Dr Walter J. Wiechetek died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday, March 29th, 2020. Dr Wiechetek was born in 1945 in Bayonne, NJ the only son of Mary Ann (nee Skrzypczak) and Walter F Wiechetek. He graduated from St Peter's Preparatory School in 1962, Seton Hall University in 1966 and pursued a medical degree from University of Maryland Medical School in 1972. He was named to a list of their 100 significant graduates at the Medical School's 200th Anniversary. Completing a first year residency at Roosevelt Hospital-Columbia University in NYC, he was recipient of their Kellogg Award in 1973. He obtained an MPH at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in 1974, completing a preventive medicine residency there in 1976. During this time he worked summers as a physician on the philanthropic Floating Hospital Ship of NYC during its last sailings from the Seaport Museum.
He was the youngest Medical Director for the Abraham and Strauss retail chain before joining United Technologies Corporation (UTC) in 1979 for a 25+ year career. He became the Medical Director of the Hamilton Standard Division of UTC and at various times he was responsible for medical aspects of all UTC space industries. Hamilton Standard was the maker of the US Space suits and he was one of the few civilian physicians involved in the space program outside of NASA. He is credited by NASA for the design of the EVA patch on the left sleeve of the US Space Shuttle EVA suit. He assisted engineers in design of waste treatment/reclamation systems and piloted the application of Medical technologies like MRI to the ergonomic study of suit design. He worked on the FEEPAC proposals and advised on the earliest Mars suit program. He received the Silver Snoopy Award from NASA. His work with EAP programs and Federal Drug testing was acknowledged in the Congressional Record, and his defense in company labor cases led to changes in Connecticut labor statutes. He retired from UTC as president of the UTC Medical Senate, a post he held for over 12 years from its inception.
Dr Wiechetek traveled extensively to evaluate the medical aspects of the Russian and Chinese space programs in the 1980s and 90s. In 1993 he met the Chinese astronaut corps and toured a prototype long duration facility which was published in Aviation Weekly. He was also one of the first to film the Mir prototype at Star City in Russia which was used by NASA.
In retirement his interests were Renaissance. He attended the culinary school at Hudson County Community College and became a restaurateur locally and in group partnerships in New Orleans and Savannah. He wrote an internet column Bayonnefoodie.com for years, and advised on nutrition for several cable food programs. He actively supported the arts in NYC and was an avid collector, historian, commissioning pieces ranging from aerospace with space and airships to classical music. His space art collection was described by Bob Schulman, Director of Smithsonian Space Art program as one of the finest in private hands. And several pieces toured for NASA nationwide in the 90s. The collection was featured at the USPS World Stamp Expo in California in 1998.
He published extensively in medical journals (NEJM, J OBGyn, JOM), airship magazines, and privately. He became an expert of the Hindenberg Millionaire's Flight of 1936, He wrote monographs on the Wagner family and music interpretation.
He belonged to the Royal Society of Medicine (and is on their wall of honor), Aerospace Medical Association as well as numerous professional organizations, airship societies, and civic groups. He was an officer, then President, of the Bayonne Lions Club; Knights of Columbus; Elks Lodge. He was on the Board of Directors for Connecticut HalfWay Houses, and the Garden Society of Bayonne, and an active supporter of the Bayonne Historical Society. He appeared in a National Geographic special on Soetheby's Russian Space Auction, and on two PBS specials for their WGBY affiliate including Office Ergonomics and a Cyberkids program, and a quilting special where two of his commissioned 'space" quilts were discussed. He was also a member of the University Club of Washington DC.
He is survived by Neil Barton and his wife Karyn Smarz (whom he considered his adopted son), long time friend and trusted adviser Jim Osborne, along with many other life long friends. Following a short service at Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Bayonne, he was interred at Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, NJ at his family plot.
A memorial service (To be announced) will later be held in Bayonne, as well as Cape May NJ, his retreat in his later life. He created a Foundation for the preservation of the Past for future generations which bears his name: The Walter J. Wiechetek Foundation. His motto was" try to make a difference".
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