In Memoriam: Lyle Arthur Rathbun


by Darrell Fisher, PhD

Lyle Arthur Rathbun, 73, longtime member of the Health Physics Society and the Columbia Chapter, died 7 June 2018, of T-cell lymphoma in Kennewick, Washington. He was a dedicated and well-liked health physicist.

Lyle was born on 25 December 1944 in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, to Burt Dale Rathbun and Jennie Lenore Fowlkes. Lyle attended first through eighth grade in a one-room schoolhouse on a ranch in Crook County, Wyoming, where his grandparents homesteaded in 1908. Later, his family moved to Hulett, Wyoming, where Lyle attended high school. Lyle lettered in football, basketball, and track. After graduation in 1963, he attended the University of Wyoming on an academic scholarship, majoring in physics. At school, he met Cynthia Vollmer and they married in 1968.

Also in 1968, Lyle was commissioned an officer in the U.S. Army. Lyle went through basic training at Fort Lawton, Oklahoma, and was then stationed at Fort Bliss, Texas, where he trained recruits to use shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles. Lyle was then deployed to the Korean Demilitarized Zone until his discharge in February 1970.

Lyle's first job after the military was as a crusher shift supervisor in a molybdenum mine in Leadville, Colorado. He attended Colorado Mountain College in mining technology and taught mining to Native American Indians as part of a special government program. In 1973, he joined the Mining Enforcement and Safety Administration. In 1977, he moved his family to Casper, Wyoming, to perform environmental radiation monitoring for Petrotomics and AeroVironment. In 1981, he moved his family to Kennewick, Washington, to start a new job in health physics with Battelle Northwest Laboratory. During the subsequent 37 years, he worked for various Hanford contractors and for the state of Arizona.

In 1993, Lyle earned his master's degree in radiological sciences from the University of Washington. His last employment was with Bechtel at the Vitrification Plant under construction. Lyle worked full-time until his health forced him to take a leave of absence four months before his death. During his career, he was awarded two patents, including one for the Electrified Oil-Fogger.

In 1981, Lyle and his family joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, which represented a major lifestyle change. He remained a steadfast and faithful member, serving in many church leadership and service capacities. As such, Lyle dedicated his life to helping and serving his family, neighbors, and friends at work. If he saw a need, he would be the first to volunteer his time to help. He and his wife also served a two-year (part-time) church mission from 2015 to 2017 in Fossil and Monument, Oregon.

Lyle is survived by his wife, Cynthia; his sons Doug (Alisa) Rathbun and Nate Rathbun; his daughter Veronica (Paul) Anguiano; his brother Dow (Kela) Rathbun; sisters Dela (Roy) Prazma and Barb (Terry) Goodvin; and 10 grandchildren.