John Thomas Ives, who grew up to help design and build many of the iconic aerospace projects of our time, was born December 2, 1928, in Guthrie, Oklahoma to John Maxwell and Mildred Feland Ives.
The family moved to Stillwater in 1937. In junior high school John played the clarinet in the band, but not with much enthusiasm, since he wanted to play the trumpet and disliked practicing. He always said he and Hoover Fisher competed for last chair, and Hoover won when he was there.
He attended Stillwater High School, graduating in 1946. There, he gave up the clarinet in favor of singing in choruses and glee club and came to enjoy performing in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Love of music was to prompt him to sing in church choirs, civic choruses, community theater, and grand opera later in life.
He was also a member of the Order of Demolay, attaining the office of Master Councilor. He spent his high school summers working at the Payne County creamery and for Al Guthrie Aviation at the airport, which helped determine his life direction as an engineer in the field of aerospace engineering, rather than animal husbandry which would have pleased his father.
Upon graduating from high school, he enrolled at Oklahoma A&M College and joined the Acacia fraternity. As a mechanical engineering major, he learned about mechanics, mechanisms, and all about steam engines which by then were becoming history, according to John.
He married Lucille Rogers from Bartlesville in 1952, and they had three daughters, Barbara, Ruth Ann, and Molly, before parting in 1973.
Upon graduating from college in January 1951 with a MSME, his first stop was working for Boeing Airplane Co. in Wichita as a tool designer for the B-47 bomber, using the drafting skills he had learned in high school and college. Next, he went to California to work for Northrop Aviation’s celestial navigator for the Snark guided missile using electronic skills he had picked up while working on amateur radios. Subsequently, he returned to Oklahoma to enroll in electrical engineering. He graduated in 1953 with a BSEE. These two bachelor’s degrees allowed him to apply for a job in either field or to bring both disciplines to bear on the problem at hand. Now that he was qualified to work on steam engines or dynamos he wanted to work on rockets and guided missiles, but there was no course of study for these as yet.
After graduation he joined Western Electric Co. in order to work at White Sands Proving Ground developing guided missiles for air defense. Rocketry and
servo-mechanisms had been long-term interests of his and missile development fit these interests well. He worked on developing the Nike systems, Ajax, Hercules, and Zeus while on loan to Bell Laboratories. He was asked to help set up an Engineering Research Center near Princeton to research manufacturing techniques to augment Western Electric Co. as the production branch of the Bell System. He left Western Electric Co. in 1964 and moved the family to Tulsa to be nearer to his children's grandparents and to engage in rocket-borne, upper atmosphere research with AVCO, Tulsa Division. Among other pursuits, he designed a rocket payload to measure the helium geocorona surrounding the earth. This work led to a job with Kitt Peak National Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, designing an ultra-violet spectrometer for the Mariner spacecraft to fly by Venus and Mercury and analyze their atmospheres. This led to design and development of the spectrometer aboard the Voyager spacecraft, flying by Jupiter and Saturn and subsequently leaving the Solar system. He had become an aerospace engineer.
At Northrop, in Ventura, California, he designed the avionics and autopilot for a flying wing drone, and he designed the first new autopilot developed for a flying wing in decades.
When the drone project finished, he moved to Garrett Inc. in Torrance, California and worked on an engine health monitor and various pieces of test equipment. One was a chamber to produce conditioned air for testing the Carbon Dioxide Removal Assembly, a unit of the International Space Station.
In 1978, he married Concetta Ardagna. He retired in 1995 from Allied Signal Aerospace to care for Connie, who died in 2004. He and Sandra Stevens Hudgins, whom he had known for many years, were married in 2007.
He and Sandy became charter, contributing members of the "Renegade Writers from OLLI", led by Judy Ramsey. John’s work allowed him to live in many locations, including
Wichita KS, Inglewood CA, El Paso TX, Pennington NJ, Tulsa OK, Tucson AZ, Los Angeles CA, San Felipe, Baja, Mexico and Oklahoma City before returning to Stillwater, his home town.
He was predeceased by his parents Maxwell and Mildred Ives; a sister, Dorothy Ives Hotchkiss; former wives Lucille Rogers Ives and Concetta Ardagna Ives; and step-son Leonard Ardagna. He is survived by his wife Sandra Stevens Ives, his daughters Barbara Ives/Fox, Ruth Ives and Molly Ives Brower, his step-daughters Donna McNutt and Michelle Husband, step-son Richard Brown and grandson Christopher Brower.
Memorial services are to be held at the First Presbyterian Church on Thursday May12 at 10:30am with burial at Fairlawn Cemetery in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Strode Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.