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Richard Charles Altrock
January 6, 2024
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Richard (Dick) Charles Altrock was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1940, to Raymond John Altrock and Ada Christina Baumann. Together with his younger brother Robert (Bob) Edward Altrock, Dick lived in Omaha, NE until he graduated from Omaha South High School in 1958 and moved to attend the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, NE, where he earned his bachelor's degree in 1962. Dick remained a devoted Huskers football fan for the rest of his life. Dick and Bob lost their father in 1947, and in 1964 their mother Ada moved from Omaha to a farm near Kennard, Nebraska when she married Henry Weise.
Dick earned his Master’s and Ph.D. degrees at Colorado University in Boulder, CO (1962-1968) during which time he also married and moved with his wife Janice Carol Reed to Sacramento Peak Observatory, also known as Sunspot, NM--a state of the art solar observatory built by the U.S. Air Force. Constructed at the start of the Cold War in 1947, Sunspot existed “to be able to provide accurate forecasting of solar activity events that can disrupt vital military communications at the Earth and destroy military satellites in earth orbit.” Sunspot was staffed initially with only four scientists. Dick was one of a handful of young and up-and-coming PhD’s hired to vastly expand Sunspot’s staff and scope. Dick’s sons Craig Altrock and Chris Altrock were born in Sunspot, part of a growing number of children to inhabit Sunspot’s tightly knit community.
Dick’s career of more than fifty years was spent entirely at Sunspot. He became one of the foremost scientists in solar astronomy, speaking at scientific conferences around the world and writing dozens of scientific papers which significantly expanded humanity’s understanding of the sun and its impact on life on earth and on the solar system. He was often interviewed by journalists seeking understanding about contemporary solar events.
In 1979 Dick married Sally Kosky. They moved from Sunspot to nearby Cloudcroft, NM in 1980 where Sally became an active volunteer in the Cloudcroft Municipal Schools and from which Dick commuted to Sunspot. Dick’s daughters Kristin and Krystal were born and raised in Cloudcroft, active in the local school system from Kindergarten to 12th grade. Dick and Sally called the Cloudcroft Methodist Church their church home. He retired from Sunspot in 2015 and spent his retirement in Cloudcroft and then in Las Cruces, NM.
Dick passed away on January 6, 2024. His life is being celebrated at the Alamogordo Funeral Home (Alamogordo, NM) on January 12, 2024, with visitation at 11 AM and service at 11:30 AM. He will be laid to rest immediately following the service in Monte Vista Cemetery in Alamogordo, NM where Sally and her parents also rest.
Dick is preceded in death by Sally, his wife of 44 years. Writing about Sally after her death, Dick said, “Sally was the light of my life … We will continue to grieve until we join her in Heaven.” We celebrate their reunion. Dick is also preceded in death by his mother Ada, father Raymond, and stepfather Henry.
Dick is survived by his brother, Bob Altrock of Omaha, NE; nephew, Tim Altrock of Kansas City, MO; niece, Andrea Altrock of Omaha, NE; sons, Craig Altrock and wife Leslee of TX and Chris Altrock of CT; daughters, Kristin Gunnels of TX and Krystal Brant and husband Justin of NM; grandchildren Jordan Altrock of TN, Jacob Altrock of TN, Joshua Altrock and wife Audrey of TX, Matthew Altrock of TX, Andrew Altrock of TX, Austin Gunnels of TX, Audrey Gunnels of TX, and Kadin Gunnels of TX.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Dick’s name to one of his favorite organizations, the Sierra Club.
The Altrock family has entrusted their loved one to the care of Alamogordo Funeral Home to direct the funeral services.