Fermilab employee Mike Petkus, 50, died on Saturday, Oct. 8, after an illness. He was technical specialist in the Accelerator Division. A service was held on Oct. 11.
Rob Reilly, a mechanical engineer, started at Fermilab on the same day as Petkus, on Dec. 18, 1980. For more than 30 years, the two of them worked on many magnet installation projects, including the APO Target Hall, Switchyard, Main Ring, Main Injector, the NuMI shield door and, most recently, in the NuMI Extraction beam line.
“Mike was particularly skillful at moving large and heavy objects,” said Reilly. “For example, Mike could get delicate 15 ton magnets in or out of cramped places.”
Not only could Petkus navigate the massive magnets in and out of place, he did it safely.
“Mike was very conscientious of safety,” said Christine Ader, a mechanical engineer. “If he had any questions or doubts about a particular project, he’d ask for help to make sure it was done as safely as possible.”
Ader and Petkus worked together for about five years on the Switchyard beamline. During that time, Petkus oversaw the budget of the project and he managed all of the tasks.
“He had a good working relationship with the ironworkers and riggers employed for the magnet installations,” Reilly said. “As a result, the work was carried out efficiently and safely.”
Both Reilly and Ader noted how much Petkus is missed, as a friend and colleague.
“We had some more tricky magnet installation work lined up for Mike in the coming long shutdown,” said Reilly. “Mike and his skills are sorely missed.”
“We’re scrambling to find someone with the same extensive knowledge and skills as Mike,” Ader said. “Beyond his talents, he was a good friend. He’s already missed in our department.”
Ader said that outside the laboratory, Petkus enjoyed spending time with his family, as well as solving mechanical problems.
“Mike was always working on his car, or his daughter’s car,” Ader said. “His family was really important to him, as was Fermilab.”
Recently, Petkus brought his daughter, Kelly, to the laboratory to share his projects with her.
“I think Mike had some of the essence of what makes Fermilab a great place to work,” Ader said. “Mike had the grittiness, determination and passion to make challenging projects work.”