Obituary: William John Fies Jr., electronics pioneer


Obituaries are based on information provided by the families.

William John "Bill" Fies Jr. of Portola Valley, electronics pioneer and emergency preparedness leader, died Dec. 19 at the age of 84.

Mr. Fies was born in Dallas, Texas, and moved to San Francisco as a teenager. At Balboa High School he met his future wife, Cynthia Barton. They were married in 1951 and had four children, raised in Redwood City and Portola Valley.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Fies worked as an airline technician for Pan American Airlines. With his wife's encouragement, he applied for "one of those science jobs" (as she put it) in Menlo Park.

He became a laboratory technician at Stanford Research Institute, where he worked on laser research, among other technologies, and met Robert Finnegan, who recruited him for a startup that would bring the first commercial quadropole mass spectrometers to market.

He was a co-founder of the Finnegan Corp. in 1967 and remained its chief scientist throughout the life of the company.

After retiring in 1996, he indulged his lifelong love of car trips, say family members. Every summer he drove thousands of miles on back roads to follow railroad trains, chase thunderstorms, and visit family.

He joined the South County Amateur Radio Emergency Service (SCARES) in 1992 and actively promoted amateur radio. He was communication boss and "net control" for numerous local and regional events. He also served on the SCARES board of directors.

He was active in the Citizen Emergency Response Preparedness Program, for which he repaired and calibrated nearly every ham operator in Portola Valley, Ladera, Los Trancos Woods, Skyline and Vista Verde.

He is survived by his children, William John Fies III, Barbara Brady, Amy Smith and Karyl Gruber; brother Bob Fies; 10 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren. His wife of 50 years, Cynthia, preceded him in death.

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