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Herbert L. Bigelow Jr., 95

FEB. 14, 1916-DEC. 30, 2011

January 10, 2012

Herbert Lyman Bigelow Jr., 95, passed away Friday, Dec. 30, 2011, at Meritus Medical Center near Hagerstown, Md.

Born Feb. 14, 1916, in Keokuk, Iowa, he grew up in Coronado, Calif., where he became an Eagle Scout, and developed the keen interest and aptitude in radio and electronics which would serve him throughout the rest of his life. After high school graduation, he was employed as a radio station engineer and announcer. He also taught electronics at Santa Barbara State College.

He married Rebecca Reath Painter on Dec. 8, 1937, in Yuma, Ariz., and together they raised three sons and a daughter.

He was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy on March 1, 1943, and retired as a commander with more than 20 years of service. Stationed across the United States and overseas in Guam and the Philippines, he performed pioneering work in the newly expanding field of telecommunications. He carried on this work from 1958 to 1977 at the Pentagon, where he worked under the secretary of defense, specializing in military radio aids and electronic navigation. At the dawn of the era of satellite communications, his division was responsible for the adoption and funding of the Navy Omega and NavStar navigation systems, as well as the Global Positioning System (GPS) that has changed our lives in so many ways.

When he retired from civil service in 1977, he and his wife, Reath, moved to Keedysville, Md., to his beloved “Windy Hill,” where he continued his amateur radio activities and developed an equally avid interest in computers. Through both of these mediums, he communicated with people from all over the world, his W3AAA call letters attesting to his longevity as a ham radio operator.

A truly gentle man, his honesty and integrity continue to guide those who knew him. His unfailing optimism, good humor and his ability to make the best of any situation will be sorely missed.

Mr. Bigelow was preceded in death by his sister, Ada F. Ledbury, and his oldest son, David L. Bigelow.

He is survived by his wife of 74 years, Reath Bigelow; three children, Thomas J. Bigelow, Richard H. Bigelow and Sharon L. Draper; daughter-in-law, Patricia Bigelow; three grandchildren, David Bigelow, Daniel Bigelow and Michael Bigelow: and four great-grandchildren, Tyler, Sienna, Noah and Kate.

Services are currently being planned for Arlington National Cemetery and will take place in late April or early May.

Arrangements were made by J.L. Davis Funeral Home, Smithsburg, Md.

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