John Baptist Fallon
  • 76 years old
  • Date of birth: Aug 23, 1937
  • Place of birth:
    United Kingdom
  • Date of passing: Mar 24, 2014
  • Place of passing:
    District of Columbia, United States
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John Baptist Fallon

August 23, 1937–March 24, 2014

Engineers and Engineering in the Renaissance. The Hype About Hydrogen. The World of Measurements. How the Irish Saved Civilization. Books on pi, the golden ratio, tiling patterns, and infinity. Remarkable Trees of the World.

         To understand the mind of John Baptist Fallon, PhD, B.Eng, who died peacefully at home on March 24, you only have to browse through his bookshelf. John was raised in Crosby, England, the son of Patrick and Catherine (nee Ryan) and the oldest of eight children. He attended St Mary’s College and Liverpool University, where he completed his thesis (“The Development of the Controlled Wet Steam Generator”) in 1965. He worked for a while in Manchester at Associated Electrical Industries, where he was head of the Heat and Mass Transfer lab, before moving to California to work for the Garrett Corporation. In some family memoirs, he said of this career choice: “I ended up choosing The Garrett Corporation because of the stream of newspapers they sent full of ads for cheap cars, cheap apartments, and the grand life that could be experienced in Los Angeles.” When he arrived, what impressed him most was the democratic environment at the company, typified by the fact that everyone from the president to the janitor ate at the same cafeteria.

         He worked at The Garrett Corporation for 20 years, focusing on projects like electric cars, gas turbine engines, and waste heat generation. He also contributed to the environmental control systems for the Gemini and Apollo spaceflight programs. In the early 1980s, he was the vice president for Garrett’s international operations, which took him to Paris for three years. He travelled widely for work, visiting India, Iran, Egypt, and a variety of other countries. He always took time to visit local points of interest, returning home with stories of souks in Egypt, the Pergamon marbles in Berlin, and breakfast-stealing monkeys in India.

         In Los Angeles, he met Sally Caroline Wetzel, and they married in 1972. They had four children together, and he shared with them his love of tinkering and woodworking. This meant teaching one to make heavy dice-shaped pencil holders out of oak, helping the others rig up a bottle rocket launcher out of PVC pipe, building a science fair project with another that involved marbles falling through various goops to assess the substances’ relative viscosities. In his spare time, he crafted several items of furniture, including an oak table, a maple sideboard, and a large country style hutch. He had a collection of hundreds of wood samples, and he was a great reader of non fiction, delving into biographies, histories, and disquisitions on various mathematical phenomena. Eventually he moved to Washington, DC, where he consulted for some years before his retirement.

         He is survived by his ex-wife Sally (nee Wetzel), his children Sarah, Nicholas, James, and Davidson, and three grandsons, Fergus, Alistair, and Isaac. A small portion of his ashes will be launched into Earth orbit this summer by Elysium Space. Sally will be hosting a memorial service in Maryland on Saturday May 24. Contact her at if you are interested in attending.


Memorial Tributes
This tribute was added by Carolyn Weyant on 23rd May 2014

"To John's Family:  I worked for John at The Garrett Corporation back in the 80's when he came back to L.A. from Paris.  He was a great "Garrett guy" and a great friend.  He, Barry Tyson, and I worked hard and played hard together.  For a guy from England who didn't know much about my favorite pasttime, baseball and the L.A. Dodgers, John surprised the heck out of me our first holiday season working together: he had his neighbor, Peter O'Malley, have Tommy Lasorda autograph Tommy's new book for me; what a great gift!  John and I stayed in touch all these years.  He told me a long time ago, "Carolyn, we will always have that Garrett connection."  Not just us, but ALL of the Garrett family.  He was very fortunate to have you in his life.  My heart goes out to you.  Love, Carolyn Weyant - President & Secretary, Cliff Garrett Retirement Club (South Bay)."

This tribute was added by John Fallon on 23rd April 2014

"I too am John Fallon.
Born Feb. 10, 1938 in Pittsburgh P.A>
Live near Los Angeles
Ordained a Catholic priest in 1953
God bless your John"

This tribute was added by Carol Smith on 22nd April 2014

"Here are my thoughts about John.

" A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination."
-Nelson Mandela
I met John in my last year at Elizabeth Gaskell college, Manchester UK. I was 20 years old and a good friend of his oldest sister, Philomena. After helping collate John,s PhD. with all the friends and family he could muster on a cold post Christmas day. I watched his career with interest and took over his Carfax Court flat when he left it to go to California as part of "The Brain Drain."
My best memory is his thoughtfulness as this story shows...
To me, a rather naive girl, he appeared semi god-like. His presence,
bearing and intellect were formidable but I soon learned that he could
be very perceptive and kind.  I was a crowd pleaser and one day he
gently took me to one side and gave me one of the best pieces of advice
I have ever been given.  "No one loves a slave" he told me they may care for them even admire them but they will use them and abandon them. He told me to value myself more and stop "casting my pearls before swine".
"Be kind but don't be used" he told me.
During the past 50 years I have had good reason to be very grateful
for that advice and that is why I will always remember him with
gratitude. When I heard of his passing I wept for I felt a light had
gone out of our lives.
I met him only once more years later in Liverpool at Bernard's Photographic exhibition. He was as witty and as amusing as ever.
I will always remember him fondly: a big man  who was  learned, amusing  and kind.
May God be gracious to him as he was to me.
Carol Smith, nee Mason, nee Moorcroft"

This tribute was added by brian jones on 15th April 2014

"John and I go back to 1961 when we were mechanical engineering graduate students together in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Liverpool. My first memory of John was of his outgoing personality and his love for organizing parties. He quickly encouraged me to become involved and my social life never looked back!  We became very close friends. That friendship included visiting the Fallon home in Crosby on a number of occasions. I was struck by the warmth of his parents and that of the rest of his large family. It was easy to see where his good nature came from.
I have many amusing memories of John during our time in Liverpool. One that always comes to mind concerns a motor rally I organized as Secretary of the University Motoring Society. John and three of his friends decided to participate but they had a slight accident while still in Liverpool. (The Rally was taking place in North Wales, so they did not get too far).The car was impacted in such a way that a bottle of tomato ketchup broke, spilling its contents over the two young ladies in the car who, understandably, became hysterical thinking it was blood. If I remember correctly, he made it to the rally late, but with a good story to tell.
During those years as students, we occasionally spent time travelling by car in Europe, along with John’s brother Patrick. Many were the times when we stopped at some small village in France or Spain and lunched on wonderful breads, wine and cheese. The only time John and I got mad at each other was when he accidentally went through a Guardia Civil checkpoint in the middle of the night without stopping and I told him I thought that was careless. He told me in no uncertain terms to keep my back seat comments to myself.
When I immigrated to the US in 1966 to work for what became McDonnell Douglas, we kept in touch. I remember John sent me a letter (this was long before e-mails!) to say that he had been offered jobs with both GE in Cincinnati and Garrett Air Research in Los Angeles. He asked for my opinion on his options. Needless to say, I told him that that was a no-brainer. Garrett was the job to take and LA was the place to be! How significant a decision was that! As a result, John joined me in Redondo Beach towards the end of 1966 and we shared an apartment there until I left to take a job in New Jersey in 1969. John’s arrival preceded a University of Liverpool invasion with the Howards and the Meachins following shortly thereafter. The invasion was significantly reinforced by a partial Fallon Diaspora when Philomena and Bernard arrived in Southern California. In some ways, I can take the credit (or blame!) for the Fallon takeover. The way in which my life and that of my wife Debbie became intertwined with Philomena and Roberto is a separate and fascinating story in itself. But it all had its roots on the University’s Brownlow Hill in Liverpool.
John’s arrival (predictably) kicked into gear both the organizing and attending of parties. A classic story involved John going to a toga party appropriately dressed. Unfortunately, his car ran out of gas (how atypical was that!) on Wilshire Boulevard in the middle of LA at 3 o’clock in the morning. He was obliged to walk a considerable distance, can in hand, to the nearest gas station. He described with great amusement the comments he received relating to the poor fuel consumption of today’s chariots!. John wanted to try everything. He immediately took up skiing and scuba diving. The photograph of John with his foot on a body on the ground is me! The other photograph of him in the pool at 407 Avenue G in Redondo Beach reminded me of another story. John needed to practice his scuba technique in the pool- but did not have a weight belt at the time. He did, however, have a huge cache of pennies which he stored in his bedroom. He took this enormous pile of copper and dumped them in a sock which he tied to his waist. Unfortunately, the sock came loose, resulting in pennies being spread all over the bottom of the pool. It took days to retrieve them.
Whenever I returned to Los Angeles on business John and I would get together. The great thing about our friendship was that it did not matter how long it was since we had seen each other, we just took off again as if there had been no interruption. When I finally relocated to the Los Angeles area, I had the honor of being best man at his wedding to Sally. That reminds me of an occasion when Debbie and I, together with some friends, flew to San Francisco to spend a few days in the Wine Country. We happened to bump into John in the airport who immediately insisted we gate-crash a Murphy- Wetzel wedding. What a great party that was!
While we obviously did not see each other frequently when John moved to DC, we did stay in touch, learning of family news from Philomena and Roberto. The great story that Roberto can tell of yet another of John’s boats running out of gas on the Potomac, obliging Roberto to act as a horse pulling the boat along the towpath is wonderful. I know he has others.
I will miss John for a friendship that spanned over 50 years, his love of life, his generosity and his intellectual curiosity. In many ways, he was indeed a Renaissance Man. I really believe that is how he would like to be remembered.
Brian Jones.

This tribute was added by Alan Howard on 10th April 2014

"I first met John as an undergraduate engineer at Liverpool when he was a PhD student and lectured us on wet steam – a somewhat obtuse subject for a would-be electronic engineer. But as a graduate I met Stan Meachin who was a long time friend of John’s and got to know him much better. Student parties are best glossed over really, but John was eventually a major influence on Stan and I (and our wives by now) joining the brain drain of the late 60s and going to work for Garrett in LA.

We joined what was a Merseyside ghetto in Redondo Beach. Brian Jones (also a Liverpool PhD mechanical engineer) and JBF shared an apartment in the Stardust apartments where we all lived. Brian and John often came to dinner, since my wife Irene was a domestic science teacher and could really cook. The 60s party scene took off. JBF was a keen partygoer and dated so many different girls he sometimes forgot their names. However, he also made his mark at Garrett where his inventiveness for mechanical design and problem solving was unusual.

He and Stan owned a speedboat. This had two large outboard engines, which were somewhat unreliable. On one occasion he told me the boat was in good shape and suggested he and I go for a run up the coast. Off we went enjoying the sunshine and the speed as we bounced across the waves. As we were off Palos Verdes, suddenly both the engines stopped. Now John had a Mustang with a faulty fuel gauge, and he was well known for running out of fuel on the freeway, etc. I looked at him and said “Surely not the boat as well?” He grinned and finally unhooked the red fuel tank, gave it to me with a $5 bill (gas at this time was 23 cents a gallon) and said “You’re a mountaineer so can you swim ashore, climb up the cliff and fetch some gas while I paddle the boat through the surf to the beach.” Walking through residential Palos Verdes dressed only in a pair of wet shorts looking for a gas station wasn’t easy but I managed and returned down the cliff where JBF had the boat pulled up on the shingle. Problem solved!

By the early 70s Stan and Libby and Irene and I were living en famille in Henley-on-Thames, having drained our brains back again. John of course was then married to Sally Wetzel and moving around, eventually settling in Washington DC. But we saw him often, usually en route to the Farnborough or Paris air shows.

JBF was always great company, with a very original outlook, and quite a tour de force. For me he personified the 60s. We really miss him.

Notes on photos:

Ave G – nucleus of the Merseyside ghetto: L to R: Brian Jones, myself, Irene, Wendy, Stan Meachin, Mrs Sherman (Libby’s mother), Libby and JBF.

Boat – fast but unreliable.

Dinner – Libby, myself, Brian, John, Irene, Wendy and Stan.

Party – JBF with a girl in green. Note ties and jackets were the norm.

Party 2 – JBF and myself looking cool.

Scuba – JBF testing his scuba kit in the Stardust pool.

Pool – John successfully harpoons Brian!"

This tribute was added by beanca hazelzet on 30th March 2014

"Dear family,
My condoleances with the  the grieve you have after all the caring and the loss of your husband, father and grandfather.
I remember him , sitting on a settee in the gardenroom in our house from 1665 in Hillegom, the Netherlands.
All his children were playing in the garden. Lots of noise and happiness. Family around him in the room.
And John, his head in sunlight , went lower and lower till he fell asleep.
It was a very peaceful sight.....that he may rest in peace now.
Love Beanca Hazelzet-Buur, Anne Marie's sister."

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This memorial is administered by:

Sarah Fallon


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