This article was last modified on December 1, 2013.


Biography of John Farmakes, Atomic Scientist

John R. Farmakes was born in Detroit, Michigan, May 2, 1914, son of Harry Carl and Mary (Lipski) Farmakes. Harry was born September 17, 1887 in Filitra, Massinia, Greece and married Michigan native Mary on February 27, 1911 in Detroit.

John spent his early years in Highland Park, Michigan, but by 1922 arrived in and grew up in Neenah at 212 West Wisconsin Avenue. He worked at Kimberly-Clark from 1933 to 1939 as a Research Technician in the Research Department. His father was also employed at Kimberly-Clark. In 1941, John married Ruth H. Johnson of Neenah. They were married for 62 years before Ruth’s death on June 20, 2003.

John attended University of Wisconsin, Madison, studying chemical engineering. In September 1942, he was drafted into the Army. During his 40 months of service, he attended Georgia Institute of Technology for advanced chemical engineering. He graduated from the Army Specialized Training Program. He worked on the Manhattan Project at Clinton Laboratories in Oak Ridge, Tennessee (the Secret City), where he performed classified work related to nuclear weapons.

After the war, he stayed in Oak Ridge working at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (formerly Clinton), where he participated in the design and operation of the world’s first facilities for production of medical and other radioisotopes.

In the early 1950s, he moved to Illinois, where he worked at Argonne National Laboratory as an associate chemical engineer. He designed facilities and equipment for radioactive chemical processing. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, he served as Argonne’s Information Services Exhibits Manager, responsible for all phases of Argonne’s exhibit program in the U.S. and abroad. He renovated and maintained the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission’s Nuclear Science area in Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry. He consulted with the Smithsonian and many other groups. He especially enjoyed his side job as Curator of Memorabilia, conserving and displaying artifacts of historical value and interest.

After leaving Argonne, he finished out his career as the Technical Information Officer for the Department of Energy. John was an avid photographer and golfer with a 0 handicap for many years. He has been a Green Bay Packer fan since the middle 1920s! His passion for golf, bowling, football, photography and love of animals has been passed on to his family.

Farmakes, age 96, died Wednesday, February 16, 2011, at home in Naperville, Illinois. He was interred at Oak Hill Cemetery in Neenah.

He is survived by three daughters, Gail Gartley of Naperville, Mary Hale and Peggy Johnson (Carl) of Plainfield, Illinois. His four grandchildren, Mike (Teresa) Gartley of Verona, Wisconsin, Kris (Jerry) Sabel of Fond du Lac, Brian Johnson and Daniel Hale of Plainfield; great-granddaughter Lexi Rose Sabel.

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