Public invited to ‘fun history lesson’

Offspring of China Lake legends will present ‘Charlie and Willy stories’

Public invited to ‘fun history lesson’The Historical Society, the Maturango Museum, and the China Lake Museum Foundation will present a rare opportunity on Saturday, Nov. 9, for our community to hear tales about two legendary figures from China Lake’s history — Dr. Charles C. Lauritsen and Dr. William A. Fowler.

Lauritsen’s grandchildren — Margaret Press and Eric Lauritsen — will be at the Historic USO Building that afternoon reminiscing about the colorful life of their grandfather before he flew over our valley in 1943 and picked the site for NOTS.

In the audience will be Willy Fowler’s granddaughters, Mary E. Fowler and Martha Schoenemann.

“What an appropriate way to celebrate China Lake’s 70th anni-versary!” said Liz Babcock, Maturango Museum history curator. “We hope the public will participate in this fun history lesson!”

Lauritsen and Fowler were world-class scientists — and vibrant individuals. Charlie and Willy stories will be the order of the day.

The event, presented at the Historic USO Building, will start at 1 p.m. with a light buffet lunch, and the photo-illustrated reminiscences will begin at around 2:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

Our visitors are especially interested in meeting anyone who may remember the early Navy-Caltech team.

Lauritsen’s and Fowler’s progeny have fascinating backstories of their own.

After a childhood in Pasadena, Magaret Press earned a B.A. in linguistics from UC Berkeley and a Ph.D. in linguistics from UCLA. (Her field was Uto-Aztecan languages, specifically Chemehuevi.)

For the past 30 years, she’s been working in computer programming, currently at InterSystems in Cambridge, Mass.

In her spare time she’s a mystery writer and DNA genealogy enthusiast. She has one daughter, Sara, and two grandchildren.

Eric Lauritsen also grew up in Pasadena, spending a few months as a toddler here at the White Star Mine with Dr. Emory and Marion Ellis after his mother died. (His father, Dr. Tom Lauritsen, was heavily involved in the WWII Caltech rocket program here.)

Eric earned his B.S. in geology from the University of Arizona, and is now a retired research geophysicist from Newmont Mining Corp. He, his wife Jeanette and daughter Christina live in Parker, Colo.

The Fowler offspring also had productive careers, with Mary Fowler a retired federal employee residing in Bethesda, Md., and Martha Fowler Schoenemann running a real estate business in Pawlet, Vermont, with her husband, Bob.

“I am the younger of the two, born in 1944 in Los Angeles while Willy was in the  South Pacific advising on rockets,” Martha said.

China Lake is also extending a warm welcome to our visitors, with a meeting with Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division Execu-tive Director Scott O’Neil, a tour of Lauritsen Lab and a visit to the China Lake Museum set to take place earlier in the day.

“We’d like to thank Dan Spurgeon, the SpringHill Suites by Marriott and the Hampton Inn for graciously providing accommodations for our visitors,” said Babcock.

Story First Published: 2013-10-30