July 9, 1949 – July 10, 2020
R.J. (Robert James) Smith, Physicist, Inventor & Entrepreneur, died on July 10th, 2020 after an extended battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 71 years old.
Born in St. Louis, MO on July 9th, 1949, the second of six children, R.J. grew up on adventure stories like Tom Swift, Treasure Island and Tom Sawyer. In 1969, he was drafted into the US Army and served with Echo company on the front lines of the Vietnam War during ’70-’71. After being honorably discharged as a sergeant in 1971, R.J. returned to St. Louis, where he met the love of his life, Judy Smith. They were married in 1974.
R.J. earned his B.A. in Physics from the University of Missouri, St. Louis, in 1974. While working at McDonnell Douglas, he successfully produced the first diode-pumped Nd:YAG laser, to operate at room temperature, a staple in modern optics labs today. R.J. went on to earn his M.S. in Optics from the University of Rochester, NY; at which point he returned to St. Louis, and McDonnell Douglas. R.J. moved to Boulder, CO with his family in 1988 where he continued his career, focusing on laser-based communication and Lidar technology, at Ball Aerospace. In 1991, after inventing an enuresis device, he and his wife started a business which ended up curing over 100,000 children and young adults of bedwetting. R.J. also served as a volunteer firefighter within his community for over 20 years with Boulder Mountain Fire Protection District. Later, he invented an early wildfire detection system which was used successfully to provide full coverage of the district. In 2013, he was bestowed a “Life Saving Award” for his heroism after having rescued a trapped neighbor whose home had collapsed during the Boulder County Flood. R.J. always enjoyed the great outdoors – he was an avid hiker and mountain biker. He had a wide circle of friends, who knew him to be a man of great character, intellect and humor.
R.J. is survived by his loving wife of 46 years, Judy of Boulder, CO; his two sons Sean Smith and his wife Leah, and Elliot Smith and his wife Susann. He was loved dearly by his four grandchildren Oscar, Stellan, Alva and Karina.
A memorial will be held for family, followed by a burial service at R.J.’s final resting place in Fort Logan National Cemetery, 4400 W Kenyon Ave, Denver, CO 80236. The burial will take place at 11:15 am on 08/03/2020.
In lieu of flowers, R.J.’s family asks that donations be made to the Rett Syndrome Foundation under his granddaughter’s name at http://rettgive.org/campaigns/hope-for-alva.
- Rett Syndrome Foundation
Monday, August 3, 2020
Monday, August 3, 2020
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July 31, 2020
Having known Jim for about 35 years, I must say he was the most congenial person to be around. His intelligence and energy were something to treasure. I still remember after all these years a couple of long hikes in Missouri we did with Jim, Judy, Sean & Elliot along with Resa & Al.
July 25, 2020
RJ, or "Jim" as I will always know him, is my older (by 5 yrs) brother. We were the "black sheep" of the family--seemed we were always getting into trouble for one thing or another. No matter what I got into, he always had my back. Our parents sent us to Catholic elementary school. I was a shy 1st grader, quite intimidated by the nuns who taught there. One day in the lunch room, a nun accused me of throwing a sandwich on the floor beneath the lunch table. I swore to her it wasn't me, trying to show her I'd eaten all of my lunch. She told me to stop lying & made me stand against the cafeteria wall until I "confessed". So, there I was, an hour later, too traumatized to move in a now empty cafeteria, tears rolling down my face. Thankfully, Jim's 6th grade class was marching by when he spied me & stopped. "What's wrong? Why are you here?" he asked. In between uncontrollable sobs, I told him the story. He put his arm around me & said, "Don't worry about it...just go on back to your classroom. You'll be fine. I'll see you in a little while and we'll walk home together."
Jim did so many things for me while growing up, be it helping me out of a jam, giving me advice, or standing up for me when I needed help. During a time when my relationship with my dad was strained, it was Jim who proudly gave me away at my wedding over 40 yrs ago.
I will be forever grateful for all the wonderful memories I have of him & will keep his memory alive in my heart until my last breath.
RIP Jim - I'll see you when I get there!
July 20, 2020
I will always remember my Uncle Jimmy for his rapid wit, persevering spirit and eyes that lit up like wild fire when he smiled. However, I knew him best as my father's opposite and closest friend. While Dad is quiet and reserved, Uncle Jimmy was outspoken and forthright.
Still, the two never ran short of the perilous adventures and mayhem that sprinkled their youth. Whether it was sneaking home past dark, getting lost in the woods, or living in 'the shack', the two brothers had a knack for igniting mischief, while narrowly escaping trouble, where ever they went. Within their misadventures was a love and a fondness that created an indelible bond.
Let your body rest in peace, while your energetic spirit radiates through life as we know it here on earth.
Daniel and Joanne Smith
July 20, 2020
Dan - Jim was my best brother - we explored the woods, hunted, hiked and had many adventures for boys growing up. Then, as men we were different, him the scientist, me still the pioneer. He was always generous to me in his time and caring about his family. His generosity was extended to me and my family often, he opened his home to me for a while when I worked in Denver. They called Jim Smiley when he was a boy and he lived up to that title as a man, always smiling and having jokes. He truly was a great brother for me, a wonderful husband to Judy, a great father to his boys and a good uncle to his nieces and nephews.
Joanne - I remember Jim when I first met my husband as being sharp as a tack with a plethora of knowledge of just about everything. He was the big brother to my husband Dan. Throughout the years it was a pleasure watching Jim pursue his true potential - scientist, inventor, free thinker and most of all a caring and loving man who truly took care of his family. The love Judy and Jim share is truly remarkable and not easily found in today's society. He will be truly missed by all of us. RIP RJ, Jimmy, Jim.
July 20, 2020
I've knows Jim for 40 years and he's the most remarkable man I've ever met. A great mixture of brilliance, comedy, and no punches pulled conversation, he always gave me a different way at looking at things. I learned a lot about optics, lasers and most of all life from this guy. Rest in peace my good friend. We'll meet again someday and talk about times gone by.
Neil Ruggieri Ph.D.
July 17, 2020
May Jim RIP. Have fond memories of working together with Jim in our McDonnell Douglas Lasercom group first developing and inventing diode-pumped lasers before anyone in the world had. He worked for me for several years and we later served on several consultant groups for NASA.
Jim was a smart and good man! My sympathy to his family.