- Lasting Memories - John TenBrook Rambo's memorial

John TenBrook Rambo
Sept. 26, 1936-Feb. 8, 2024
Livermore, California

John TenBrook Rambo, beloved father and grandfather, physicist, containment scientist and longtime Livermore resident, died at home early on February 8th, 2024 at the age of 87, surrounded by his family.

Born in Port Angeles, Washington on September 26, 1936 to William Huber Rambo and Nell Anne Rambo (nee TenBrook), John was the beloved sibling of his older sister Joan. They had a close relationship throughout their lives, enjoying much laughter whenever they were together.

John grew up in Portland, Oregon, where his father had an engineering practice designing lumber mills. John attended Central Catholic High School in Portland. After his parents divorced, he moved to Florida with his mother, finishing high school in 1954 at Admiral Farragut Academy in St. Petersburg. He recalled fellow student Charles Duke, the astronaut, remembering someone asking him if he would go to the moon — the answer was yes. John graduated from the University of Portland (UP), Oregon, in 1959 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and again in 1963 with a Bachelor of Science in physics. He attended class reunions over the years and had fond memories of young adult life. He competed on the UP track team, served in the Army Reserves, and was a chainman on an Interstate-5 surveyor crew one summer in the late 1950s outside of Grants Pass, Oregon.

John married Winifred Rose Griffiths, also a UP student, on September 3, 1960. Together they had five children, Catherine Joan, Nathaniel Alexsander, Susan Marie, Christopher Lawrence and Sarah Elizabeth. They resided in Portland, Oregon, Las Vegas, Nevada, then settled in Livermore, California in 1968.

He began his career in nuclear testing in 1963 at the Nevada Test Site outside of Las Vegas. In 1968, he transferred to Lawrence Livermore National Lab where he was a geophysicist as part of a team responsible for simulating and studying underground nuclear "shots" and recommending containment of nuclear weapons blasts to the U.S. Departments of Energy and Defense. Alongside other containment scientists, he is featured in the book about his life’s work, "Caging the Dragon". He is the author and co-author of many scientific papers and helped countless others on their research. He formally retired in 1994 but continued as a consultant and archivist until 2021, working into his eighties with a career spanning nearly 60 years.

John maintained a forever-positive outlook, gave people the benefit of the doubt, and was kind. He enjoyed laughing with his many good friends, especially during their regular Thursday morning coffee klatch. His “superpower” was crafting puns. A runner and walker his entire life, he also loved dancing to big band music, taking road trips, camping, hiking, exploring the national and state parks, and the natural world. In the 1970s and early ‘80s, he would take his five children camping every summer and would visit relatives in Oregon and Washington.

He had an undying curiosity and reverence for physics and astronomy, and was an inveterate tinkerer, with experiments in his living room aimed at proving physics theories. He also humored in the notoriety of sharing a famous movie name.

He is survived by his former wife Winifred Rambo of California, all his children, Catherine Rambo (Kurt Deustcher) of Oregon, Nathaniel McKenna of California, Susan Rambo (Raymond Howard) of California, Christopher Rambo of California, Sarah Rambo (Andrew Mieczkowski) of Massachusetts, granddaughter Viola Drazga of Washington, sister Joan Heineman of Washington, niece Katherine Koberg (Chris Rideout) of Washington, extended family, many good friends and his beloved cat, Laney.

Son Nate helped with John’s care over the last 10 years of his life. John survived multiple cancers and gracefully dealt other ailments before succumbing to congestive heart failure.

All expressions of sympathy are welcome. Memorial donations may be sent to the Atomic Testing Museum, the REACH Museum, the Eastbay Astronomical Society or the charity of your choice. Services will be held at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Livermore. Visitation will be held March 7th from 4pm to 7pm, with Mass on March 8th at noon, followed by burial at St. Michael’s Cemetery on East Avenue at 1:30pm.

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