Alma Estes Wickenden

December 22, 1953April 12, 2021

Alma Wickenden passed away surrounded by her family on Monday, April 12, 2021. She was 67.

Alma was born in Detroit, the youngest daughter of Charlie and Eunice Estes. She graduated from Denby High School, then obtained her BFA from Wayne State University. She joined Bendix Research Laboratory as a photolithographic technician, and transferred to Baltimore to continue her career. She was encouraged to return to school by a colleague, and graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a BS in Applied Science. She transferred to Westinghouse Advanced Technology Laboratory to grow gallium arsenide for microwave devices. This spurred her interest in materials science, and she returned to Johns Hopkins University to pursue a PhD. After graduation, she joined the Naval Research Laboratory to work on gallium nitride materials growth. She then transferred to the Army Research Laboratory to work on MEMS technology, and rose through the ranks. She ended her career at ARL in the front office as Assistant Director of Technology.

Alma was a trailblazer. She was breaking glass ceilings and making huge moves as a female in a male-dominated industry before it was cool. She led with kindness and was patient, but was also firm. She was inquisitive, always stood up for what she believed in, and was never afraid to speak her mind. She was once called “the bitch from Baltimore” by a colleague, and rather than feeling upset or embarrassed, she owned it and continued pushing for what she knew was right.

Alma dealt with three types of cancer on three separate occasions, and taught every female in her life to always question even the littlest change and seek out medical advice (and always advocate for yourself if they say “I’m sure it’s nothing”). Hopefully this is a lesson everyone learns from reading this. She sadly lost this final battle, but she made sure to give it a good fight.

Alma had recently made the move from Baltimore to San Diego to be with her daughter, son-in-law, and grand-dog. She truly made sure to enjoy every day to its fullest capacity. In her final few weeks, she watched the Pacific waves crashing at Sunset Cliffs, enjoyed an afternoon tea with her family and close friends, witnessed "Daughter 2.0" (a close friend turned family) get married, and met her future (human) grandchild via bedside ultrasound.

As we remember such an amazing person, please go forward, even if just for today, and be like Alma. Dig deep, find the best part of yourself, highlight it. Be compassionate, empathetic, non-judgemental, anti-racist.

The family will be planning a celebration of Alma's life in the near future, and will update the CaringBridge website with this information.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to charities that Alma supported most. These are as follows:

-Padres Pedal the Cause:

-Maryland Food Bank:

-Friends of Patterson Park:

-Project Scientist:


No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.


Alma Estes Wickenden

have a memory or condolence to add?

Kristen McQuillan

April 27, 2021

We just heard the very sad news about Alma. Alma lived across the street from us and was one of our very favorite neighbors. She lit up the block with her smile and warmth. On Halloween, she could be found dropping treats from the back of her balcony for our kids. She was so kind and warm to all. The world feels a little less bright without her in it, and I can only imagine how difficult her passing is for all of her loved ones. You are in our hearts.

Bob Rondeau

April 24, 2021

Smart, beautiful and fun to be with ..... yes, yes, and yes, but Alma also had an inner wisdom about her as well. I was lucky enough to have many good conversations with her over the decades, about everything from family, to work projects, to current events. She always had something interesting and unique to say about almost every topic.

She also had a sense of sophistication and elegance from a bygone era. In combination with her good-natured sense of humor and down-to-earth demeanor, she could relate with anyone.

She certainly was an intelligent gal, with many scholarly and professional accomplishments, but she never took herself too seriously either. I remember many, many years ago at a weekend group retreat, as a new couple arrived for the festivities, she welcomed them smoking a cigar and told them, "Grab a brew, don't cost nothing".

Sweet lady, I was lucky to know you, I will cherish the good memories you leave me with. Love ya.

Mark Twigg

April 20, 2021

I worked with Alma at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) about 20 years ago. Collaborating with her with one of the most wonderful experiences of my professional life! She made great use of my electron microscopy observations of defects in gallium nitride and gave my work more visibility than I had ever imagined! She was a fun person who was always full of laughs and energy! Alma was a talented hands-on scientist and engineer who set up a new reactor that grew state-of-the-art III-nitride devices.

Neil Vallestero

April 20, 2021

I would regularly travel from Ft. Monmouth to ARL Adelphi coordinating our regular TPA agreements from our S&TCD group. Alma is such a light-hearted and friendly individual. I always made a point that no matter what meeting I had at ARL, I would always stop by to say hello. Whenever I think of the most engaging and enjoyable people at ARL, I always think of her as a great energetic force at ARL and will always treasure her with the greatest respect and admiration.