designed the pedestrian overcrossing.
Mark Ketchum and his wife Valerie Knepper stand on the pedestrian bridge over I-80 at a dedication ceremony in Berkeley in Oct. 2013. Ketchum designed the pedestrian overcrossing. Ketchum died on Feb. 24. Photo: MTC

Prominent Bay Area bridge designer and structural engineer Mark Ketchum died on February 24, 2014, at the age of 60 after a year-long battle with cancer. Ketchum, a long-time Berkeley resident, was the designer of many notable projects, including the new Carquinez Bridge and the popular Berkeley Pedestrian Overcrossing over Interstate 80.

“He led a joyous, remarkable life, which sadly ended much too soon,” his family wrote in a statement. “He was an outstanding structural engineer, a loving and devoted husband, father and brother for his family, and a wonderful friend for many.”

Ketchum cofounded the San Francisco engineering firm OPAC with his partner Kwong Cheng in 1992, working in collaboration with T.Y. Lin. He formed deep business and personal relationships that lasted over time and extended to everyone in the firm; OPAC was like a second family for him.

Ketchum and OPAC are internationally known for their award-winning, innovative engineering projects and bridge designs built throughout the world. Ketchum was honored at a ceremony dedicating the Berkeley Pedestrian Overcrossing in October 2013. Details and photographs of all his projects can be seen at www.opacengineers.com. Also see www.ketchum.org/bridges.html.

Ketchum loved talking about bridges and appeared on many television programs, including Discovery Channel, PBS’s American Experience and local news. He made even the most technical details understandable and engaging.

Ketchum was born in Denver, Colorado on January 23, 1954 to Gretchen and Milo Ketchum, joining his brothers David and Matthew, and sister Marcia. He received his BS in civil engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and then moved to California to get his master’s and PhD in civil engineering at UC Berkeley, specializing in structures.

Ketchum died in his home in Berkeley in the company of his loving wife, Valerie Knepper, and their loving sons, Daniel and Calvin Ketchum. He is also survived by his sister Marcia Baird and brother, David Ketchum. According to the family statement, “Ketchum was known for his love of motorcycles, sailing, great stories and terrible jokes.”

Details of the forthcoming memorial and directions for charitable contributions will be released shortly. In the meantime, the family requests that condolences be written here, and the family’s privacy be respected.

Update, 03.05.14: A date has been set for Mark Ketchum’s memorial service. It will be Sunday March 30, at 1:00 p.m. at the UC Berkeley Faculty Club.

Feel free to share your messages of condolence and/or memories of Mark Ketchum in the comments.

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