James Bernard Mehl | Passages

Our dear James Bernard Mehl (Jim) passed away on July 31, 2019 in the home he and his wife built, surrounded by his wife, family and the forests and mountains and sea he loved so much on Orcas Island. His life was a beautiful one, lived fully with honor, kindness, curiosity, intelligence, optimism and humor. Jim celebrated 80 years of life and 57 years of marriage to his beloved wife Joan Kolodji Mehl. He was devoted to his dearest family and friends far and wide, always celebrating the achievements of the young ones especially, helping them be good people and understand the complexities of physics and math. He was an incredible teacher, adored by his students.

Jim was the eldest of seven siblings born to the Norwegian/Bavarian immigrant family of Bernard and Elinor Mehl on May 5, 1939 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The family home was a small house connected to a small farm and greenhouse horticulture business on the banks of the Bois de Sioux River in Breckenridge, Minnesota. It was here where Jim learned to herd escaped flocks of turkeys across bridges and busy roads, stoke the wood stoves of the greenhouses in the icy north winters, survived a near death case of scarlet fever. As a young man he cultivated his interests in history, languages, cinema, jazz, physics and mathematics, being a bit of a beatnik but not really taking it too far.

Jim met Joan at the University of Minnesota in 1959, and they soon married in 1961. After graduation, they moved to Eugene, Oregon and fell in love with the Pacific Northwest, and had their first son Nathan, then moved to Delaware where Bernard was born. Through the years they traveled all over Europe, backpacked the cascades every summer, were avid runners, movie buffs, readers, classical music lovers and devoted grandparents.

Jim was an Emeritus Professor of Physics, retired from the University of Delaware, where he led laboratory programs in various fields of acoustics. He also served as Department Chair and Associate Dean for Research. Since 1999, he had lived on Orcas Island in Washington State, where he continued to do computational and theoretical work in acoustic standards as well as applications of acoustic and electromagnetic resonance methods for industrial applications.

He was predeceased by his sister Patricia. He is survived by his wife Joan, sons Nathan and Bernard, daughters-in-law Denise and Suzi, grandchildren Jeremy, Justin and Solana, and siblings John, Dorothy, Mary, Barbara and Richard. A private ceremony is planned in Minnesota in October.