A Loss in the Family, Passing of Ed Schwarm NX1V

Edward G. Schwarm

Edward G. Schwarm, 82, died Friday, May 20, 2005. He was the husband of Erla Z. Schwarm, deceased, for over 62 years. Mr. Schwarm was born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He enrolled at the University of Wisconsin, Madison but his education was interrupted by World War II when he was called up from the Army Air Corp Enlisted Reserve Corp. He and Erla married during his training (Hartford, Connecticut).

He served as a second lieutenant and was the engineering officer for the 506 Squadron of the 44th Bomb Group, 2nd Air Division of the Eighth Army Air Corp in England troubleshooting for and supervising the 120-member crew maintaining and repairing B-24 bombers. He frequently filled in as co-pilot, looking for every opportunity to fly. After the war, he returned to the university to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering.

In his career as an electronics engineer, he held 11 international patents in aviation and electronic power systems. He developed bomb site navigation systems for A.C. Spark Plug (Milwaukee, Wisconsin). At Link Aviation (Binghamton, New York) he was project manager and chief designer of the DC-8 flight simulator, one of the largest analog computers ever built and the supercomputer of its day. At the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory (Cambridge, Massachusetts) now called Draper Labs, he was the special projects manager for designing the inertial guidance system for the command module and the lunar landing module for the Apollo Space Program. He asked the question, “How would you get the astronauts back from space if the main rocket system failed?” He then completed the studies and design work needed to equip the lunar landing module with essential systems that later made the return of the Apollo 13 astronauts possible.

Working for Arthur D. Little (Cambridge, Massachusetts) as an electronics consultant, he invented the static bypass design used in uninterruptible power system, the back-up power systems used by large computer data centers for no-fail businesses such as financial institutions, airlines, and telephone companies. He was also an expert in train electrification and conducted some of the first studies paving the way for high-speed trains from Boston to New York. In later years, he ran his own successful electronics consulting business, Edward G. Schwarm Associates, completing his final contract in 2004.

An avid sailor, he built his first sailboat with his grandfather at age 10, he delivered sailboats from Maine to the Caribbean using celestial navigation with pinpoint accuracy, and continued single-handing his Bristol 32, Chimo, until his death.

As a private pilot with a commercial license, he flew military jets, B-24s, gliders, and single prop planes and was particularly fond of aerobatics. He also enjoyed skiing with friends starting in college and ending with his last run at age 80. Alta and Zurmat were his favorites. He was an extra class ham radio operator, call letters NX1V, who enjoyed teaching others.
A world traveler, he circumnavigated the world three times, traveling to all seven continents. His love of the ocean and voyaging with his wife led him to retrace the route of the HMS Bounty in the South Pacific, traverse the Bering Straights from Alaska to Russia, explore Antarctica and travel the length of the Amazon River (where he enjoyed an evening swim).

As a 23-year resident of Acton, Massachusetts, he was active in the town government. He was also very committed to the First Congregational Church of Acton, serving as deacon and trustee among other roles. These were activities he continued while living in Marstons Mills, Massachusetts for the past 20 years. During a drought several years ago, he secured funding to upgrade a town herring run that conserves water in the lakes and helps preserve the fish. He worked with town members to buy the local airport in lieu of opening the land to developers.

He faithfully cared for his wife, Erla, who struggled with Alzheimer’s, until her health failed. Surviving are two sons, Stephen C. Schwarm of Wrentham, Massachusetts and Thomas E. Schwarm of Freeport, Maine; a daughter, Claudia Gere of Shutesbury, Massachusetts; five grandsons, a great-granddaughter, two nieces and three nephews.

A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m., Wednesday, June 1 at Federated Church of Hyannis, 320 Main Street, Hyannis. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Edward and Erla Schwarm Family Fund at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), Mail Stop #39, Woods Hole, MA 02543-1050. This endowment fund starts a new program that provides graduate students in their first year of studying oceanography the opportunity to work at sea aboard the research vessel Tioga.

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