Edward Rolfe of Lincoln, Massachusetts, a retired engineer,
died peacefully on March 27, 2014, at the age of 94 after experiencing complications
from a recent stroke.
Rolfe was born in London, England, in 1920, the son of
Florence Catherine Lewis Rolfe and Thomas Edward Rolfe. He graduated at the age
of 19 from London University with a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical
engineering (First Class Honors) in 1939, later coming to the United States on
a fellowship in 1950 to earn a master’s degree in chemical engineering at MIT.
After a stint with Standard Oil in England, during which he won two patents for
electrical control of lube oil processing, he returned to the US to manage the
Plasma and Applied Physics Laboratory at the Raytheon Company, where he
developed the first laser Doppler lidar system, for which he was awarded a NASA
Science Prize. In 1968, he returned to academia, earning a master’s in
theoretical physics from Brandeis University. He then worked for Stone &
Webster Engineering Corp., heading its Probabilistic Risk Assessment Study of
the Millstone III nuclear power plant, and ran his own consulting company for
the design and analysis of nuclear power plants. His last employment was in the
field of software consulting, working on large distributed relational
transactional-based database systems at the Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC) and
consulting independently on software and engineering problems with various
An avid sportsman throughout his life, Rolfe learned sailing
as a Sea Scout near Lewisham, the district of London where he grew up. He and
his fellow scouts navigated a large, old sailboat along the Thames River, where
his grandfather Rolfe had been a lighterman. For many years, he was a member of
the Boston Harbor Sailing Club and of the Appalachian Mountain Club. He was for
a time a member of the New York Athletic Club water polo team.
In London, Rolfe studied violin at the Guildhall School of
Music, a talent he pursued as the founding concertmaster and president of the
Waltham Philharmonic and as a member of the Concord and Civic Symphony
Orchestras. His most recent concerts were with the Wellesley Symphony and at
the annual Messiah sings of Lexington’s Masterworks Chorale, where he
proudly shared a first violin stand with his grandson Sam. He enjoyed
organizing chamber music events with professional acquaintances and family
friends, and participated in the AMC’s cross-country skiing and chamber music
In 1938, while working as an apprentice for the BBC, Rolfe
was responsible for making a recorded transcription of the famous “peace for
our time” message of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain. During World
War II, Rolfe served as a captain in the British Army 6th Airborne Division,
Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers; as a paratrooper in the Special Air
Service, he assisted de Gaulle’s Free French forces. After the war, he was
stationed in Jerusalem and was swimming nearby at the YMCA when the King David
Hotel was bombed.
Locally, Rolfe was a member of the Lincoln Planning Board
and served on the music committee of the First Parish in Lincoln (UCC/UAA).
Rolfe is survived by his wife of 65 years, Stephanie, whom
he met while working after the war for British Thomson-Houston in Rugby,
England; daughter Wendy Rolfe-Dunham, a professional flutist; son-in-law
Benjamin S. Dunham, an editor and arts consultant; grandson Samuel Dunham, a
student at the College of William and Mary; brother John, a retired actor
living in England; and many nieces and nephews to whom he was devoted.
Family plans call for a memorial concert in Lincoln at a
time to be announced.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to a
scholarship fund in his memory at Music at Port Milford (288 Washington Ave., Pleasantville,
NY 10570; www.mpmcamp.org), a chamber
music camp in Ontario that his grandson greatly enjoyed.
Arrangements under the care of Glenn D. Burlamachi CONCORD FUNERAL HOME, Concord. To share a memory or offer a condolence visit: www.concordfuneral.com