December 15, 1927 ~ October 22, 2016
Paul Chadwick Wilhelmsen, known by friends and family as Chad died on Oct 22, 2016. He is survived by his beloved wife of 64 years Loretta Wilhelmsen; his three sons Eric, Kirk and Karl; seven grandchildren Julia, Max, Elise, Chris, Chad, Adam and Tasha; and five great grandchildren Emma, Hannah, James, Peter and Charles. Paul Wilhelmsen was born in Salt Lake City in 1927. He attended the University of Utah for his undergraduate and PhD in Chemistry. He was married to Loretta in 1952 and for a large portion of their marriage, they lived in Alamo, CA. The memorial service will be held at the Church of Latter Day Saints located at 48950 Green Valley Rd in Fremont at 2 pm on Saturday November 19, 2016. I think you can tell a lot about a person by what they leave behind, whether it is mathematical equations or a legion of tall grandchildren. My grandfather leaves behind a legacy of curiosity, problem solving, a love of reading and a firm belief in our right to vote about Christmas dinner. In an election season I often think of my grandfather. Both because he was a firm supporter of the obstructionist party that tries to make the vote for Christmas dinner take as long as possible but also because my earliest memory of the election process involves him. I don't know how old I was but I remember going to my grandparents house for dinner and then about a dozen adults gathered in the living room with their sample ballots and argued through all the propositions on the CA ballot. They didn't agree and as you know my grandfather was as opinionated as anyone but the conversation was civil enough for me to remain in the room. While the family doesn't all agree on politics, we have a spirit of engagement and thinking that is a legacy from him. My grandfather wasn't the easiest man to get to know. Most of the facts and history in this speech I got from a history I wrote of him in high school for a family publication. As I recall I actually interviewed my grandmother to get most of the details. I think I got to know him the best while I was doing research for my doctorate. I was living with my new husband near sacramento and doing research at UC Santa Cruz while having meetings with the group that was paying for my degree at Lawrence Livermore National Labs. To make this work several nights a week I stayed with my grandparents. If you have ever been around someone doing research for their dissertation you know how insufferable they can be. You ask one question and they never want to shut up. Grandfather always wanted to talk about my work. We must have bored grandmother to tears, but his genuine interest in what I was doing was a gateway to just talking and getting to know him better. Grandfather was born in Salt Lake in 1927 and it should have been clear from the beginning that he was either going to be a chemist or a terrorist. He blew the door off his parents garage while doing science experiments. Later his own sons (especially Karl) would get into this kind of mischief, I believe that's called Karma. He drove his teachers crazy, which I guess I should admit is another legacy since his sons and his grandchildren have done the same. It's too early to tell on the great grandchildren. In high school he took a standardized chemistry test and received the highest score anyone had ever received from his high school. His hard work paid off and he was accepted at Harvard but couldn't afford it. He went to the university of Utah, where he left another legacy which his son Karl would later uphold at the same university. He used to play pranks on his classmates. He told me about the best prank that anyone ever played on him. Apparently he had a lab set up which had leaked water everywhere on several occasions and so when he saw a puddle coming from under his lab door he panicked…. Only to race down the hall and rip open his door and find nothing wrong. He would remain at the university of Utah and get his PHD under the direction of Henry Eyring, which was a great honor. Of course during this time he also met and married my grandmother. He once told me a story about when they were dating. Apparently he went to my grandmother house to blow eggs for decorations. Some of the eggs got my grandmother's lipstick on them, but they weren't the ones she blew. He loved my grandmother and I hope their long marriage is a legacy for our family as well. I grew up thinking that just about any problem could be solved by my family, especially my grandfather. Leaking fountain? Penetrating epoxy. Too many flies? Tactile explosive fly paper. One of the reasons he was such a good problem solver was that he had so many different jobs. He got his first job in junior high sweeping floors. He worked at U and I furniture, Volger Seed and Denver Clay. He even worked on the killing floor of the Cuddahay Meat packing company. All of this was before he was drafted into the army. He served in Korea as a kind of military policemen. After the military he returned to school and started Pilgrim chemical, a mail order chemical supply company. Yes he was an entrepreneur before that was a catch word. While doing a fellowship at the medical school at the university of utah he had to take a first date into the lab with him where he was injecting rats every four hours. I'm not sure when he fell in love with her, but I think the fact that my grandmother was interested in a second date was a sure sign that they belonged together. My grandfather, my dad, my uncle, and I all have Phds. When I finished my dissertation I said we should bind them all together in one volume for posterity. My grandfather wasn't keen because his is the shortest. That's because after two years of research, just two months before he was to graduate a paper from Europe destroyed the premise of his work. He worked night and day on a new thesis and with help from his family he graduated on time to start his new job with Shell oil in CA. In case you were wondering my Dad's thesis was the longest. While at Shell he developed a gasoline additive which prevent clogged fuel lines in airplanes and made the company millions. After working for shell he developed many more ideas. He patented some including voicemail and nicotine lozenges. I think one of his biggest regrets was that he never managed to take an idea and turn it into a fortune. But he never stopped thinking and trying. I can see that persistence in all of us that he leaves behind. Although at times I would guess my parents would have called it stubbornness or something worse. Interestingly despite his many successes the story I remember him telling me personally was of the struggles he had with his thesis. He told me this story after I failed two out of three of my preliminary exams my first year of graduate school. He wanted to encourage me to continue. In fact he was one of many relatives who shared stories of failure with me during that time. I think this represents his firm belief in persistence and his desire for that persistence to be a legacy. Really you can't be successful at anything, but especially science without it. My grandfather was a creative thinker. Always thinking about problems and how to solve them. He was the patriarch of a sunday family dinner where I couldn't really follow the conversation until I took calculus. We talked about robots for robot wars (Karl's project) and building bridges out of toothpicks (my project). Once when I was doing a science project, my Dad was out of town and I needed someone to talk to about lasers. So at Sunday dinner my grandfather sat with me at the kitchen table and told me all about lasers. Seriously I think he started with let there be light. It was thorough. You wouldn't expect any less from someone who read patent applications for fun. He loved to read. Science books, political books and 100s of reader's digest condensed novels that he picked up at goodwill. Our family gatherings are a great place to find a new book to read. My 7 year old daughter reads like crazy. What can I say, she comes by it honestly. When I was a kid I alway found it strange that Grandfather's name was Paul because everyone I knew called him Chad. In fact for awhile he was called Big Chad to distinguish from my brother, little Chad. As was inevitable little Chad is now big enough that little is laughingly inappropriate and so they are again both Chad and we muddle through. One of the most obvious legacies of my grandfather is that we are all tall. Except for me, I am appallingly only 5' 7". Another legacy which I don't share is counting cards. Yes my family is full of card counters and Grandfather was the best… or maybe its the worst. Definitely be careful playing a game with any Wilhelmsen. We have a good size family and our family ties are very important to us. When I was young my grandmother hosted many big family gatherings. My favorite were the murder mystery parties. Perhaps you've seen the murder mystery kit in a box? My grandfather wasn't satisfied with these. Like so many things he made his own. Once I was stabbed in my Dad's old bedroom. I had to lie still with a knife handle stuck in dried red paint on my chest while all the guests came by looking for clues. That year was a double murder. My grandfather was shot in the other room. As I recall there was a major clue on tablet of paper where the top sheet had been removed. My mom realized by shading in the indented page with a pencil she could read what had been written. I think the murder weapon was found in the garage. You're probably getting the idea now that my family's not typical, but what I am really trying to say is that our strangeness is actually a legacy of Paul Chadwick Wilhelmsen. My grandfather. And while we miss him, many of his best features live on in us.