Stephen E. Dwornik 1926-2012

Stephen DwornikStephen Eugene Dwornik passed away peacefully on December 17, 2012. Dwornik was born July 3, 1926, in Buffalo, New York, to Stephen Dwornik and Helena Januszkiewicz Soltys.

Beloved husband of 61 years to Kathleen Westphal Dwornik; father to Kris Bragg (Al), Karen McCaa (Kevin), and David Dwornik (Fran); Grampy to Matthew, Stephanie and Jessica Bragg; Jason (Lori), Michael and Michelle McCaa; Emily and Alex Dwornik. As a young boy he lived above, and worked at his parents’ neighborhood bar, learning from his mother a work ethic and social liveliness he never lost.

He attended Buffalo’s prestigious Technical High School and enlisted in the Army at age 17 (with the blessings of his mother in support of her adopted country). Dwornik, 102nd Division, fought along the front lines in Europe, participated in the Battle of the Bulge and received the Army’s Bronze Star for his service. After returning to Buffalo, he entered the State University of New York at Buffalo where he received both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Geology. Summer work included field work in Alaska along the Brooks Range in the late 1940s. After several years of persistent courting, he married the “One Love of his Life”, Kathleen Rose Westphal, on June 2, 1951, and moved to Springfield, Virginia, to begin a career dedicated to scientific advancements, starting with mine detection at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Laboratories and continuing with planetary geology space research at NASA.

While at NASA, Dwornik acted as a Project Manager for the Surveyor Program (seven unmanned Moon landing spacecrafts). Dwornik co-authored several books, including Atlas of Mercury. One of his fondest memories was providing the first substantial NASA grant monies to a young astronomer named Carl Sagan. After Dwornik’s retirement from NASA, he enjoyed a second career with Ball Aerospace, including volunteer work helping to create a planetary Braille map and being a speaker for ElderHostel courses. He was a perennial joker and loved pranks, puns, and humor of all kinds. He was also a die-hard Washington Redskins fan, first obtaining season-tickets in 1954, and continuing in the family to this day. Some of his favorite memories were also spent with his entire family at Jekyll Island, GA for annual Summer vacations, continuously from 1969. He endowed the Stephen E. Dwornik Paper Award for Planetary Geology to support future generations of scientists.

Contributions in his memory may be made to the Stephen E. Dwornik Award c/o Geological Society of America Foundation, P.O. Box 9140, Boulder, CO 80301; or to the Multiple Sclerosis Society/National Capital Chapter, 1800 M Street, NW, Suite 750 South, Washington, DC 20036. Celebration of his life to be scheduled later.

Published in The Washington Post on December 22, 2012…