Michael J. Schumchyk, 80, nuclear physicist at APG, took part in atomic tests

May 09, 2004|By Athima Chansanchai | Athima Chansanchai,SUN STAFF

Michael Joseph Schumchyk, a retired nuclear physicist, died April 30 at his Rosedale home of lung cancer. He was 80.

Mr. Schumchyk was born and raised on Long Island, N.Y. At the University of Arkansas, he excelled as an athlete, playing on varsity football, basketball and track teams. He was also a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

The Army Air Forces interrupted his college career in 1945 when he was sent to Korea during the post-war occupation. He had just married another Arkansas student, Charlene Hackett. Two years later, he was discharged as a sergeant, declining officer training to return to college.

In his senior year at Arkansas, he signed a contract with the Los Angeles Rams, who had noticed his prowess as a tight end. But a knee injury suffered while he was playing basketball forced him out of a professional football career.

Mr. Schumchyk graduated with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering in 1949 and started his first -- and only -- job at Aberdeen Proving Ground in the Edgewood Arsenal as a nuclear physicist. He was there for 39 years before retiring in 1987.

"His love for engineering was as great as that for football," said his wife.

In 1959, during the Cold War, Mr. Schumchyk was in the news for designing a helicopter-borne system for measuring scattered radiation in "hot" zones where atomic blasts occurred. The Army wanted to use the system to detect radiation in civilian areas hit by a nuclear attack. He participated in the atomic experiments at Nevada and the Marshall Islands.

"He would never ever say anything bad about anybody, nor would he listen to it," Mrs. Schumchyk said. "He could only see the good in people." He had a statue on his desk at work representing the three monkeys that see no evil, speak no evil and hear no evil. He brought it home when he retired, and it was put in his casket, his wife said.

Mr. Schumchyk was a member of the Veterans of Foreign War Post 6506 in Rosedale, the Mount Carmel Knights of Columbus and Alpha Chi Sigma.

His wife said he continued his love of sports through coaching their daughters' recreational softball teams and keeping score at their granddaughter's soccer games at Sparrows Point High School. On the day of his death, a game was dedicated in his honor.

Services were held Monday.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Schumchyk is survived by three daughters, Diane C. Levin and Kimberly Corkran of Baltimore and Michael Ann Kahoe of Abingdon; a sister, Josephine Beeker of Hauppauge, N.Y.; a brother, Frank Schumchyk of Holbrook, N.Y.; two grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Donations may be made in his memory to the Towson University Foundation, 8000 York Road, Towson 21252.

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