W. Ves Childs 1935-2009

Jun 24

vesphoto-792202(Re-posted in 2014 to get it into the WordPress site.)

W. Ves Childs of Fayetteville, Arkansas, passed away Sunday, June 21, 2009 in his home, surrounded by his family. He was born September 14, 1935 in Cale, Arkansas, to Orval A. Childs and Floy (Turrentine) Childs.

Ves once wrote of his childhood: “I remember my mother washing clothes in a huge cast iron pot over a wood fire in the back yard. I remember taking a bath in a galvanized tub beside the kitchen stove. I grew up as a farm boy near Magnolia, Arkansas. I have chopped cotton, plowed cotton behind a Georges stock, and picked cotton. I have castrated pigs and calves. We raised pigs, chickens, beef cattle, and ran a Grade A dairy. I won the showmanship award at the Arkansas State Fair.”

He quit Magnolia High School after the eleventh grade and finished college, in three-and-one-half years, at Southern State College in Magnolia. He earned a Ph.D. in physical chemistry at the University of Arkansas, where he met Holly Hartrick; they married on June 17, 1962 in Hamburg, Arkansas. Both Southern State (now Southern Arkansas University) and the University of Arkansas’s Fulbright College cited Ves as a distinguished alumnus.

After receiving his Ph.D., Ves worked for Phillips Petroleum Company in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for twenty-two years, receiving international recognition for his work in electrochemistry and fluorochemistry.

3M, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, purchased technology that Ves invented at Phillips, and recruited Ves and Holly to join 3M, which they did in 1984, living in Stillwater, Minnesota. He served as Division Scientist at 3M for seventeen years (he used to say “seventeen winters”), continuing to develop innovative and economical technologies and continuing to receive international recognition. Ves and Holly retired from 3M in 2001, moved back to northwest Arkansas, and built a home west of Johnson.

He was an inventor on 52 patents, spanning his career; he authored five book chapters and numerous articles; and he spoke to major symposia and conferences. He was a 50-year member of the Alpha Chi Sigma chemistry fraternity and of the American Chemical Society, and a member of Sigma Xi and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. With Holly, he established the Arthur Fry lectureship in the chemistry department at the University of Arkansas, honoring their former professor.

Along with his professional accomplishments, Ves contributed to every community of which he was a part. He was elected to two terms on the Bartlesville Board of Education, including a term as board president. In Stillwater, he served on the Public Library Board and received the Stillwater Community Service Award. He was an active part of the governance of the Bartlesville First United Methodist Church and the Stillwater First United Methodist Church, and a lively participant in the Springdale First United Methodist Church’s Sunday School program, where he was known for asking unanswerable questions, and a member of the Springdale church’s library board. He was an affiliate member of the Washington County Democratic Women. He loved and excelled at duplicate bridge.

Ves was a brilliant, funny, thoughtful, engaged, and caring husband, father, grandfather, brother, son, colleague, and friend. He loved his family, he loved science, and he loved his communities. In retirement, little brought him more pleasure than answering the science questions of his grandchildren and thinking of projects to do with them. He also enjoyed challenging “experts” – including, emphatically, himself. When possible, he loved to do both at once, as when he and his granddaughter designed and performed an experiment to test the widespread (but, they showed, wrong) notion that hot water freezes faster than cold water.

He is survived by his wife Holly H. Childs, with whom he celebrated their 47th anniversary the week prior to his death; one daughter, Lisa C. Childs (Don Hendrix) of Fayetteville, Arkansas; two sons, Michael A. Childs (Jennifer Childs) of Hillsboro, Oregon, and William G. Childs (Dena Childs) of Northampton, Massachusetts; two brothers, O. Allen Childs of Little Rock, Arkansas, and S. Bart Childs of College Station, Texas; and six grandchildren: Ella and Liam Childs of Northampton, Massachusetts; Maggie Hendrix of Fayetteville; and Tynan, Kian, and Hope Childs of Hillsboro, Oregon. He was predeceased by one brother, Mac Childs of Magnolia, Arkansas.

Memorial services will be held at 10:30 on Tuesday, June 30, 2009 at First United Methodist Church in Springdale, Arkansas.

Memorial contributions may be made to the W. Ves Childs Science Education Fund at the University of Arkansas, Development Office, 525 Old Main, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas 72701, or to Southern Arkansas University Foundation, W. Ves Childs Fund, Development Office, P. O. Box 9174, Magnolia, Arkansas 71754-9174.

Arrangements are under the direction of Nelson-Berna Funeral Home and Crematory of Fayetteville.

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