James P. Duckworth 07/17/1923 – 08/03/2021 | Obituary

James P. Duckworth died peacefully at his home in Peoria, AZ on August 3, 2021. He was 98 years old. James is survived by his four children, John (Janine) Duckworth, Tom (Connie) Duckworth, Susan (Brian) Christian and David (Karen) Duckworth, as well as twelve beloved grandchildren who called him “Poppers”.

Jim was a loving and devoted husband, father, grandfather; a pioneer in nuclear engineering and a master at his hobby, ballroom dancing, which he enjoyed with his wife, Nellie. Jim’s parents were Leon and Irene Duckworth. Leon was the Lancaster Waterworks Superintendent for many years. Jim’s older brother Bill served in the army during World War II and was part of the first wave of troops landing in Normandy on D-Day, where he was killed.

Jim, born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, attended public school there and in high school met his future wife, Nellie Spalding. Their relationship continued as Jim went to serve as a radio operator with the Army Air Corps in Alaska during World War II. When he returned from the war, they married in 1946.

Jim attended Franklin & Marshall College and then Penn State University, where he earned a master’s degree in petroleum engineering. Nellie earned her Masters in Education from Penn State at the same time. After graduating, Jim was invited to be part of the developing Hanford Project in Washington State, which was creating methods of using nuclear fuel for commercial electricity generation. There, he invented and patented a device still used today as part of the Purex process to reprocess spent nuclear fuel. Jim worked at Hanford until 1967, when he was asked to become the manager of the first commercial nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in West Valley, NY. The family moved to Hamburg, NY, where they remained for 15 years.

After his West Valley experience, Jim was invited to work at the Idaho National Energy Lab near Idaho Falls, ID. Jim and Nellie loved the beauty of the surrounding country and entertained friends and family with trips to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Sun Valley, Craters of the Moon and Redfish Lake. Jim retired in 1990 and he and Nellie enjoyed life in Idaho Falls until Nellie fell ill with cancer and died in 1994.

Jim returned to ballroom dancing and became a dance entertainer on cruise ships in order to see the world and keep himself busy. He eventually slowed down and moved to Sun City, AZ. He continued his dancing and met many friends, including his second love, Donna White. Donna started out dancing with Jim, but soon became his second life partner and helped him through his later years. His loving care is certainly one of the main reasons why Jim has reached the age of 98.

He will be missed by all of his children, grandchildren, Nellie’s remaining extended family, as well as Donna and her family.

A memorial service will be held at St. James’s Episcopal Church, 119 N. Duke St., Lancaster, PA at 3:00 p.m. on July 16, 2022. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster , Pennsylvania. Online: https://www.fandm.edu/how-to-give; or by mail to: Franklin & Marshall College, Office of College Advancement, Attn: Advancement Services, PO Box 3003, Lancaster, PA 17604-3003.

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