Cover photo for Harold "Hal" Patterson Mahon, Jr.'s Obituary
Harold "Hal" Patterson Mahon, Jr. Profile Photo
1931 Harold "Hal" 2023

Harold "Hal" Patterson Mahon, Jr.

January 21, 1931 — May 17, 2023




Lancaster - Harold (Hal) P. Mahon, Jr.’s vibrant life ended peacefully on May 17, 2023 in Dodge Park Rest Home, Worcester MA. He was 92.


Hal leaves Sylvia, his wife and best friend of 38 years; two children from his earlier marriage, Keith of Stow, and Marlise of Missoula; six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A daughter, Ann; a sister, Joyce; and his former wife, Colleen, predeceased him. Hal was born in Los Angeles, CA, the son of Harold P. and Alice, and received his PhD in Physics from the University of Washington in 1961.


Hal brought enthusiasm and curiosity to everything he pursued. No project was too great, including climbing a ladder in his ‘90s while no one was looking, so he could give advice on a roof repair. He enjoyed a full, happy, and adventurous life. A family friend remembers him as always “larger than life.”


In 1987, Hal and Sylvia bought an unfinished house in Lancaster and spent years designing and constructing it to its completion, creating a unique, personal haven for themselves. He served the Town of Lancaster as a member of the Conservation Commission and kept his earlier ties to Newton, MA through his men’s group.


Sylvia feels blessed by their wonderful friendship and love, and for their many great adventures together. They were both makers, but in different disciplines, and supplied inspiration and support to each other. Her relationship with Hal became the subject of some of Sylvia’s paintings, sculpture, and memoir writing. Their love endured many challenges. Over the last ten years, their union transitioned into one where Hal needed increasing aid and Sylvia provided for all his needs.


A passionate outdoors person, Hal hiked all the volcanoes of the Pacific Northwest in his youth. While teaching in Zurich, Switzerland in the 60s and ‘70s, he and his first family traveled extensively in their camper van. He and Sylvia canoed, hiked, biked, and traveled together in the U.S. and Europe. He created beautifully crafted furniture, which Sylvia and others still enjoy. In retirement, Hal explored woodturning in a woodshop he designed in Bethel, ME.


Hal taught and held research positions at Oregon State University, University of Washington, University of Colorado, Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories (AFCRL), Eidgenösische Technische Hochschule (ETH), the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the Physik Institut der Universität Zürich.


Hal was a professor of Physics at UMass Boston from 1967-2002, where, in addition to teaching physics, he designed laboratories and research facilities at the Park Square campus and then for the original Science Center at the Harbor Campus. During this period, his research involved measuring auroral electric fields using Nike Hercules rockets launched from Hudson Bay, and a satellite with instrumentation he invented for measuring electric fields between probes spaced by 100 meters (still used today). He pioneered computer-assisted education in physics and greatly enjoyed working with his undergraduate and graduate students for over 47 years. Hal’s professional interests included efficient energy use and superconductivity. He is the coauthor of Energiesparen JETZ! published by Bauverlag Berlin; and Efficient Energy Management published by Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.


He will be greatly missed.


Memorial gatherings will be private. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

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