Murlin Joseph Nutter passed away February 5, 2023 in Los Alamos, New Mexico, having recently turned 97 years of age. He was born January 23, 1926 in Portis, Kansas at the home of his parents, the Reverend Chester Merl Nutter and his wife, born Grace Anna Anderson. Murlin’s wife of 65 years, the former Miss Barbara Louise Adee, died in May 2013. In addition to his parents, he also was predeceased by all of his siblings; his twin sister Merline Ann Snyder and two brothers, Chester Glenn Nutter and David Lee Nutter. After the death of Murlin’s mother in 1955, his father remarried a widow, Ora May (nee Hillbrand) Canfield, who also predeceased her stepson.
A remembrance service celebrating Murlin’s life is scheduled for Saturday, April 29, 2023 at 2pm in the United Church of Los Alamos. In lieu of flowers, the family prefers those wishing to remember the life of Murlin Joseph Nutter instead consider a memorial donation in his name to the Columbarium Fund at the United Church of Los Alamos, 2525 Canyon Road, Los Alamos, New Mexico, 87544.
Murlin had many fond memories of his youthful years in Kansas, interspersed with some less fond ones of family life during the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, and World War II. While still in high school, he founded and operated a radio repair shop to serve a need in his community. He graduated from Dickinson County (Kansas) Community High School in 1943, where he played various brass band instruments depending on what was available to rent.
After graduation, he was drafted by the U. S. Army but received a deferment when they found near deafness in one ear, a result of a childhood illness. Undeterred, he attempted to enlist in the U. S. Navy and somehow was able to pass the mass-screening hearing test. In March 1944, Murlin entered boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. He later received extended training in both radio operations, and electronics maintenance and repair. He was honorably discharged in June 1946 as an Aviation Electronics Technician’s Mate First Class, but remained in the U. S. Navy Reserve. Interestingly, at his discharge the Navy discovered his deaf ear and, assuming it was the fault of naval gunfire training, awarded him a 10% disability, with monthly payments which continued until his death.
In September 1946, he enrolled at the Kansas State College of Agriculture and Applied Science (which in 1959 become Kansas State University). In calculus class he met and fell in love with another student, Miss Barbara Louise Adee. They were married May 31, 1948 in her hometown of Belleville, Kansas. Barbara left college to work, while Murlin continued his studies. He completed a four-year course in only three years, and graduated in August 1949 with a B. S. Degree in Electrical Engineering.
The couple almost immediately moved to Detroit, Michigan, where Murlin began his career with Bendix Corporation. While there, the couple’s first two children were born, daughters Susan Elaine “Suzi” Nutter, and Judith Anne “Judy” Nutter. In early 1957, Murlin was part of a Bendix team delivering a rocket component to the military at White Sands Missile Test Range near Alamogordo, New Mexico. While there, his supervisor discovered a project team from the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL) needed help, and asked Murlin to spend a year there. While living and working in Los Alamos as a Bendix contractor, the couple’s final child, daughter Nancy Elizabeth Nutter, was born.
The family returned to Detroit in the summer of 1958, but everyone, especially Murlin’s wife Barbara, longed to return to the natural beauty and much smaller community of Los Alamos. While delivering another project component to the LASL in 1961, a manager asked Murlin to join their team. He immediately agreed, moving his family there that summer and beginning a 30-year career with LASL. While working full time, Murlin continued his formal education, and in June 1970 earned an M. S. Degree in Nuclear Engineering from the University of New Mexico.
His first LASL assignment was working on nuclear-thermal rocket engines for Project Rover. However, this meant leaving his recently relocated family alone while Murlin spent months at a time testing rocket engines at Jackass Flats, part of the Nevada National Security Site in Nye County, Nevada. Later he helped develop lasers for use in fusion energy development, evaluated computing technology developed by countries of the former Soviet bloc, and worked developing particle detectors for the target chamber of the meson linear accelerator located at Los Alamos, among many other projects. In 1991, he retired from the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL, before 1981 known as the LASL).
Outside of his work life, Murlin had many interests and activities. Beginning during his family’s one-year stint in Los Alamos in 1957-58, and continuing after their permanent move there in 1961, Murlin and his family were active members of the United Church of Los Alamos. He served in many capacities, from replacing the shingles on the steeple to serving as a Church Elder. He had taken a class in photography while an undergraduate at Kansas State, and during his lifetime took thousands of pictures of family, friends, and the world around him.
Despite only being able to hear in one ear, Murlin loved singing. He was a member of the Los Alamos Choral Society for many years. When it formed in 1992, he joined the Lads of Enchantment (LOE) barbershop chorus. He served as treasurer for the LOE for years, and his last concert with that group was in 2019. In retirement, Murlin was really able to concentrate on his long-held favorite hobby, woodworking, building an entire Early American-style bedroom set (including a canopy bed) for their primary bedroom. He also tried his hand at wood-carving, creating a large plaque for the LOE to display at their performances, which is still used today.
In 1964 Murlin and Barbara purchased a lot in Pajarito Acres of White Rock, and in 1965 moved into the home they had built there. In the summer of 2011, due to Barbara’s faltering health, they moved from there to an apartment in Aspen Ridge Lodge, a senior living facility adjacent to the Sombrillo Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility, both part of the Los Alamos Retirement Community (LARC, a local non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the community’s senior care needs). As he had throughout his life, Murlin served his new community as Vice-President of the Aspen Ridge Lodge Members’ Council for several years. His family would like to thank the staff at Aspen Ridge for their loving care of Murlin for the past 11-plus years, as well as the staff of Sombrillo for his care during the last six weeks of his life. We also are so grateful for all the kind words and remembrances of Murlin which other residents shared with us these past few weeks. We will miss him deeply, but know he is with Mom in heaven.
Murlin is survived by three daughters; Suzi (Rod) Saint of Willow Park, Texas, Judy (R.B.) Davis of Gilbert, Arizona, and Nancy (Bob) Yonkers of Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Also grandchildren Jeff (Morgan Mitchell) Saint, Will (Jessie Reich) Saint, Stacy (Justin) Cantrell, David (Heather Riley) Davis, Mike Yonkers, and Tim Yonkers. Also, six (soon to be seven) great-grandchildren.
The family of Murlin Nutter has entrusted the care of their loved one to the DeVargas Funeral Home and Crematory of the Española Valley. (505)747-7477 www.devargasfuneral.com