Cecil “Chuck” Leith

Cecil “Chuck” Leith

Chuck Leith, a longtime climate model pioneer, died peacefully Oct. 13 at home with his wife, Mary, by his side. He was 93.

Leith was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1923. After graduating from Scituate High School, he traveled west by bus and enrolled as an undergraduate student in mathematics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1940. Chuck and Mary met at one of the dances organized by their respective co-operative residence halls in the fall of 1941. As Mary tells it, she realized he was "the one" when they met again by chance at the top of the UC Berkeley Campanile on the morning of Dec 7, 1941 -- Pearl Harbor Day -- although they didn't know about it at the time. They were married on Mary’s 19th birthday in July 1942.

After his graduation in the fall of 1943, Leith was hired by the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory at UC Berkeley. A few months later, he was sent to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to work as a civilian physicist on the Manhattan Project. In 1944, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and, after basic training, was sent straight back to Oak Ridge to continue the same work. This was the beginning of a very productive scientific career spanning 60 years, first in weapons research and later in the development of computer models designed to predict global climate patterns. In mid-career, Leith spent 15 years at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado and, from there, he made sorties for teaching terms at several member universities: the University of Washington, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, New York University, Florida State University and in Melbourne, Australia. For full details, in Leith’s own words, go to the web (in the "Search Oral Histories" box at middle of page, type in "Cecil E. Leith").

In the meantime, Chuck and Mary raised three children, mostly in Livermore, California. As a family, they enjoyed vacations backpacking and skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains, as well as road trips to the desert or the Pacific coast. Leith loved hiking and set himself the successful goal of climbing all the mountains higher than 14,000 feet in Colorado while he and Mary lived there in the 1970s. Later, having returned to California, he enjoyed bicycling throughout the Livermore Valley and would sometimes reward himself with a stop for fresh doughnuts at the midway point of a 20-mile ride. Chuck and Mary enjoyed concerts, operas, the theater and fine dining wherever they went.

In 2010, Chuck and Mary moved to Eugene, Oregon to be close to their daughter Ann and her family. They came to love the Willamette Valley and especially enjoyed scenic "country drives" in all directions during all the colorful seasons.

Leith was pre-deceased by his sister, Sally Gaubeca Ayala, earlier this year, and by his sons, John Francis and Paul Benedict Leith many years ago. He is survived by his wife, Mary, daughter, Ann Leith, son-in-law P. Katsoyannos grandson Jason Leith Katsoyannos, and half-brother John Kimball.

He also is survived by many nieces and nephews and their respective families. His sister Sally's children include: Lisa Patella and her children, Marni Atherton and Andrew Patella, Michael Gaubeca, Juan Valentin Gaubeca and his son, Val Gaubeca, Vicki Gaubeca and Susan Arzac and her children, Paula Baird and Jorge Arzac Jr. His half-brother John's children include: Christopher Kimball and family and Nick Kimball and family.

At Leith’s request, no services were held. To honor his memory, contribute to your favorite charity.