Nerses “Krik” H. Krikorian passed peacefully on to his next adventure with his daughter by his side April 18, 2018. He was one of the last living scientists involved in the Manhattan Project.
Krik was born by the side of the road outside Harput, Turkey, January 23, 1921. His parents, fleeing as refugees from the Armenian genocide, took a circuitous route to the United States, passing through Syria, Greece, France and Canada before arriving in Niagara Falls, New York, where he spent his formative years. He graduated cum laude from Niagara University in 1943 and was immediately drawn into a small group of radiation chemists at Union Carbide, exploring uranium enrichment for the Manhattan Project. In 1946, he was sent to Los Alamos National Laboratory for what he thought would be a year. It was love at first sight when he met Katherine Patterson during a dance shortly after his arrival and they were married in March 1948, a marriage of almost 65 years. In 1951 they had their only child, Debra.
Krik ultimately retired from LANL in 1991 after working on everything from materials science to nonproliferation. His professional accomplishments included over 50 open publications, numerous patents and innumerable classified intelligence assessments.
He became a Los Alamos Laboratory Fellow in 1985 and was awarded the Los Alamos National Laboratory Medal in 2003. Niagara University and the Armenian Academy of Sciences bestowed honorary doctorate of science degrees to him in 2005. For all the accolades Krik received, he remained humble and continually amazed at the opportunities given him, particularly scientist-to-scientist interactions at an international level in the Soviet Union, Russia, Armenia, Georgia, China and other countries. His contributions to nonproliferation of nuclear weapons were noteworthy but very personal.
Krik was engaged in many community activities important to the development of Los Alamos. Early on he was involved in Los Alamos Light Opera productions, appearing in Pirates of Penzance, Robin Hood and other Gilbert and Sullivan productions in the late 1940s and early 1950s. He also appeared in supporting roles at the Don Juan Play House in the 1960s. Krik served as president of the YMCA. He was heavily involved in writing the Charter for Los Alamos County/City. He was a founding member of the United Church of Los Alamos and served the church in many capacities. In his later years he also served on the Oppenheimer Condominium board of directors.
Krik loved classical music and jazz, and he translated Armenian poetry. He could quote the entire Rubiat of Omar Kaham and loved classical poetry. He enjoyed playing and watching tennis. Krik taught many young folks how to fish over the years and has served as a mentor to youth, guiding them to always be the best person possible and to stretch themselves academically.
Krik will be remembered by people throughout the world not only for his contributions to science and national security, but most importantly as a man who shared his experience and wisdom to enhance the future.
He was preceded in death by his parents Lucy and Hachig Krikorian and brothers Arthur and Mike. He is survived by his sister, Dorothy Krikorian; daughter Debra Krikorian; niece Holly (and Ed) Otrumpky.; and nephew Gregory (and Mary) Krikorian.
A memorial service will be held at the United Church of Los Alamos 29 May at 1:30pm. He will be interred with his wife at Santa Fe National Cemetery Wednesday, April 25th at 11:15am.
In lieu of flowers please send donations to the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Committee Scholarship Fund (P.O. Box 220 Los Alamos, NM 87554) or the United Church of Los Alamos (2525 Canyon Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544). The family of Nerses “Kirk” H. Krikorian has entrusted the care of their loved one to DeVargas Funeral Home & Crematory of the Española Valley.