In Memoriam: Kenneth R. Heid


by Ronald L. Kathren, CHP

The year 2010 opened on a sad note with the funeral of Health Physics Society (HPS) Fellow Kenneth Raymond (Ken) Heid, who passed away on 26 December 2009. Ken was buried with full military honors, having served in General Patton’s Third Army, receiving the Bronze Star among other decorations. He was born in Yakima, Washington, on 7 July 1924, growing up on a farm in nearby Zillah, where he attended high school before going on to Washington State University. He interrupted his education during World War II to enlist in the Army, where he served in American, African, European, and Middle Eastern Theaters.

After his discharge from the Army in 1946 and a short fling in professional baseball as a minor league third baseman that convinced him that he was not likely major league material, Ken turned to science, joining the General Electric Company, then the prime Atomic Energy Commission contractor for the Hanford site in 1947. Here he came under the tutelage of, and developed a special relationship with, the legendary Herbert Parker. Ken worked in many areas of applied health physics, rising quickly through the ranks to various senior-level individual contributor and management positions, including management of the site-wide personnel dosimetry program at Hanford, together with the dosimetry records program for more than 100,000 active and former workers. In this latter role, he made numerous innovations and created such a high-quality system that Hanford records were deemed outstanding and selected for the (in)famous Mancuso radioepidemiologic study. Ken also deservedly gained a lifelong international reputation as an expert in emergency planning and management and was instrumental in the establishment of what is now the U.S. Transuranium and Uranium Registries, serving as the associate director of the fledgling U.S. Transuranium Registry.

His recognized expertise led to service on numerous national and international committees and to visits to more than 20 countries. In addition to committee membership, Ken was professionally active in other ways as well, serving as secretary of the HPS, as associate editor of the Journal, and on several national Society committees.

Ken retired from health physics and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in 1986, having spent his entire career at Hanford. Like his mentor Herb Parker, Ken was not given to self-aggrandizement, preferring to present his ideas and the wisdom gained from experience semianonymously in committees or in informal small meetings to a few knowledgeable colleagues. But his achievements did not go unnoticed by his colleagues who elected him to Fellow membership in the HPS.

In addition to his professional contributions, Ken returned much to his community. He was elected to serve on the West Richland, Washington, city council and on the bicounty Board of Health and was instrumental in personally developing city-sponsored basketball and baseball leagues. Ken was a deeply religious man, serving his church in several capacities, and devoted to Polly, his wife of more than 60 years. His was a life well and honorably lived.