Obituary of Alfred Rachels Gilbert
Dr. Alfred R. Gilbert passed away on July 26th, 2019 in Wilmington, Delaware. Born, November 27th, 1922, in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to Rev. Oscar Green Gilbert and Mallye Nora Rachels Gilbert, Alfred “Al” Gilbert lived in Richmond, Virginia, through his high school and college years. He received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Richmond. Prior to joining the Navy in 1943, he received his Master’s Degree from Duke University. While in the Navy, he served as a chemist at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC. In this post, he conducted research on the organic synthesis of organosulfur-containing materials, oxidation materials, oxidation reactions and petroleum additives.
After being honorably discharged from the Navy, Al attended Duke University for his PhD degree in organic chemistry. There he met Mary Jo Taylor who was studying for her MS degree in analytic chemistry. The couple received their degrees in 1948 and shortly thereafter were married in Duke Chapel on June 26th, 1948. Both are members of Phi Beta Kappa.
In 1949, Al and Mary Jo moved to Schenectady, NY, where Al joined General Electric Company’s Research and Development Center. The couple had three children: Chris, Greg and Debbie. Al was a wise and loving father. Aside from his corporate life, Al enjoyed woodcarving, photography, camping, fishing, traveling and especially the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He participated in activities of Troop 11 of the Boy Scouts. He was an active member of the former Union Street Christian Church and, more recently, of Emmanuel Friedens Church.
As a chemist, Al specialized in research on silicones, fluorocarbons, new polymerization catalysts, and polymer synthesis and modifications. After serving as a liaison scientist, personnel administrator, and manager of several branches at the Center, Al was appointed manager of the Chemical Synthesis and Engineering Laboratory at the Research Center in 1980 and several years later was appointed as acting research and development manager of the Chemical Laboratories. He is known for his contributions to the development of a number of GE engineering plastics, including Lexan, Noryl, and Valox resins, and more recently, Ultem resin that was discovered by his group.
Al was named co-recipient of the Wire Association International’s 1983 Mordica Memorial Award for outstanding contribution to the advancement of the wire industry through the development of cross-linked polyethylene. This technology was the basis of GE’s cable insulation, commercially known as Vulkene, and had a major impact on the entire wire and cable industry throughout the world.
He was on the advisory boards of the Journal of Polymer Science and the Journal of Fire and Flammability. He was also a member of the New York Academy of Sciences and served on the National Academy of Sciences Ad Hoc Committee of Fire Safety Aspects of Polymeric Materials which led to publication of a series of 10 volumes on the subject.
Al was the author of a number of publications and was awarded 27 patents, several of which were key patents relating to GE’s engineering plastics and Vulkene.
Since his retirement from GE Research and Development Center in 1988, Al served as coordinator for a building and addition project for Emmanuel Baptist Church (now Emmanuel Friedens Church). He also served as Moderator of Emmanuel Friedens Church, chair of the Trustees and Financial Secretary. He was a member of RSVP as a tax preparer for seniors.
He and his wife, Mary Jo, were Founding Members of the Glen Eddy Retirement Community where they had lived since its opening in 2001. There he became organizational interim president of the Resident Council and served on the Information Systems, Dining, and Building and Grounds Committee, which was dedicated to establishing an innovative nursing home on the Glen Eddy site. He especially enjoyed creating carvings from a block of wood and researching and photographing the many flowering trees and wildflowers in the area. The camaraderie of the Glen Eddy “Breakfast Club” (8-9 AM) was a good start for each day.
In retirement, Al and Jo enjoyed for 20 years their favorite get-away destinations: the Gosnold Arms dock-level harborside suite on New Harbor, ME, and revisited a number of times the Island Inn “crow’s nest” on Ocracoke Island, NC, where the young family had spent many summer vacations. They delighted in Springtime with redbud and dogwood in the Shenandoah Valley; were amazed by the rhododendrons in the mountains of western North Carolina; and participated in 34 plus Elder Hostel programs/tours – also visiting often along-the-way with their children and their families.
His two sons and their spouses survive Alfred Gilbert: Christopher (Karen) of Alloway, NJ, and Gregory (Marta Elena) of Fort Pierce, FL, five grandchildren (Chevonne, Eliza, Rebecca, Stella, Kimberly) and four great grandchildren (Knya’, Kayden, Omari and Ayden). A niece Diane, a nephew Mark, and his sister-in-law Nancie Taylor Irvin also survive him.
His wife, Jo of 67 years, his daughter Deborah Elizabeth Plater, his grandson Zachary Spencer Gilbert, brother Oscar Green Gilbert Jr., his sister-in-law Ruth Gilbert, and his brother-in-law Glenn Irvin predeceased Alfred.
A memorial service will be announced later tentatively scheduled for October 2019, led by the Rev. Peter J.B. Carman of Emmanuel Friedens Church. Interment of inurned ashes (along with his wife’s) will be at the Gerald B.H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery (Schuylerville, NY).
Memorial contributions can be made in care of:
Emmanuel Friedens Church
218 Nott Terrace
Schenectady, NY 12309To send flowers to the family of Alfred Gilbert, please visit Tribute Store