Obituaries » Johannes (Hans) van de Graaf

Johannes (Hans) van de Graaf

January 10, 1927 - November 30, 2021

Johannes J. van de Graaf died peacefully on November 30, 2021 at his home in Lynchburg, Virginia. He was 94.  Born in Vriezenveen, the Netherlands on January 10, 1927, he was the third of three sons born to Jacob van de Graaf and Susanna Maliepaard van de Graaf. Predeceased by his parents and also by his brothers Simon and Jan, he is survived by his beloved wife of 67 years, Ann Rushby van de Graaf, sons John J. van de Graaf of Lynchburg, Virginia, Henry C. van de Graaf (Wendy) of Los Angeles, California, Paul A. van de Graaf (Dale) of Forest, Virginia, and daughter Susanna van de Graaf Roberts (Dave) of Palm Coast, Florida, grandchildren Neal R. Shepherd (Whitney) of Boulder, Colorado, David Roberts Jr. (Mim) of New York City, New York, Susanna van de Graaf of Stanford, California, and Truus van de Graaf of Los Angeles, California, great-grandson Nico R. Shepherd of Boulder, Colorado. He is also survived by cousins Susanna Maliepaard Daum (Ulf) and family of Vienna, Austria, Renaud Maliepaard (Marja) and family of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Thonie van Dorsten Chaplin and family of Stratford-on-Avon, England, and niece Sylvia van de Graaf Melgert of Helmond, the Netherlands.

Hans was known for his brilliant creative mind and keen wit, intellectual interests, mastery of language, and as a lover of classical music and jazz.  He was a voracious reader, a tinkerer and a dedicated family man.   His childhood in the Hague was marred by the untimely death of his father and by the Nazi occupation of Holland. Severe food shortages and other deprivations led him to develop creative solutions to problems and aroused in him a compassion for those in need. During night time blackout he honed his English language skills by listening to the BBC on a clandestine radio. In his youth his adventurous spirit led him to explore Europe and England on his bicycle and to skate long distances on the frozen canals of Holland.   Hans received a meritorious scholarship to Delft Technical University, the Netherlands, graduating with a Master of Science Degree in Electronics Engineering in 1950. He then served his obligatory two years military service as an officer in the Royal Netherlands Army Signal Corps. While home on leave, Hans met the love of his life and future wife, Ann Rushby, of Tanzania, East Africa. The couple married in the Hague in December 1953.   Following military service, Hans worked in the Netherlands for a short period doing research for the Dutch PT&T and Siemens before accepting a position with ARAMCO (Tapline) in Beirut, Lebanon. For two years he worked securing communications along the oil pipeline from Arabia to the coast, occasionally taking opportunities to travel with Ann throughout the Middle East and Egypt. The experience of working for an American Company and making American friends encouraged him to emigrate to the United States.   In 1956, after the birth of a son, the young family settled in Syracuse, NY where Hans worked for General Electric as a principal design engineer. It was the time of the Cold War, and he worked on secret communication systems for the distant early warning DEW line. In 1959 GE moved the division to Lynchburg where Hans worked on equipment essential to manned spaceflight and cryptography – making frequent trips to Cape Canaveral in Florida.   During the summers he took his growing family on memorable camping trips.   After the close of the Advanced Telecommunication Systems Division in 1972, Hans remained in Lynchburg working as a senior design engineer for GE’s Mobile Radio Division and ultimately as Senior Scientist of Ericcson/GE, retiring in 1997 at age 70. He was the principal author of many U.S. patents which remain the foundations of today’s modern telecommunications world.

Hans became a naturalized United States citizen in 1979 and never missed an opportunity to vote. He was also known for writing succinct letters to the editor of the Lynchburg News and Advance.

Upon his retirement, Hans enjoyed traveling, both international and domestic, experimenting with sculpture, tuning his sports cars and motorcycles, and tinkering in his basement. He was perhaps happiest exploring area backroads on his mid-size motorcycle.

The family would like to thank Centra Hospice and Generation Solutions for their loving care and support during the past year.

A memorial service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 18th at 1 p.m. followed by a reception in Magill Hall. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to the Salvation Army (2215 Park Ave, Lynchburg, VA 24501), Lynchburg Public Library, and local Public Television and Radio Stations.

Tharp Funeral Home & Crematory, Lynchburg, is assisting the family.

A memorial service will be held at St. John's Episcopal Church on Saturday, December 18th at 1 p.m. followed by a reception in Magill Hall. In lieu of flowers, please consider contributions to the Salvation Army (2215 Park Ave, Lynchburg, VA 24501), Lynchburg Public Library, and local Public Television and Radio Stations.

Condolences & Tributes

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Dear Ann and family, So sorry to learn of your loss, we have very fond memories of Hans from when he was in the UK and we met up. Our thought's and Prayers are with you all at this sad time. Wishing you peace and love. Mark, Kirsty, Alec & Jessica.

Posted by Mark Chaplin on December 20, 2021

I shared a shielded room with Hans for 20 plus years during the GE and Ericsson years (80’s thru 00’s I believe). As a young engineer fresh out of school, I was extremely lucky to have Hans (JJ) as a mentor. For many years he was the highest level technical engineer in the Mobile Communications Division and had many stories to tell from spending the night in jail, in Turkey, (after accidently crossing the border during a sandstorm); to jumping up one Friday afternoon and announcing “Dave, I’ve gotta leave NOW.” I knew that Ann had been out of the country and was due back that day. I asked “ What did you do JJ, forget to pick Ann up at the Airport? “ . “ No he replied, I’m rebuilding a motorcycle on the kitchen table, and she hates it when I do that. I’ve gotta go and clean it up before she sees it”! Whenever we had very difficult technical problems, JJ was the one engineer we could turn to, to assist in finding a solution. When they say he knew several languages, he would actually think in several languages. When you looked at his lab notebook, you would see paragraphs bouncing from one language to another depending on his current mood. One afternoon, after he had recently come back to the states after a European trip, we were discussing some circuit in the lab. In mid-sentence, he suddenly switched from English to a different language, and then switched to a second and then a third and perhaps a forth. Upon hearing a radio in the background he then flipped back to English. All of this occurred in just a second or two before I could say anything, other than perhaps having a strange look on my face. He was also famous for his ‘circuit modelling technique’ where he would build a 3D structure with leaded components, perhaps several inches in diameter, so that he could carefully access all of the intermediate test points. One night someone had accidently set a piece of equipment right in the middle of the ‘circuit ball’ perhaps thinking it was insignificant not realizing that it represented an entire custom IC that was under development. When he came in the next day, JJ didn’t say a word for many hours. He carefully lifted up part of the structure so that he could draw the schematic in pieces, as most of it was in his head and hadn’t been documented yet as it was still under development. Yes, JJ will be missed by many, especially this engineer that’s not so young anymore, but can still remember his patience in mentoring many years ago. Dave Bing

Posted by Dave bing on December 17, 2021

We were so sorry to hear of Mr. van de Graaf's passing. Through Henry we learned a lot about him over the years and were honored to have him stay overnight with us once. Such an interesting person. We are sure that his life was made even fuller by his wonderful family.

Posted by Rich & Mona Yep on December 16, 2021

Dear Ann, may your precious memories of Hans keep him with you and give you ease as you navigate this transition. Holding you in our thoughts. Sincerely, Debbie and John Spanich

Posted by John and Deborah Spanich on December 16, 2021

The Australian members of your family are with you in spirit. Hans van de Graaf was an incredible man!

Posted by George Rushby on December 14, 2021

Ann, sending condolences. Strength for all of life's journey, our thoughts and prayers are with you and all the family. Admiration is the feeling. Sincerely, Arelia and Howard Langhorne

Posted by Howard and Arelia Langhorne on December 12, 2021

Ann, Jay and family- my thoughts are with you. Fondly, Suzanne Taurman

Posted by Suzanne Taurman on December 6, 2021

What a life very well lived and loved! My prayers are with Henry and all the family.

Posted by Nancy Bartley Keith on December 5, 2021

Dear Ann, I am sorry for the passing of your husband. What a wonderful legacy he has built. I wish you comfort and peace and love. Christine

Posted by Christine Rooney on December 5, 2021

Dear Paul and family, Your lives were richly blessed with such a wonderful man. May your hearts be filled with peace. ❤

Posted by Susan on December 5, 2021

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