Ronald W. Potter

March 9, 1932 - October 15, 2020
Ronald Potter

Ronald W. Potter passed from this life on Oct. 15, 2020 at his home in Joplin, Missouri.
Born to Juan and Vera (Wormington) Potter March 9, 1932 he grew up as a farm boy in Carthage, Missouri. Ron always knew farm life was not for him, getting in trouble for plowing across rows in the family fields when distracted by theories, or for using the side of the barn as his own personal black board for solving equations. In 1949 he graduated from Carthage High School and left the farm for the University of Illinois where he graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Electrical Engineering.

With his first degree under his belt, he entered the Army as a Second Lieutenant and served his tour at the National Security Agency in Arlington, Virginia. He went home just long enough to find the one thing he missed about those fields, the young woman who used to bring him chocolate chip cookies. He was united in marriage to Ruth Swearingen on May 29, 1955 at Mt. Moriah Church in Carthage, Missouri.

When his tour was complete they relocated to Los Angeles, California where Ron joined Hughes Aircraft and attended USC where he earned his Masters in 1958. He then joined Hewlett-Packard (HP) in Palo Alto, California and continued his education at Stanford through the coursework for a doctorate.
Math and engineering were a way of life for Ron. While at HP he did ground breaking work on Fourier Transforms that helped pave the way for modern computers, and on long range navigation data that has shaped what we now know as GPS. HP used his algorithms and equations to create a number of precision instruments and Ron achieved 9 patents during those years.
Even at home, engineering was a way of life. He had an intense love of classical music and engineered custom speakers that best matched the combination of his available space and the existing technology. His love for stargazing and photography led him to build his own observatory, complete with a star tracker that enabled astrophotography. His work was published several times in Sky and Telescope. Ron always had a file drawer of problems he was solving just because they were interesting.

In 1987 Ron took early retirement from HP to travel the United States in an RV while he indulged in his passions for bird watching, genealogy, and cruising to see Total Eclipses. He also wrote two books on precision mathematics.

Ronald Potter is survived by his wife of 65 years Ruth Swearingen Potter and their two sons, Michael (and wife Pamela) of Alexandria, VA and Stephen of Woodinville, WA; two grandsons, Christopher (and wife Jessica) and David of WA; and three great grandchildren; his brother Larry (and wife Jane) of Carthage, 1st cousins Elliott (and wife Jacqui) of Carthage, Pat Witt, and Lucy Powelson of Kansas City, and several nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents Juan and Ruth Potter of Carthage and sister Ronda Mote of Houston, TX.

Cremation will be by Midland of Joplin with a Celebration of Life at Mt. Moriah Methodist Church on May 29, 2021 at 2pm. with burial of ashes at Park Cemetery afterwards.

Donations can be made to the Mt. Moriah Church building fund, 15506 Nutmeg Road, Carthage, Mo. 64836