S. Peter Gary died after a short illness on April 21, 2021 in Santa Fe, NM. He was 81 years old.
Peter was born in Cleveland, Ohio. His parents were Stephen Gary and Marie Shiglinsky Gary. His father taught at Memorial High School in Campbell, Ohio, a Youngstown suburb where his parents raised Peter and his brother Dennis. The two boys were best friends and were raised in a loving family-oriented home. His mother was the star of their Byzantine Church choir and head of the PTA; she guided the family’s basic values and religious beliefs. Peter and Dennis were both students in their father’s ninth grade Algebra I class, where their father exposed both boys to the logic and challenges of mathematics, leading them to advanced degrees and careers in science and engineering, respectively. Their father also inspired Peter and Dennis to develop a love of train photography spending many summers traveling west to photograph locomotives. They pursued this through adulthood and were know as “The Gary Brothers” in professional train circles.
Peter graduated as a National Merit scholar and Valedictorian of his high school class and attended Case Institute of Technology in Cleveland earning a B.S. in Physics. He received a M.S. and Ph.D. in Physics at Washington University in St. Louis. He married Patricia Teves in 1966 and they were blessed with two children.
Peter pursued postdoctoral studies in Plasma Physics Theory at the University of Iowa, the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and at the University College of North Wales. In 1970, he became Assistant Professor and later Associate Professor of Physics at the College of William and Mary. Seven years later he became a staff member at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) where he used theory and computer simulations to study many different problems in Space Plasma Physics. From the late 80s to the early 90s Peter served as a Group Leader. Named a LANL Fellow in 2002, he became a Fellow of the American Physical Society and later the American Geophysical Society. He continued receiving grants to continue his theoretical research activities at Space Science Institute of Boulder until shortly before his death and at last count was author or co-author of more than 320 published scientific papers. Cambridge University Press published his book, “Theory of Space Plasma Microinstabilities.”
While Peter life revolved strongly around physics, he was a very active father driving his daughter to her gymnastic meets throughout New Mexico and being a supportive Boy Scout dad participating in weekend hikes and camping trips. Like many Los Alamos families, winters centered around skiing. Peter skied through 2019 when he and his ski buddy, Steve Newfield, both decided to retire with no broken bones. Any trip to Albuquerque included a stop at the railroad yard in search of locomotives Peter had yet to photograph. Every family visit with his brother involved an effort to photo more locomotives or a ride on one of the classic railroads still operating.
Classical music was always a daily part of Peter’s life both as a backdrop to his challenging physics and as a patron or board member of the Los Alamos Concert Association. When he moved to Santa Fe he supported the musical events our town offers. He not only enjoyed music he spent years singing in the Los Alamos Choral Society and his church choir at Immaculate Heart of Mary. On moving to Santa Fe he joined the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi main choir singing joyfully each Sunday. Quiet as he was, he just loved every moment of singing God’s message and being with his choir members over the last 17 years.
Peter Catholic faith was always so strong from his collegiate days in the Neumann Club and through out all his life. He was an inspiration to his wife. He believed and looked forward to the afterlife and to eternal happiness and a reunion with his loved ones and friends.
In 2003 Peter remarried. His wife, Carol Ann Miller Mullaney who shared those wonderful last years together traveling, volunteering, and enjoying life survives him. They loved expanding their circle of family and friends. Peter leaves his two children, Anne Rogers and her husband Dean Rogers and their children, his much loved Ashley and Jack Rogers. He leaves his son, James Gary. He had that very special relationship to the very end with his brother Dennis Gary with a lifetime of wonderful memories of experiences with the late Martine Gary and her wonderful French family. He also leaves his two nephews, Stefan Gary and Jean Pierre (JP) Gary and their delightful wives and children. He had the greatest affection for his cousins Dan & Donna Whitman and their families. Peter was delighted inheriting his new family and really cared about Brian Mullaney and Rene Galardy and Maura Mullaney.
Peter was doing his life’s work of contributing to his field of research and mentoring student right up to two weeks before his death. The family shares one of the many messages from one of his students and colleagues for those who didn’t know Peter well. “Peter’s boundless energy and unquenchable enthusiasm made me think he would outlive us all. I have so many wonderful memories of him, his love of doing science and his countless acts of thoughtfulness. He was a wonderful scientist, full of insight and experience, truly Mr. Plasma Instability!.....I learned so much from him, and I was inspired by his sheer goodness as a person. I never met anyone with such a servant heart……He was greatly beloved by all. I am sure the angels are rejoicing to receive him.”
For those wishing to make a donation in his name, we suggest donating to one of the musical organizations in Santa Fe presenting classic music or to the efforts of the choir program at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi that he loved.
Due to COVID, services will be delayed to late spring with a mass and celebration of Peter’s life held at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Frances of Assisi.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Stephen Peter Gary, please visit our floral store.