Richard E. Llewellyn
Retired engineer who loved traveling and making videos of adventures ‘got to go places some people only dream about’
Richard Eaton Llewellyn, a retired Northrop Grumman engineer who made videos of his global travels, died of pancreatic cancer June 6 at his home in Columbia. He lived in Oakland Mills Village and was 75.
Born in Los Angeles, he was the son of Frederick Llewellyn, manager of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, and his wife, Jane Althouse, a floral artist.
He was a 1964 graduate of San Marino High School and earned an engineering degree at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California.
He moved to Maryland and joined the staff of the Westinghouse Corp. in Linthicum. He continued work there after it became Northrop Grumman and had a career of more than 30 years.
He met his future wife, Dr. Julia Wagner, a dentist, through a colleague in the profession. They initially discussed tips on traveling to Europe, and when she returned from an overseas trip, they continued the relationship. They married in 1975 and honeymooned in Maine, where they developed a taste for lobster.
“I was applying to dental school, and he guided me on how to take a standardized test,” she said. “He was smart, with a sense of humor. He was curious and at the same time unflappable. He was always helping people, even strangers.”
She also said, “In the 1970s before they were generally available, Rick built his own desktop computer at our first home near Catonsville.”
He began doing digital design during the early days of computer technology in the 1970s with Westinghouse’s Electrical Design organization.
“Rick was an innovative thinker who contributed to the design of computer hardware for the AWACS radar system and led the development of the first fully programmable airborne processors for the Electronically Agile Radar, the F-16 fighter, and B-1B bomber,” said his wife. “Generations of computing systems flying today can trace their heritage back to some of Rick’s original concepts.”
Following his electrical design work, he led a group of engineers in the development of Aided Target Recognition systems which used machine learning and other computing techniques to locate and identify vehicles in radar and infrared camera images, his wife said.
“He pioneered work in fusing targeting results from both radar and infrared images in programs such as the Multi-Sensor Aided Targeting system,” she said.
“Rick was a true entrepreneur,” she said. “He served as both technical adviser and proposal/program manager for many of these efforts. Today, Aided Target Recognition is a technology that allows autonomous cars to recognize pedestrians, bicycles and speed limit signs.”
She said her husband was a mentor and friend to the many engineers who crossed his path during his long career.
“They remembered him as innovative, and always smiling or laughing,” she said. “He was a coach, cheerleader, problem solver, referee and chief expert.”
After Mr. Llewellyn retired in 2000, he and his wife began extensive travels.
“Much of our travel focused on a fascination with nature,” she said. “Our adventures included swimming with humpback whales in Tonga, hiking in Uganda to see mountain gorillas and climbing a cliff in Tristan da Cunha to see the Northern Rockhopper, a little penguin.”
They later achieved a dream of seeing all 19 species of penguins in the wild.
“Rick always wanted to see an aardvark, the first animal in the dictionary. And he did,” she said. “He videoed and photographed countless other animal species and birds, including rare animals like pangolins and tigers.”
They sought out interesting food and wine, which they felt was an integral part of their travels and their daily lives.
They visited all seven continents multiple times, and over 160 countries, but their favorite place on the planet remained Yellowstone National Park, she said.
When they were not traveling, they spent their summers fly fishing in Montana and hiking around Yellowstone, where they had a second home.
Mr. Llewellyn loved to cook.
“He was a great pit master,” his wife said. “He made wonderful pulled pork and barbecued spareribs. Fridays were always lobster along with sourdough bread.”
Mr. Llewellyn spent hours indulging in videography and generating videos of the places they visited. Among his videos, he made the “The Great Migration,” about the migration of zebra and wildebeest in their quest for grass, and the “The Mating Dance,” about flamingos in Chile. He posted his videos on YouTube.
“We got to go places some people only dream about,” his wife said. “His videos are his memorial that others can share in.”
In addition to his wife of nearly 46 years, a retired dentist in the Dobbin Dental Suite in Columbia, survivors include a brother, John Llewellyn of Pasadena, California; a sister, Ann Evans of Knapp Island, Canada; and nieces and nephews.
A memorial celebration of his life is planned.