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Archives, History & Records Office

| Archives, History & Records Office |

Last Updated: 11/09/2020

Hours: By appointment Monday-Friday during regular work hours.


Archives E-mail: slacarc[@]
RM E-mail: recordsmgt[@]
Phone: (650)926-3091
Post: SLAC Archives and History Office, M/S 82, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Office Location: Bldg.50, Rm.122

Helmut Wiedemann Story

I first met Helmut in the late 80s. The USPAS had a recruiting table at an APS meeting and a group met in the hotel lobby before going to dinner on the night we all arrived. Helmut walked into the hotel after a long flight and overheard our plans and decided to join us. He not only came to dinner, he went dancing with us afterwards too -- despite his long day of travel and the late hour. I soon came to learn that Helmut was always up for anything, he never turned down an invitation for fun.

Over the years I got to know Helmut quite well as he lectured at our symposium schools, our joint international schools and taught at our university-style schools. He was director of the USPAS from 2002 to 2006. We spent a lot of time together over those 30+ years. When not officially on duty he never wanted to talk shop -- ever. We talked about everything else though, especially our shared love of post-apocalyptic fiction (it really annoyed him when gasoline was still viable 10 or 20 years after the end of the world), travel (he always had the most entertaining stories about his many travels and I kept a running tally of how many times he got mugged in Rio), and food (before I knew what they were, I remember watching in horror as he ate an entire soft-shelled crab). We laughed a lot.

Helmut decided that we should take the USPAS to Baton Rouge, Louisiana for our winter 2003 session. When I asked him why he chose Baton Rouge, especially with New Orleans right next door, he told me a fascinating story about always wanting to visit the area as his German-soldier father was held nearby in a U.S. prisoner-of-war camp in the early 40s. At the time there was a shortage of farm laborers so they turned an old plantation into a camp and made the prisoners work the fields. He visited that plantation while we were there, but declined my offer to go with him.

Helmut was unflappable and that made him a joy to work with. He didn't sweat either. In 2005 we were in Ithaca for a session with Cornell University and over the weekend he and I decided to hike up one of their beautiful waterfalls. It was a very hot day and by the time we got to the top I was an exhausted sweaty mess and there was Helmut -- absolutely pristine in his dress slacks, crisply ironed shirt and loafers -- as fresh as a daisy (photo below). Not sweaty, not out of breath and not a hair out of place.

After moving to Thailand, he would tell me stories about how he was treated like a king with a driver and housekeeper who would tie little bags around each piece of fruit on his trees to keep the birds from eating them. He liked to take big groups of students out to dinner and always picked up the tab, they were very impressed with his generosity and it made him laugh when the bill came to the equivalent of something like $12 US. When it first came on TV, he loved the reality show "The Amazing Race" but could only watch it in Thailand a year or two after it aired in the US so he would ask me to watch it and then email a synopsis to him every week. I wouldn't have done that for anyone but Helmut.

Helmut was a great friend and I will miss him very much.

Susan Winchester

Helmut Wiedemann, 2005