Russell Davis Light

photo of Russell Davis Light

Russell Davis Light

Russell Davis Light, 60, of Kenmore, Washington, passed away peacefully on Wednesday, July 5, 2017, at Swedish Hospital, in Edmonds, Washington, after a courageous battle with cancer. He was born in Seattle to Russell and Patricia Light and lived in the Seattle area most of his life.

Russ had a 35-year career at the Applied Physics Lab at the University of Washington. In his spare time he enjoyed golfing, fishing, playing guitar and watching television with his favorite girl, his wife Geneva. Both enjoyed laughing at late night comedy shows, getting helpful tips from the cooking channel, and watching Seattle’s beloved Seahawks.

Russ is survived by his wife, Geneva, his three sons, Cornel, Beany and Russell Allan, Beany’s wife America, and his three grandchildren, William, Patrick and Mateo. He is also survived by his mother Patricia Light and his two sisters Barbara and Joan.  He will be missed by his Applied Physics Lab family and his golfing buddies at Willows Run Golf Club in Redmond, Washington.

Russ felt life was a gift. He loved his family and career. He had wonderful opportunities to travel all over the world including a few very frigid visits in the Arctic. He was a kind, loving and beautiful man. He believed in the endless possibilities of life.

We invite you to add your own memories of Russ below:

9 Responses to “Russell Davis Light”

  • Clyde Harris says:

    Because I live in Wyoming and Russ lived in Washington, we didn’t have a lot of time to spend together. One of my fondest memories of Russ was when my family visited our grandmother Fern Light when I was in my early teens. Russ and I hit it off immediately. I had the honor to spend about a week with Russ at his families house. Russ and I spent most of our time swimming and having as much fun as two young teenage boys could have, without getting into too much trouble. Even at an early age, it was apparent that Russ had a zeal for life and was a loving and caring person. Russ you will be sorely missed.

    Happy Trails Russ, your cousin Clyde

  • Karen Parrish says:

    I worked with Russ for the past six years at APL – a drop in the bucket in his long illustrious career at the lab! I sat in many a meeting with Russ and was always impressed by his calm and thoughtful demeanor. Russ was a man who would not say anything until he had something relevant to add to the discussion – and at that time, he would offer his opinion in a honest, forthright and quietly passionate manner. Russ was respectful of others opinions (even when he thought them to be wrong!). Russ was a wonderful colleague and will be deeply missed by his coworkers and friends at APL.

  • Mary Burke says:

    Dear Joan,
    I am so sorry for your loss. Please contact me. I would love to connect with you.
    Mary Burke

  • Mary Burke says:

    Dear Joan. I am so sorry for your loss. I would love to connect with you.

    Mary Burke

  • Ann and Terry Kjerulf says:

    Ann and I are so sorry for your loss. Anything that we can do to be helpful to you at this time we are most happy to be there for you. Russ was a great neighbor. We loved his personality and friendliness. Loved his love of the trees. He was always considerate. A&T.

  • Kevin Williams says:

    Written for the Applied Physics lab monthly publication:

    It’s always hard to lose a friend. It’s especially hard, however, when the news comes while you are doing what for almost 3 decades you have done with him at your side.

    I am writing this on-board a research vessel off the coast of Florida. We are putting a system in the water that he and OE designed and built, that he and I worried over, babysat when it was sick, cussed at when it didn’t perform. The fact that it has performed for more than a decade is a testimony to every engineer, technician, and diver who has touched it. It is also an indication of the dedication Russ put to anything he took on – music, golf, diving, flying gliders, engineering or running a department (even organizing contico boxes). His dedication, attention to detail, work ethic and leadership is literally the keystone to my own success.

    Our wives would call us pessimists. We considered ourselves realists. We schemed over plans and contingencies not based on “if things fail” but “when things fail”. We had plan B, C, D, … AA, etc. It became somewhat of a competition of who could come up with another failure mechanism and design an escape. The schemes became more elaborate as the systems being developed became more complex.

    Russ’s acoustic-related efforts actually began in work for Darrell Jackson. In the late 1980’s Russ developed an autonomous rotating sonar (BAMS) used in the ONR STRESS sediment-transport program. This instrument was uniquely capable of observing both seafloor scattering levels and changes in the seafloor due to biological activity. Russ and I subsequently developed a higher-frequency instrument, XBAMS. Both sonars were used in the 90s in the Coastal Benthic Boundary Layer Program, and later in the ONR Sediment Acoustics eXperiments (SAX99 and SAX04) conducted off the Florida Panhandle and provided data sets crucial to testing of acoustic scattering models.

    In the Coastal Benthic Boundary Layer Program Darrell and I also wanted to measure “bistatic” scattering. This required a separate ship mounted receiver. The success of that effort lead to much more ambitious system designs. SAX99 took the engineering effort to a whole new level. In addition to fielding BAMS and XBAMS, OE, under Russ’s leadership, built STMS1. That system was designed to measure scattering from, penetration into, and attenuation within ocean sediments. It included a tower moved by divers around an array of 30 buried receivers. Additional receivers in the water column allowed the tower position to be tracked to less than 2 cm and the buried receive array elements to less than 0.5 cm. Both the electrical engineering challenges (lead by Russ) and the mechanical engineering challenges (lead by Vern Miller) were met by OE.

    Having been unable to find the limitations of OE engineers, I offered a new challenge. I needed a system that could move an array of sources and receivers over half a football field length of the ocean bottom pinging every 5 cm and recording the data so that we could look at both the ocean sediment and targets placed on that sediment over a 50 meter x 50 meter area of the bottom. Everything needed to be synchronized and array element positions known well enough to carry out what is known as synthetic aperture sonar. Again, Russ, Vern and the whole OE team delivered an amazing answer to that challenge. The resulting system, STMS2, was used in SAX04 and has been subsequently used over that last decade in several experiments in collaboration with the Navy lab in Panama City Florida. Indeed, it is that system that is operating as I write this. STMS2 has required the implementation of several plan B’s and more than one plan C over the years.

    Over the last few years as Russ internalized, considered his options, and designed a strategy for fighting the battle he was forced to take on, we discussed long-term contingency plans for the future of the OE department. I was focused on plan A – his return to full time work, he insisted on a plan B – as usual. His last act as department head for OE was to implement his plan B. The success of plan B is demonstrated by the fact that I am writing this on-board a research vessel off the coast of Florida.

    I will miss you.


  • Joan Light says:

    What wonderful sentiments for my brother. You have all captured him perfectly. His family and mine are grateful for all of your memories and thoughts of him. They make him seem right at my elbow or on the phone giving me endless of amounts of advice when I needed it, which was quite often. Such a patient, kind man, my brother: he always had time for everyone. I miss his presence, but your memories and mine will always keep him alive and close to my heart.
    Joan Light

  • Mike Welch says:

    Among his other qualities, Russ was an avid fly fisherman. Every year, three of us, Russ, Phil White (Boeing Engineer), and I (Mike Welch—Ocean Engineering Dept—APL) made our annual fly fishing trek to Lake Chopaka, one of the premier fly fishing only lakes in eastern Washington

    Lake Chopaka is located about 3000 ft elevation in a somewhat primitive beautiful park just to the east of Mt. Chopaka near Tonasket, WA. There, we would camp for four or five days just relaxing and fishing for Rainbow trout. Usually, in the morning we would fish from our pontoon boats, maybe take a “power nap” around noon and then continue fishing until late evening.

    Typical dinners were steak and tatters on the grill followed by philosophical discussions fueled most often by Gin & Tonic. Russ and Phil would often have very lively discussions!

    These discussions lasted late into the evening—often accompanied by star gazing at the band of the Milky Way and viewing the occasional shooting star.

    Phil and I will miss Russ greatly and cherish the good memories we have of Russ and fly fishing.

  • Michael L Sloan says:

    I knew a Russ Light in High School. Is this the same Russ Light that attended Langley High School in McLean Virginia….lived in McLean Hamlet???

    Mike Sloan

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