In Memoriam: Alvin Wendell Carriker


by Edward A. Tupin, CHP

Wendell Carriker, CHP, 81, of Alexandria, Virginia, died at the Sunrise at Mount Vernon on 25 December 2012.

Wendell was born in Harvard, Nebraska, on 9 December 1931. He graduated in 1953 from Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln with a BA in physics and earned his MS in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1959. In 1953 he was selected for an Atomic Energy Commission Radiological Physics Fellowship at Vanderbilt University and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. His radiological physics classes were taught by Elda E. Anderson, K.Z. Morgan, and Myron Fair.

Wendell became a charter member of the Health Physics Society (HPS) when it was first formed in 1957. He helped organize the Baltimore-Washington Chapter, which was chartered in 1958 as the first chapter of the Society. He served as the chapter secretary-treasurer (1959) and president (1961). He became a certified health physicist in November 1961 and received the HPS Fellow Award in 2009. Wendell was an emeritus member of the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors (CRCPD) and served as a resource member to several of its committees. Throughout his career, he prepared numerous reports that have been published in technical journals or as final project reports. He presented many technical papers at annual meetings of professional organizations such as the HPS and CRCPD, as well as other meetings related to specific programs and projects.

From 1954 to 1960 he was head of the Radioisotopes and Reactor Section of the health physics staff and responsible for a broad range of technical and supervisory activities at the Naval Research Lab. There he met Marlene and they moved to the Washington, DC, area after their wedding in Nebraska on 3 October 1954.

From 1960 to 1965 he was employed by American Machine and Foundry in Alexandria, Virginia, working on research and development projects involving government contracts and corporate funding in uses of radioisotopes. One of his efforts there involved describing the spatial, spectral, and temporal variations in the space radiation environment as related to manned space flight. He was involved in a feasibility demonstration project for the National Aeronautical and Space Administration to prove the capability of a 14C tracer technique for detecting bacterial life-forms on Mars, which was flown on the first Mars lander. From 1965 to 1977 he was at the Naval Oceanographic Office, doing work involving engineering development related to applying existing technology to the instrumentation systems used for measuring oceanographic parameters related to the water column ocean floor and air-water interface. One project involved use of a 25-watt radioisotope thermoelectric generator power supply on a subsurface ocean buoy. This system was an early demonstration of combined nuclear, space, and ocean technology.

From 1978 to 2000 Wendell was the certified health physicist in the Office of Hazardous Materials Transportation of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). His initial task was to develop information and guidance for early responders to transportation accidents involving radioactive materials. He developed guidance documents and training classes for first on-scene responders. Since 1980 his prime responsibility was for the six guides related to radioactive material in the seven editions of the hazardous materials Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) generated at DOT. The ERG book was distributed nationwide with intent that a copy would be in every law, fire, and medical emergency-response vehicle. Throughout the industry, Wendell was known as the person at DOT who would provide helpful advice on difficult radioactive material shipment problems and would prepare specific exemptions for shipments that could not conform to the existing rules. As senior health physicist, he was involved with many federal, state, and local government officials. Wendell retired from the government in September 2000 with 42 years of service.

Wendell was an avid community volunteer for family and church activities. In the early to late 1970s, he volunteered as the Boy Scouts of America Troop 654 transportation chairman for all troop scouting activities. Wendell was an alumnus of the Theta Chi Fraternity at Nebraska Wesleyan. He was a music lover all his life and was a member of and toured with the Wesleyan Male A Cappella Chorus from 1951 to 1953. He especially enjoyed attending the Alexandria Harmonizer concerts locally. He was a member of the Mount Vernon Genealogical Society, located at the Hollin Hall Senior Center, and was successful in compiling his family history as far back as 1687. As Wendell was blind most of his adult life, he truly enjoyed the Talking Book Program sponsored through the Fairfax County Library system. Wendell enjoyed family trips back to his Nebraska hometown and throughout the United States. He never let his blindness impair the family enjoyment of the many sights on these trips.

Wendell had been a member of Aldersgate UMC, with his wife Marlene, since 1966. Wendell taught Sunday school classes at Aldersgate United Methodist Church (UMC) when his children were young. He also worked on a local blood drive collaboration between Aldersgate UMC and other area churches by organizing large-scale blood drives with INOVA Hospital.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Marlene (Fallbeck) Carriker; his brother, William R. Carriker of Sequim, Washington; four children and their families—Gordon of Ozark, Missouri, Judith and Michael Jurkowski of Alexandria, Virginia, Bradley and Cynthia Carriker of Alexandria, Virginia, and Roger and Lisann Carriker of Jessup, Maryland; seven grandchildren—Danielle, Diana, Daniel, Sarah, Anna, Natalie, and Andrew; two great grandchildren, Klairissa and Alexis; and nieces and nephews in Nebraska, Connecticut, and Virginia.