Kurt Snover died suddenly and unexpectedly on Friday, Oct. 29, 2021, while on a walk near his Winthrop home.
Kurt was born April 26, 1943, in Albany, New York, the first child of James Edward and Jane Gilson Snover. He showed his characteristic determination when, at an early age, he wanted to play with his younger brother toys. When he asked his mother for permission, she said, “you’ll have to ask your father.” Young Kurt walked onto the campus of Syracuse University and up and down the halls of the math department. His dad was sure surprised when, in the midst of giving a lecture, the door opened and in walked Kurt asking, “Dad, can I play with Kenneth’s toys?”
The family moved to Tallahassee, Florida, when Kurt was in fourth grade, delivering a young “Yankee” to a town not particularly supportive of bookish boys with glasses. Kurt’s north Florida adventures included pumping gas at the local airport, cave diving in limestone “sinks” and underground rivers, and scuba diving and water skiing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Kurt graduated magna cum laude from Florida State University in 1964, having earned a bachelor of science degree with honors in physics and the heart of a beautiful blond farm girl, Susan Patchin. After marrying in Lakeland, Florida, they drove out west, where they fell in love with the mountains and began hiking and climbing in the Sierra, daughter Amy was born, and Kurt earned his PhD in nuclear physics from Stanford University in 1969.
After a short stint back on the East Coast for his postdoctoral studies at Stony Brook University in New York, Kurt, Susan and little Amy drove back west in a green Triumph convertible in 1972 for Kurt’s new position with the University of Washington’s Nuclear Physics Lab. In Seattle, son Conrad was born and the family enjoyed countless outdoor adventures — mountaineering, hiking, camping, climbing and skiing in the Cascades, Olympics and Pasayten. Kurt loved the Northwest and never wanted to live anywhere else.
At UW, Kurt established a well-known research program investigating important reactions in nuclear astrophysics. His colleagues have told us that Kurt’s scientific work is characterized by uncompromising quality and deep understanding of nuclear physics. His graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, now working across the U.S. and Europe, have shared that they found him an excellent educator and kind and thoughtful mentor with an infectious love of physics.
After retiring as research professor in 2007, Kurt and Susan moved to Winthrop, which had been their relaxation getaway home for over a decade and adventure destination for nearly 30 years. (Some of the family’s fondest memories are of zany New Year’s Eves spent making and modeling silly hats at the Lost River Motel and Rendezvous Huts in the 1970s.) In the valley, Kurt continued his energizer bunny-like activity level, cycling, skiing and hiking with Susan and his friends. He was actively involved in the GASPers bike group (Geezers All Still Pedaling), and the Ski-zers ski group, and served as a volunteer for Methow At Home and Methow Recycles. Kurt developed a new love — photography — focusing his lens on all kinds of birds, and the activities of his family, friends and community groups. He loved to read, learn, question and debate; tell stories; laugh at jokes; be outside; solve all problems by getting more exercise; and spend time with Cory Nevins and Cruz Snover, his grandsons, who were the joys of his life.
Kurt never wanted to leave the Methow; we’re thankful he never had to. He left 6,980 open tabs on his internet browser, and an enormous hole in our hearts.
He is survived by his wife of 57 years, Susan, daughter Amy (Chip Nevins), son Conrad (Lisa), grandsons Cory Nevins and Cruz Snover; and siblings Kenneth Snover, Jim Snover and Janice Smith.
Our fondest memories as a family are of spending time together in the outdoors, so in lieu of flowers, please relish your time with those who are closest to you, read the newspaper and think, and tell people how much you love them. Kurt would be honored if you helped him support the Friends of Winthrop Library, Methow Housing Trust or the Alaska Wilderness League.