Remembering Berkeley Lab’s Fred Lothrop, radio expert, civic-minded citizen

Fred Lothrop. Photo: Courtesy family

Fred H. G. Lothrop, 1931-2018

Fred Lothrop left this life in the same way he spent it — by taking care of those around him and then quietly leaving the scene.

It was Aug. 8, 2018, when, after returning home from yet another hospital stay, he greeted each of his children and grandchildren (and their spouses), smiled at his wife Judith, checked out the view from the living room’s front window, and then simply stopped breathing. Living with cancer had become too much work. He was in the house he had purchased and lived in for more than 55 years in the Burton Valley area of Lafayette.

Fred was born in Berkeley to Marcus and Derelle Lothrop at the start of the Depression and, together with his parents and a younger sister (Evelyn White), lived in a grand house his father had built when the Berkeley Hills were mostly empty.

Fragile health as a child brought him to Lafayette’s sunshine for extended stays, and thus his relationship with the city he called home began.

Upon graduation from Berkeley High School in 1949, Fred attended Yale College (graduating Class of ’53), and got drafted for the Korean War. But Fred led a charmed life and managed to spend his army days mostly in Europe, where he got to refine a boyhood hobby (radio communication) into a lifelong skill.

Army life over, he returned stateside to get a 2nd Bachelors (Electrical Engineering at UC Berkeley) and to marry Janet Dudley Clayton in June of 1958. They moved to Lafayette in 1959, raised three daughters (Cathy Hager (John), Mary Trimble, and Nancy Kaehler), enjoyed three grandchildren (Andrew (Hannah), Stephen, and Thomas) and celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary before Janet died in 1999.

The majority of Fred’s work life was with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California, most notably working with physicists who had come from all over the world to run their experiments in the Bevatron. LBL was Fred’s work home from 1956 to 1997.

Both Janet and Fred were deeply involved in All Souls Episcopal Church in Berkeley, where Janet (among other duties) was their first female usher. Fred’s duties were focused on ushering, electrical work, sound systems, general building maintenance, vestry responsibilities, and finance. The last church duty he gave up before illness took all his strength was running the sanctuary sound system from a booth he designed himself and had built in 2014.

In Lafayette, Fred was a very familiar face — volunteering regularly for myriad fundraising activities of the Chamber of Commerce (most especially the Res Run and the Art & Wine Festival), teaching CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) classes, serving on the Lamorinda CERT steering committee, and participating in the city’s Emergency Preparedness Commission, which he joined in 2005 and chaired from 2007 until the time of his death.

When not participating in civic duties, Fred enjoyed back-packing, gardening, photography, automobiles, and (of course) amateur radio (call K6REQ).

Fred married Judith Stadler Gonder in 2001, and she moved to his home. Besides church at All Souls, they shared a love of theater, mostly in Ashland, Oregon, as well as The Lamplighters presentations of Gilbert and Sullivan. The Met’s live broadcasts of operas were another favorite.

A celebration of Fred’s life will take place on Sept. 8, at 1 p.m. at All Souls Episcopal Church, 2220 Cedar St. in Berkeley. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to charity. Among Fred’s favorites were The All Souls Senior Housing Project (a non-profit endeavor for low-income seniors), Doctors without Borders and Hospice East Bay.