Naomi Neil “Neil” Ogimachi died at his home in Eureka on March 28, 2024. He was born in Los Angeles in 1925, the fourth of five children of Japanese immigrants.

He grew up during the Great Depression. Like many Americans, his family struggled through poverty, providing their living by picking vegetables in the fields and trucking them to market, which required he and his siblings to work in the fields. His family, along with others of Japanese ancestry, were incarcerated at Manzanar concentration camp in the California high desert. He graduated from Manzanar High School and was drafted by the United States Army and inducted in Manzanar in 1944. He trained at boot camp in Camp Hood, Texas and was deployed to the European Theatre. His military specialty was a “Survey and Instrument Man.” In Darmstadt, Germany, 19-year-old Sergeant Ogimachi spent five months in charge of the military police and prison office of Civilian Internment Enclosure 91 — a P.O.W. camp. 25,000 war criminals were detained in the camp, over half being Gestapo. He contemplated how ironic that he went from being guarded to being the guard.

After the war, he enrolled at U.C.L.A. on the G.I. bill. as a chemistry major. He found work at the China Lake Naval Station in California’s Mojave Desert, making explosive parts for nuclear weapons. While at China Lake, he was able to procure financing for graduate studies at U.C. Davis by working as a graduate teacher, eventually earning a Ph.D in organic chemistry from U.C. Berkeley. He found employment with the DuPont Company in Wilmington, Delaware where he met his future wife, Frances, or “Jean,” Bennett, a registered nurse, during a party. They had a brief engagement, were married in 1956 and moved back to California where he worked again at the China Lake Naval Station. He adopted her three-year-old boy, David, and they added a daughter, Catharine, or “Katie” in 1957 and a son Shawn, born in 1958 while living there.

After the deployment of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, the United States space program accelerated and scientists, including chemists, were in demand. Rocketdyne, the company that supplied all the major engines for the Saturn Rocket, which propelled the Apollo missions, employed him in 1959 through 1969. His work was primarily in the development in rocket oxidizers and was involved in several patents at Rocketdyne while living in suburban Canoga Park, California. In 1962, the couple added their second daughter, April. All four of his children went on to graduate with college degrees.

As the Apollo program was being phased-out, he found new employment and moved the family to Bogota, New Jersey, working as a chemist in nearby Hackensack. After five years, the family moved back to California, settling in the central coast beach town of Aptos. He commuted to Hollister and worked for Teledyne McCormick Selph until retirement in 1989.

While in retirement in Eureka, he served for many years as a Trustee of the United Methodist Church and volunteered building homes with “Habitat for Humanity.” He and his wife traveled extensively during retirement including cruises and tours to every continent and many countries in the world.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 66 years in marriage, Francis “Jean” Bennet in December 2022. He is survived by his two sons and two daughters, four grandchildren (Neil Ogimachi, Mindy Ogimachi, Andrew Jenner and Eleanor Jenner) and two great-grandchildren (Lyla and Rylan Ogimachi).

Services will be held at Oceanview Cemetery April 13, 2024 at 11 a.m.


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