Synthesis/Regeneration 10   (Spring 1996)

"Just an Little Peace and Quiet" for Mac Stuart, All-American Physicist

by Rita Calvert, Director, the Dallas Peace Center

Mac was a quiet, sensitive older brother, with a wacky sense of humor. He was four when I was born, and was so excited that early morning that he ran from door to door on our street, knocking and announcing "Our little "tiny" is here!" (I was stuck with that nickname for a long time!) He was a whiz at math and science (helped me with my story problems) but couldn't spell worth a darn!....Each year when we would ask him what he wanted for Christmas, he would reply with a wry smile, "Just a little peace and quiet..."

He was not an egghead, though. He ran track (in spite of his asthma), and played terrific boogie-woogie and jazz piano. He could also knock out a powerful Chopin's Polonaise. He was voted the "Best Looking" in his Senior Class, and closely resembled a brown -eyed Robert Redford. But with all that, there was always an underlying seriousness, and a willingness to listen to his little sister's problems. His children told me that he was the same with them. He would put aside a speech he was preparing, to talk or go pick them up when they needed a ride, and then go back to his work until well into the morning hours.

Mac was greatly touched by cruelty and hated violence, but he did love his Pittsburgh Pirates! I always dreaded when Dallas played Pittsburgh, because I knew one of us would lose. He had married a Chi Omega sister of mine, Sharon Meier, and they had a family of three girls and one boy.

He received his doctorate in nuclear physics in 1955 from the University of Iowa, and went to work for Westinghouse right away. We never really knew what he was working on, since it was all classified. We eventually found out he had been one of the Senior Scientists on the first nuclear submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, workin under Admiral Rickover for two years. He was responsible for the heat shield which protected the crew. The money from the new industry was good for a growing family, and they built a beautiful home in the suburbs of Pittsburgh.

As the Vietnam was was ending in 1973, he decided he did not want to work any longer in military projects, and went to work at Combustion Engineering in Granbury, Connecticut. This company designs nuclear power plants. Mac was in charge of the containment, or safety of the operation. After about 5 years, he became increasingly concerned about the possibility of a nuclear accident, (i.e. Three Mile Island) and asked to be loaned for research into alternate energy sources. His ultimate goal was to return to Evansville, Indiana, (our home) to teach.

After reaching Palo Alto, California and trying out his first swimming pool, he contracted a cough, which led to the discovery of carcinoma of the lung. He had surgery and chemotherapy, yet went to the office every day he possibly could (working as a consultant to the Electrical Power Research Institute.) While he was there, the real Three Mile Island incident occurred, justifying his fear.

By January, he began to have severe headaches, and tests found the cancer had metasticized to his brain. He continued to work through the radiation treatments.

By April, he called me and said he was "home free", and not to worry, he wasn't "going anywhere". He offered to send me a book he had been reading on the power of the mind over our circumstances, in response to my confiding problems with my new profession. We were planning to go to California after his hair grew back, for the wedding of his daughter, Holly.

On May 13 we called to wish him "The Big Five -O", and got no answer. The next day his minister called me to say he had entered the hospital that weekend, and exploratory surgery for fluid build-up had discovered the cancer had spread throughout his body, and he had maybe 10 days to live.

He died on June 2, after telling us to go to our hotel to rest, that we looked tired. At his memorial service his work associates told me that he had turned in his last project, as complete and concise as ever, and checked into the hospital for his final stay. His minister who went to comfort him, found himself comforted by the patient, who kept his sense of humor and had accepted his upcoming death with grace. At the memorial service when they played "Let There Be Peace on Earth, and Let it Begin With Me", I knew that Mac had found his "Peace and quiet" at last.


Since the time of writing of the article above, I have been asked by people in the anti-nuclear movement if my brother could have been exposed to excessive radiation. Now that I know more about this issue, I am sure of it. He worked with atomic energy from 1951 to 1979, not exactly a time in history when we were aware of the scope of its dangers.

Three years after his death, his first wife Sharon developed leukemia, and died within 6 months. His youngest daughter, Holly gave birth to a 2 1/2 pound baby boy, who was hospitalized for three months. His second daughter, Teresa, developed a fibroid tumor when pregnant with her third child; and his oldest daughter, Elaine, was childless for almost 20 years, and only recently became pregnant after extensive fertility treatments. These events began to fit a pattern.

Mac was a heavy smoker. He suffered from asthma as a young boy, and was probably very susceptible to lung irritation. But he was also exposed to who-knows-how-much radiation for 20 years. He made many trips to White Sands, NM, and doubtless many other nuclear installations. He suffered episodes of thyroid and testicular inflammation in the 1960's which destroyed the function of those organs. I have every reason to believe that he, and probably his family, have been victims of radiation exposure, as well as tobacco smoke.

This knowledge adds greatly to the pain of losing these two young vibrant human beings, who left four children alone to fend for themselves these last sixteen years. I have tried to be Mom and Grandma to his Grandchildren, but they have missed their own parents greatly. Who knows what they could have contributed to the world at large, not to mention their family?

When Fumiko Amano, a survivor of Hiroshima and a peace educator, came to my office at the Dallas Peace Center to speak, we embraced and grieved for the loss of our two brothers to the nuclear bomb. When will the Nuclear Holocaust end? When will we listen to the scientists and other victims who cry out from their graves and warn us every day of the dual danger of smoking and exposure to nuclear by-products? When will we destroy these weapons of destruction and learn to rely on nonviolent means to solve conflict?

President Eisenhower was prophetic when he said " The world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children." The price is too high.

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