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Donald Edwin Koelsch

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has received word of the death of retiree Donald Edwin Koelsch on January 28, in the comfort of his home, surrounded by his loving family.  He was 80. 

Don was born October 22, 1930 in the small town of Park Ridge, NJ. He served in the military (Navy) from 1950 to 1955 as a senior electronic technician, aboard the destroyer, USS Larson, and was a master mason in good standing of Brazos Union, Grand Lodge of Texas. He graduated from Texas A&M University in 1969 with a degree in Electrical Engineering, which he applied to the field of Oceanography while working at Lamont Geological Labs in NY, and the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University.

Don began his career at WHOI in 1971 as a research associate in the Geology and Geophysics Department.  In 1973 he was promoted to research specialist.  With Mike Purdy, Ken Peal, and John Ewing, Don was instrumental in developing ocean bottom hydrophones and ocean bottom seismometers at WHOI.  At the time, these instruments were revolutionary because they did not drift with the ocean currents like sonobuoys, and they acquired high fidelity acoustic and seismic measurements from the deep seafloor.  These instruments were used in many scientific projects for the National Science Foundation and the Office of Naval Research and contributed data to many PhD theses in the MIT/WHOI Joint Program.  They are the forebears of today’s Ocean Bottom Seismometer Instrumentation Pool (OBSIP) at WHOI. 

In 1983, Don transferred to the Ocean Engineering Department where he continued to be active in ocean bottom seismometer instrumentation.  With Ralph Stephen, Don was the lead engineer at WHOI on the development of the Seafloor Borehole Seismic System (SEABASS).  In 1989 this equipment was successfully deployed in a borehole off the coast of Florida in 4,971 meters water depth.  The wireline re-entry system was developed and operated by Fred Spiess’ Deep Tow Group at Scripps.  

In 1990 Don was promoted to research specialist and then to principal engineer. Prior to his retirement in 1995, Don worked on instrumentation for the Ocean Seismic Network Pilot Experiment, a borehole observatory system to extend the global seismic network to the seafloor, and NOBEL, a seismic system for deploying multiple explosive charges near the seafloor. 

“Don set the standard for a generation of oceanographers. His legacy are the scientists and engineers from many organizations who worked with him and were inspired by him and who have gone on to successful careers in oceanographic laboratories throughout the U.S.,” said Stephen.

After retirement, Don enjoyed traveling with his wife and sharing his knowledge of many places he had visited during his extensive career. Don also was an accomplished woodworker, whose beautiful furniture remains as a tribute to him at his home in Hanover, MA, as well as the family retreat in Washington, NH.  Don was also an active member of the Lutheran Church of The Cross in Hanover, MA.

Don’s high standards set the benchmark for his family of whom he was so proud. He will be missed by his wife of 55 years, Josephine (Delligatti); children, Janet Lynn Koelsch Schwartz (husband, Eric) of Tolland, CT; Dyana Ruth Koelsch Dana (husband, Mark) of Barrington, RI; Donald Christian Koelsch (wife, Susan) of Wilmington, DE; and Eric Joseph Koelsch (wife, Lori) of Wilmington, DE. He was blessed with 13 grandchildren and a great grandson. Don is also survived by a sister, Frances Erickson of Seminole, FL.

A private burial will take place at Hanover Cemetery. A memorial service in celebration of his life will be held at Lutheran Church of the Cross in Hanover, MA, on February 5, at 11:00 a.m. Immediately following the service, Don’s family and the Ladies of the Cross will host a reception in the Church Hall.

In place of flowers, the family asks that donations please be sent to Norwell VNA Hospice, 91 Longwater Circle, Norwell, MA 02061.

Some of the information for this obituary was taken from the Sullivan Funeral Home website.

Donald Edwin Koelsch