Obituary For John Luoma
John David Luoma died at his home in Montclair, NJ on April 24, 2022. The cause was Primary Progressive Aphasia. He was 81.
John was raised in East Chicago, Indiana by his parents John and Rose (nee Negrelli). John senior graduated from the Carnegie Institute of Technology with a degree in Metallurgy. Rose was a registered nurse. His older sister Janet was also his friend and a mentor helping to foster his interests in literature and the arts. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in theater and English at Northwestern University. They remained close until her untimely death in 2004.
After graduating from East Chicago Roosevelt High School, John earned a bachelor’s degree at Purdue University in Metallurgical Engineering in 1962. He went on to graduate school at Northwestern University where he completed a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering in 1967. He began his career in the core physics group of United Nuclear Corporation in Elmsford, NY. UNC provided reload core design services and nuclear fuel assemblies for pressurized and boiling water reactors. In 1971 he joined the nuclear fuels group at General Public Utilities Corporation (later GPU Nuclear Corp.) in Parsippany, NJ, an electric generation company with several nuclear plants. At GPUN, as manager of Three Mile Island Fuel Projects, John was responsible for reactor core reload and future cycle design and analysis, coordination with plant Nuclear Engineering, fuel assembly design development and management of fuels contracting, primarily providing technical support for the two TMI nuclear reactors in Pennsylvania. After the TMI Unit 2 accident in 1979, he was integral to plant recovery and to regulatory efforts to restart the undamaged TMI-1 reactor. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission allowed TMI-1 to operate again in 1985 and the plant resumed its prior high level of performance.
John retired from GPUN at the end of 1997. Throughout his career he was a recognized expert in the nuclear industry. He participated in and led many productive developmental projects and was highly respected by his colleagues.
John was a distinctive person. He was never known to raise his voice or be overtly angry. A man of few words, intelligent and well-liked. His approach to both work and everyday life was meticulous and unique. He did things his way according to his special rules. He had a quirky sense of humor. He kept detailed lists of many things. His passions were jazz, baseball, books, photography, traveling, old movies and old radio programs. He lived in Manhattan until 1986 enjoying the City’s concerts, museums, Broadway shows and restaurants.
John enjoyed traveling, sometimes to exotic places. For each trip he created the day-by-day itinerary complete with maps, hotels and restaurants. He made it easy for his traveling companions. The places he went were varied: India/Nepal, France, Germany/Austria, The Netherlands, Morocco, Guatemala and the West Indies (St. Thomas, Barbados, St. John’s). He also visited many places in the U.S. Each trip resulted in a new collection of photographs taken with John’s creative style.
Photography was his avocation. His pictures were so good he could have been a professional. Many times traveling companions waited while he painstakingly set up a shot. It didn’t always work out. Once, in the heat of Death Valley, he spent fifteen minutes setting up to shoot a buzzard perched on a dead tree. Just as John was about to snap the picture the bird flew off. It likely was the closest he ever came to cursing out loud. But no one rolled their eyes when he asked to show his vacation slides. It was always a party and they were his art form.
John loved sports, especially baseball. He was a lifelong fan of the Chicago White Sox. Living in NYC he was forced by his N Y Yankee-fan friends to reluctantly go to many games at Yankee Stadium, but was happy when the Sox came to town. His all-time MVP was Sox great Minnie Minoso. In 2005 his long-suffering loyalty to the White Sox was vindicated when they won their first World Series since 1917. He was also a fan of the New York Mets and attended their games. John followed the local independent professional baseball team the New Jersey Jackals. He attended their first game at Yogi Berra Stadium in Little Falls, NJ in 1998 and continued through the years bringing all friends who would join him. He always had a strong interest in sports. At Purdue he was a sportscaster for basketball and football games on the college station. At GPU he played on intra-company softball and golf teams.
Over his life John accumulated a large collection of books and recordings. The books focused on science (especially physics), music (jazz and classical), photography, history and art. The recordings ranged across the field of music but were particularly deep in the bebop and classical Jazz of artists like Thelonius Monk, Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson. In classical music his taste ran to Mozart and Beethoven. John was always attracted to the innovators.
John’s love and knowledge of jazz was broad. His number one musician was pianist/composer Monk whose improvisational work was beautiful but took some effort to fully appreciate. Monk was one of a kind, someone John could relate to.
Many of the movie stars he loved were also offbeat, including Bela Lugosi, Groucho Marx and the Three Stooges. Lugosi created the 1930s iconic horror character, the vampire Dracula. John’s dedication to Bela/Dracula was strong and often tongue-in-cheek. He bought a black opera cape to match Bela’s vampire costume. One Halloween he dressed in the cape as the ghost of Groucho, grey face makeup, big mustache and all. The costume was so eerie he scared all the trick-or-treating kids away. John loved it.
He also never lost his childhood love of the 1940s – 1950s TV puppet show Kukla, Fran and Ollie and maintained a special affection for the comic strip dog Snoopy of Peanuts fame.
His attention to detail extended beyond his technical work. He carpooled for years between NYC and Parsippany. When anyone lost track of whose turn it was to drive or pay the toll John’s records had the answer. No one argued with the Luoma Lists. He made the commutes fun playing his tapes of favorite eccentric radio entertainers: Bob& Ray, Ken Nordine, Jean Shepard and professional wrestling.
The special woman in John’s life was Kristin. She matched him in a low-key manner full of kindness and shared his unique sense of humor. They had a quiet, intense relationship and a secret language of their own. She was with him at the end.
John was a unique person. He brought a special kind of joy to everyone who knew him. He’ll be much missed.
John is survived by first cousins David Negrelli and Eugene Negrelli who live in northwest Indiana. A service will be held on Thursday, May 12, from 2 to 5 pm, at the Halpin-Bitecola Brookdale Funeral Home, 1284 Broad Street, Bloomfield, NJ. Burial will be at Chapel Lawn Cemetery, Crown Point, IN. Instead of flowers donations may be made in John’s name to the PPA Research and Education Fund at the Mesulam Center for Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 300 E. Superior St. Tarry 8, Chicago, IL 60611, or to a favorite charity.