In Memoriam: David Paul Alberth

26 February 1948–3 May 2015

by Gerald Falo, CHP

Major (Ret.) David P. Alberth of Bel Air, Maryland, passed away peacefully at Harford Memorial Hospital on Sunday, 3 May 2015, surrounded by family and friends.

David entered the field of radiation protection after being awarded a bachelor of science degree (1970) and a master of education degree (1972) from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. His further academic education included doctoral studies in medical physics at The Johns Hopkins University from 1978 to 1981. His Army service started in 1972 and included a variety of assignments such as staff instructor at the U.S. Army Academy of Health Sciences, chief of the Operations Branch of the Health Physics Office at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and chief of the Laser and Microwave Division at the U.S. Army Environmental Hygiene Agency. After his Army service ended in 1992, he entered the civil service and served as a senior health physicist and master consultant at the U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine and successor agencies.

With over 40 years of experience within the Army Medical Department, both as a commissioned officer and a civil servant, David's unwavering commitment and support to our nation, our profession, and the Health Physics Society was shown by his high professional standards, willingness to mentor, and scientific expertise. He was a trusted source of information and advice to senior leadership within the Army and Department of Defense for all ionizing radiation issues. During his career he mentored many of today's current senior Army health physicists and senior civilian personnel and provided exemplary mentoring opportunities to junior military and civilian personnel.

Among David's professional achievements were:

  • Senior health physicist and master consultant at the Army Institute of Public Health and predecessor organizations.
  • U.S. Army representative to the Department of Defense Ionizing Radiation Working Group (2009–2015).
  • Health physics consultant to the department chairman of the Interagency Task Force for Radiation Source Protection and Security, which was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005.
  • U.S. Army representative to the Multi-Agency Radiation Survey and Site Investigation Manual Workgroup (1994–2015), for which he and the workgroup were awarded the Environmental Protection Agency Bronze Medal for Commendable Service.
  • U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine task sponsor representative for the updated Depleted Uranium Health Risk Assessment Project (2003–2005).
  • Chief, radiation safety, and deputy director, Department of Environmental Health and Occupational Safety at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (1986–1989).
  • Radiological physicist, Office of the Chief, Department of Radiology, Walter Reed Army Medical Center (1984–1986).
  • Medical physicist for the Army Medical Department's first magnetic resonance imaging scanner (1985).

Examples of the recognition that David received from colleagues include his induction in 2007 into the Order of Military Medical Merit, which "recognizes those individuals who have clearly demonstrated the highest standards of integrity and moral character, displayed an outstanding degree of professional competence, served in the Army Medical Department with selflessness, and made sustained contributions to the betterment of Army Medicine," and his selection as the recipient of the 2004 U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Joseph Lovell Award for his vision, talent, and commitment to learning. In 2014 he was awarded the Civilian Superior Service Award by the Military Health Physics Section of the Health Physics Society. He also earned the Meritorious Civilian Service Award and the Army Medical Department 30-Year Medallion in addition to several performance and service awards.

A man of culture as well as science, David was a lover of music and language. He taught himself music theory and the zither as a child. Harmonica, guitar, recorder, and all manner of wind and string instruments inspired and retained his active attention throughout his life. For many years as a member of the American Recorder Society, David performed and collected classical blokfluit repertoire literature. Even later in life, as he was struggling with limited mobility, he continued to study and expand his knowledge, picking up the violin that had belonged to his grandfather and finding a teacher. It was a blessing for David to live next door to a family whose three children were all musicians, the youngest of whom was an all-state youth orchestra violin player. They were an enormous help to David as his health declined. If time had permitted, David would have made a wonderful music teacher as a second career. David was fluent in French and German and enjoyed both reading and speaking them. He enjoyed his annual Manhattan Christmas visit to shop for French books.

David was devoted to his sister Elaine and they spent much of David's free time together. A highlight of their time together was attending Peter, Paul, and Mary concerts. Born 26 February 1948, in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania, to John and Eva Alberth, David is survived by brothers Chris Alberth and his friend Jim Casola of Madison, New Jersey, Paul Alberth and his friend Rickey Vickery of Helena, Montana, sisters Becky Johnston and her husband Cliff Johnston of Morrisdale, Pennsylvania, and Annette Alberth of Carrollton, Pennsylvania, and his niece Jenny Johnston of Morrisdale, Pennsylvania. He was predeceased by two brothers, Tim and Mark Alberth, and sisters Elaine Molling and Johanna Alberth.

Major (Ret.) Alberth will be interred at Arlington National Cemetery on Thursday, 2 July 2015, at 1500 (3:00 p.m.). If you are planning to attend, please arrive by 1430 (2:30 p.m.). Additional details will be posted on the daily funeral schedule on the Arlington National Cemetery website. The postings are usually six days in advance of the interment.

The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations can be made to St. Andrew's School Music Department, 227 South Cherry Street, Richmond, VA 23220.