The Health Physics Society has suffered a great loss with the recent passing of one of the giants of our profession - Melton Chew (Figure 1). Mel was the son of George N. and Alice K. Chew and he is survived by his wife of 35 years, Kelley, children, Brigitte Johnson and son-in law, Randy Johnson, Kevin Chew and daughter-in law, Eileen Chew, Christopher Chew and daughter-in-law, Deanna Chew, brother Calvin Chew and sister-in law, Dorthey Chew and grandchildren, Siera Herring, Piper Johnson, Sawyer Johnson, Allison Chew, Alex Chew, and Lillian Chew. Mel also leaves behind a host of nieces and nephews, friends and colleagues whose lives he touched in so many ways.
Mel earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of California and began his career in 1959 at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) where he served as Senior Operational Health Physicist and Manager through 1988. Highlights of Mel’s career include: Instituting and leading the Environmental Safety and Health (ES&H) program and the safety design criteria for experimental facilities that separately handled and processed gram quantities of tritium, kilogram quantities of plutonium and uranium, inertial fusion processes, and hazardous chemicals; and ES&H support manager for uranium and plutonium laser isotope separation optical lasers, including the world’s largest and most powerful laser. Mel led Tiger Team reviews of the radiation safety and health physics programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) weapons research and production complex. He was considered a leading expert in understanding the behavior of special nuclear materials and nuclear weapons under accident conditions. He possessed experiential knowledge of past, present, and likely future operational, materials management, and waste management issues facing each DOE weapons production facility and national laboratories, particularly in the areas of operational health physics, operational safety, and criticality safety. He also served as a Senior Health and Safety Coordinator for LLNL-directed projects at Nevada Test Site, and as a Senior Health Physicist with the DOE Nuclear Emergency Search Team. Mel quipped that he had probably witnessed more nuclear weapons tests than anyone else on the planet.
In 1988, Mel left LLNL and became the founder and President of M. H. Chew & Associates, Inc. (CAI). Over the next 32 years, Mel led and mentored hundreds of health physicists, industrial hygienists, engineers, and other safety professionals. Under Mel’s leadership, CAI supported the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s radiation dose reconstruction project as a member of the Oak Ridge Associated Universities Team, the Safety and Mission Assurance Support effort for human flight programs at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Johnson Space Center, and most DOE facilities and laboratories, including LLNL.
Mel loved to golf (Figure 2), and he and Kelley spent more than 12 months total travelling around the world twice (Figure 3, 4) on cruise ships.