Charles W. Drake Jr., 87

BEND, OREGON — Charles Whitney Drake Jr., a native son of Maine who retired to the Town of Denmark, and who was a resident of Bend, Ore., died peacefully surrounded by family on Nov. 29, 2013.

Charles was born in South Portland, Maine on March 8, 1926, the son of Charles Sr. and Kathryn O’Neill. He graduated from Deering High School, Class of ’44, and at seventeen years of age, joined the United States Navy during WWII. Charles became a radio technician and served for two and a half years in the Pacific Theatre, until the war in the Pacific ended with the detonation of the atomic bombs over Japan.  He returned to Maine and attended the University of Maine with distinction on the G.I. Bill and received his Bachelor's of Science degree in Engineering Physics in 1950.

Charles was a descendant of Thomas Drake, who emigrated from Devonshire, England in 1654 and settled in Weymouth, Mass. Charles’ father, Charles Whitney Drake Sr., who worked for the F.W. Dodge Corporation in Portland, married Charles’ mother, Kathryn O’Neill, the granddaughter of Thomas O’Neill, Captain of the celebrated sailing bark, Annie C. MaGuire, which famously ran aground on the rocks at Portland Headlight on Cape Elizabeth on Christmas night, 1886. Charles’ favorite uncle was his grandfather’s brother, Frank O’Neill, a beloved Portland Police officer who died in Nov., 1967.

In 1952, Charles went on to receive his Master's of Science degree in Physics from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., where he also met and married Ellen Tan, then a teaching assistant in Geology.

Charles then served as a Research Scientist at the Atomic Power Division of Westinghouse Corporation, where, with Q-clearance, the highest level of secret Government clearance, he helped to develop the radiation shield for the atomic reactor of the Nautilus, the first atomic submarine commissioned into U.S. naval forces.

The radiation shield was critical to the success of the submarine, as it had to be effective to protect the crew from the effects of radiation, yet be sufficiently light enough for effective submarine operations. The work was done in a top secret research installation in the desert of Southern Idaho, near the town of Arco — about 60 miles from Idaho Falls. Charles and his fellow scientists and engineers succeeded in simulating a safe underwater crossing of the Atlantic Ocean without refueling, or more importantly,  without surfacing; an achievement that no previous submarine could match. The success of this work made it possible for Admiral Rickover — father of the modern Nuclear Navy – to convince Congress to fund building the full nuclear fleet.

Charles then went on to obtain his doctorate in Physics, receiving his PhD degree from Yale University in New Haven Conn. in 1958. Charles and Ellen settled down in New Haven for several years after Charles joined the faculty in Physics. All three of Charles and Ellen's children, daughters Judy and Linda and son Robert were born in New Haven. As part of the Physics faculty, Charles’ research included being among the first to successfully polarize sub-atomic proton particles, which is useful in research physical applications.

In 1966 at the instigation of Yale colleague Mac Hull, Charles moved his family West, and joined the Physics Dept. of Oregon State University, in Corvallis, Ore.

Charles finally retired from Physics in 1996, and began splitting his time between Ore. and his beloved State of Maine, where Charles settled into happy retirement summers in his cottage on Sand Pond in Denmark.

Charles Whitney Drake Jr. is survived by his devoted wife, Ellen, married to Charles for nearly 62 years; their three children: Judith Ellen Drake, of Bend Ore.; Robert Charles Drake of Philadelphia, Pa.; and Linda Ann Drake of Tacoma, Wash. Charles is also survived by seven loving grandchildren: Jordan and Austin Hill of Bend, Ore.; Samantha, Jessica and Hannah Drake of Philadelphia, Pa.; and, Catherine and Anna Neshyba of Tacoma, Wash.

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