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Obituraries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 15, 2006


Dies at 85
Tymchyn, nuclear scientist with old-world ways

By Saranac Hale Spencer

ALTAMONT — Harry L. Tymchyn Jr. worked on nuclear reactors at Knolls Atomic Laboratory and made strawberry wine at home. He died of a heart attack on June 6 at the age of 85.

Born in New Scotland and raised on a farm on Hawes Road, Tymchyn went to Altamont High School through the 11th grade when he was drafted into World War II. Like many veterans from that era, said his son Harry Tymchyn III, he didn’t talk a lot about the war.

"He didn’t brag," said Mr.Tymchyn. "He just served his country."

The USS California, which was docked in Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, was the ship Tymchyn would be on three years later in the Philippines during the Battle of Leyte. This was a decisive battle in the war and one of the bloodiest.

Leyte saw the first use of Japanese kamikazes, one of which hit the deck of the USS California. The crash broke Tymchyn’s back.

"I know he was very disturbed about it," said Richard Tymchyn, another son, who also said his father didn’t talk much about the war until last year.

Tymchyn started working at General Electric when he came home, taking classes as the company provided them. He worked his way up to Knolls Atomic Laboratory where he was a highly respected chemist and metallurgist. Most of his work there was classified, said his sons.

"He took trips out to Snake River in Idaho," said Richard Tymchyn, where The Atomic Energy Commission had a testing station. The station was used for testing and building nuclear reactors. It was there, in 1951, that nuclear energy was first harnessed and, in 1955, it made Arco, Idaho the first town in the world to be powered by atomic energy.

In 1961, Tymchyn’s work was reported in the Nuclear Science Abstract, which recorded international nuclear science research for the years between 1948 and 1976.

"He enjoyed his work," said Harry Tymchyn III. "It was a challenge."

While he was building his career, he was also an assistant Scoutmaster in his son’s Boy Scout troop. He took the kids on a February freeze-out one year, recalled Richard Tymchyn.

Mr.Tymchyn met his wife when he was sent to see her by a friend who had been dating her and needed help patching things up after a fight.

"He patched things up all right," said Richard Tymchyn. The two started dating promptly after that and were married on Christmas Eve.

His wife, Catherine Coy, grew up in Albany and the couple raised their family in Altamont.

Mr.Tymchyn’s father, who was an officer in the Russian Revolution, emigrated from the Soviet Union and met his wife on the crossing to America. "It was like Dr.Zhivago," said Richard Tymchyn; the family history is woven with Russian history through the generations. Mr.Tymchyn’s grandparents were killed by the Bolsheviks and his parents were chased out by hostility.

Harry L. and Michelena Kulpa Tymchyn, Mr.Tymchyn’s parents, built a house on a farm in Altamont and passed on traditions from Russia to their children. Wine was among them, "I think my grandfather used to do things like that from the old country," said Richard Tymchyn.

Harry Tymchyn carved out a place for himself in his parents’ newfound country.

"If he could pick something up and make something out of it," said Richard Tymchyn, "he would."


Mr. Tymchyn is survived by four sons: Harry F. Tymchyn III and his wife, Linda, of West Sand Lake; Richard R. Tymchyn and his wife, Susan, of Altamont; David Tymchyn and his wife, Chris, of Berne; and Robert J. Tymchyn of Altamont; and by one daughter, Janean Bevington of Saratoga Springs.

He is also survived by two brothers, John Tymchyn of Pennsylvania and Walter Tymchyn of Guilderland; three sisters, Gloria Rice of Rotterdam, Betty Staroba of Rotterdam, and Mary Kates of Pennsylvania.

He is also survived by 15 grandchildren, five great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

His wife died before him as did his son, Edward R. Tymchyn; two brothers, Victor Tymchyn and Martin Tymchyn; and one sister, Ann Carson.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Monday at St. Lucy’s Church. Arrangements were by the Fredendall Funeral Home, Altamont. Burial was in Fairview Cemetery, Altamont. A memorial contribution may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, 501 St. Jude Place, Memphis, TN 38105-1942.

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