In memoriam: Age Visser

By Margherita Vittone-Wiersma

We are sad to announce the passing of Age T. Visser, age 91, on Sept. 5, 2022. Age joined Fermilab in 1970. In 1994, he retired, having spent his career as a leader and an electrical engineer with 22 years in the RD/electronics/electrical department. A staple at the lab, he received much recognition and many prizes.

For example, in 1974, in charge of electrical work, Age participated in commissioning what was at the time the world’s highest energy electron beam. In 1977, he was recognized for his contributions to the “upsilon” discovery. He won a lab award for energy conservation in 1989, and then he received the 1991 R&D 100 award for the high-amperage solid state switch.

Age had a great, long professional and personal life. Read his obituary to learn more. Here some long-time friends and coworkers share their remembrances of him.

From Ken Stanfield:

It is so sad to hear the completely unexpected news about Age. He was always the picture of good health and very active walking, kayaking and working in his yard. I truly expected him to outlive us all.

Since the time he retired, we have visited with him at least once a year as he and Hetty returned to the area to see their friends from Fermilab. My wife Nelly and I visited them in Traverse City and once in Leland when they made the trip over on their boat. He loved the water and fishing. And we had hoped to see them again this year. I first met Age in 1977 when I joined the lab in the proton department. He was head of the electrical group and responsible for all power systems throughout the area.

I began as a liaison physicist so that I immediately began to work with him to help coordinate his work for the experiments to which I was assigned. He was amazingly talented and such a pleasant and cheerful person with whom to work. I think we became friends very soon but then he treated everyone as a good friend. I consulted him often and learned much from him, and we continued to work together in one capacity or other for the remainder of his time at the lab. He once gave me a lesson in the meaning of contingency when he told me how to estimate the power needs for a new experimental area.  He said with a big smile that he always multiplied the estimated requirement by any new experimental group by a big factor that I now no longer remember.  And he was always right, saving us a lot of expense and effort later.

He was often called upon to contribute to other areas of the lab, and the power supplies that he designed were in use throughout the lab and probably still are. His wry sense of humor is well known to all who knew him, but one prescient quip stays with me at this time. We were lamenting the passing of our good friend Bob Trendler when he said to me, “Ken, we are no longer part of the ‘silent generation,’ we are part of the check-out generation.” We both had to laugh.

From Roy Rubinstein:

Very sad to hear of Age’s death. He was the chief electrical engineer when I was deputy and then head of the proton department from 1973 to 1976; I’m guessing that he was hired by the previous head, John Peoples. Age was an expert on all high-power electrical equipment, including the supplies for all of the beamline bending magnets. He was very good at politely informing physicists how engineeringly impractical some of their ideas were.

It was always a pleasure to meet Age and Hetty, after his retirement, on their annual Fermilab visits.

From Peter Garbincius:

Age was a mentor to me and a trusted friend since I joined Fermilab in the mid-1970s.

When I first joined the Fermilab Proton Lab, among other things, I was assigned as liaison physicist to the electrical department, which Age led.

Age and I developed Fermilab’s initial lock and tag procedure for working on electrical equipment. This was even before OSHA or federal regulations required Lock and Tag. Age and I also had to rebuild the Proton Lab’s instrumentation department when the new engineer promptly left and took many of that department’s technicians with him.

I also worked with Age on the quench switch and protection system for our superconducting magnets. That was a lot of fun!

Age was important in building the Wide Band Photon Lab, and especially in organizing and leading the clean-up and recovery after the Wide Band fire. Even after Age retired from Fermilab, we continued to exchange Christmas cards, and I enjoyed seeing Age and Hetty at their frequent visits to Fermilab.

From Margherita Vittone-Wiersma:

I always heard that you can tell whether a person had a happy life by looking at the wrinkles on the face. Well, in this case, then I can certainly say that Age had a great life, the contagious smile imprinted on his face and his bright eyes reflected an amazing jovial character and great sense of humor in both his professional and personal life.

I met Age back in 1985 when I came to the lab as a young physicist to work on the experiment E687 with my Italian group from Milano. Age was in charge of the electrical framework being setup for E687 at the Wide Band Photon Lab. He was always ready to give the best suggestions toward problems solution due to his bright mind and vast knowledge.

Age and his wife Hetty became more than dear friends, they became my American family; we spent a lot of time together through all these past 37 years! He will be greatly missed!

To send notes of condolence to Age’s wife Hetty, please email them to Margherita Vittone-Wiersma (vittone@fnal.gov), who will pass them on.