John V. Mullendore

June 01, 2013|By JANET HEIM |
  • This photo of Deanna and John Mullendore was taken about five years ago.
Submitted photo

CLEAR SPRING, Md. — John Mullendore had an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

A senior project engineer at the University of Maryland, College Park when he retired in 1990, he enjoyed challenging conversations about a wide range of topics.

“Everything sparked his interest. He was curious about everything,” said John’s wife of 40 years, Deanna.

Deanna said John would order and watch DVDs from The Great Courses catalog on many topics.

“John said every conversation should be about learning,” Deanna said. “He was definitely into academics and learning. He just loved to learn. He loved to know everything.”

Son Joseph “Joe” Mullendore, in his eulogy, said his father highly valued education and would purchase used textbooks on subjects of interest and read them for pleasure, as if he were reading a novel.

Joe described his father as a “living dichotomy” — working in the city, but preferring the open air of the country and reserved with emotions, but quick to tell his family he loved them.

While Joe hesitated to say John was perfect because John would say there was always room for improvement, Joe instead said John was perfect for their family.

“Most every experience with John was a teachable moment,” Joe wrote. “He expressed love through actions and his sacrifices.”

In a phone interview, Joe said he remembers going to a baseball game only once, since watching sporting events didn’t produce a practical or productive benefit.

“I will never be quite like Dad. I wish I’d paid more attention,” Joe said. “My Dad was different than most dads. You matured a little faster in the Mullendore household because of the topics you were exposed to. He was different, and I’m glad he was different, because we definitely benefited.”

Born and raised in Boonsboro, John was one of four children. His father started the Boonsboro bank and later sold insurance, Deanna said.

The family lived on Lakin Avenue and, starting at age 13, John would wake up between 4 and 5 a.m. to help with door-to-door milk deliveries.

After school, he would observe at construction sites, which led to a job for three or four summers. John graduated from Boonsboro High School. In 1950, he joined the U.S. Air Force and served in the Korean War as an aircraft electronics inspector on combat fighter aircraft.

Four years later, after reaching the position of electronics maintenance supervisor, John returned to the area and began taking college courses at Hagerstown Junior College.

While a student there, he met other young veterans who shared a desire for a change of scenery. A campus library search for the best engineering school with a low cost of living in a scenic area led them to the University of Colorado in Boulder.

After a year there, John returned to Maryland and continued his studies at the University of Maryland, College Park, earning the first of three bachelor’s degrees, majoring in physics and minoring in mathematics.

With six months of his GI bill benefits remaining, John applied for and was accepted to graduate school in physics.

He got a summer job at the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Md., then was offered a job in the fall of 1958 at the university, working on the new Van de Graaff accelerator, a job he had for six years while continuing his graduate studies.

John’s work with the Quantum Electronics Group included research with atomic clocks and a cyclotron, one of the earliest types of particle accelerators.

He helped design, construct, install, operate and administer the first long-term successful lunar laser ranging station, which required frequent travel to the McDonald Observatory in Texas.

“He really enjoyed his work,” Deanna said.

Despite his workload and 80-mile, one-way commute from Clear Spring to College Park, which John used for studying Spanish and planning his day, he earned a degree in law enforcement and industrial security in 1976 from the University College campus, and one in business and management in 1980 from the main campus.

After his retirement from the university in 1990, John attended Capital Radio Engineering School and worked as director for the Tri-County Council for three years.

Deanna said she regretted that after his retirement, John didn’t have the opportunity to share his knowledge. Tutoring their children didn’t work because things came so easily to John that he couldn’t explain them to those who didn’t understand.

While John’s brilliant mind was quick to absorb complicated math- and science-related concepts, he could be introverted. Making friends and allowing them into his circle wasn’t easy for him.

Upon meeting Deanna Shupp, though, he liked having her as part of the circle.

Deanna knew John’s brother through her first husband. That marriage dissolved, not long after daughter Leslie was born.

When Deanna bumped into John in Hagerstown’s Public Square, she invited him to come see the baby.

“The rest is history,” Deanna said.

John was 17 years older than Deanna, and she initially thought he was too old for her, but had a different perspective after her divorce.

After they got married, John adopted Leslie. Joe was born five years after Leslie.

“He was an excellent father, excellent husband,” Deanna said. “He treated both equally.”

She regrets that “Pappy” won’t be around to share his knowledge with his 2-year-old grandson.

Over the years, John collected a vast library of books, and old parts and equipment. Deanna could count on him to be able to fix anything.

“He could make something out of nothing,” she said.

John loved the outdoors, and in his younger years, liked to hunt and spend time at their cabin in Morgan County, W.Va. As he slowed down, he still loved watching nature from the large picture window of the couple’s Clear Spring home.

They downsized in November 2012 from the home John had spent five years building for their family to a ranch home on the Shupp farm that Deanna inherited from her aunt and uncle, not far from the house John built.

He had a stroke two years ago, which slowed him down. John always had been big on taking naps, but was sleeping a lot more in the past year.

Not one to take medications, he wouldn’t go to the hospital when he experienced chest pain and swollen legs recently.

Deanna scheduled an appointment with his doctor, and an EKG showed John had some damage to his heart. He agreed to take medicine to reduce the swelling.

Within days, though, John died in his sleep.

“It was quite a shock. I thought he would be getting better,” Deanna said.

“He was a very good man and had a good heart. He gave us a very good life.”

Editor’s note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail runs “A Life Remembered.” Each story in this continuing series takes a look back — through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others — at a member of the community who died recently. Today’s “A Life Remembered” is about John V. Mullendore, who died May 21 at the age of 83. His obituary was published in the May 22 edition of The Herald-Mail.

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