Harold W. Schmitt, 92, passed away on February 11, 2021 after a brief illness surrounded by family in Woodstock, GA. Dr. Schmitt was born on August 11, 1928 in Seguin, TX, the son of Ben E. and Gertrude Thiele Schmitt.
His family moved to Dallas in 1944, where he graduated from North Dallas High School in 1945. He attended Southern Methodist University for two years, then the University of Texas at Austin, where he received his bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. degrees. He completed his dissertation at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
He married Jonell Britsch of Hondo, TX in 1952. They moved to Oak Ridge, TN in 1954, where they spent over 60 years. Dr. Schmitt was a researcher in nuclear physics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory until 1973. His groundbreaking work led him to guest lecture frequently around the world. While at ORNL, along with a group of colleagues, he founded and became the first president of ORTEC, Inc., a commercial venture for technology developed at ORNL.
He was president of Environmental Systems Corporation in Knoxville, TN and then co-founder and president of Atom Sciences, Inc. Later, he became a professor of engineering and director of industry programs at The University of Tennessee until retirement in 1999. In retirement, he consulted and was active on many business and community boards in the Oak Ridge and Knoxville areas, notably First United Methodist Church, the Oak Ridge Institute for Continued Learning, and several music associations. His passion for music was widely known and appreciated, and he enjoyed giving piano or organ programs on occasion.
Despite his many professional and personal accomplishments, Dr. Schmitt was always more interested in the lives of his family and friends than in talking about himself. He led with honesty, integrity, and love of family.
He will be lovingly remembered by his wife of 68 years, Jonell, daughters and husbands: Carol & Larry Behm, Laguna Hills, CA; Laine & Gene Harrington, Woodstock, GA; and Joy & John Narciso, Mansfield, TX; seven grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.
A Celebration of Life will be held later this Spring in Oak Ridge, TN.