Jon Barr Applequist
March 19, 1932 - December 18, 2017

Jon Barr Applequist

Jon Barr Applequist
Mar 19, 1932 - Dec 18, 2017

Jon Barr Applequist
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Jon Barr Applequist, 85, of Ames, Iowa, died surrounded by family on December 18, 2017 at Green Hills in Ames after a sudden decline. A two-time cancer survivor, he was patriarch to a large and appreciative family who feel blessed to have had him for those 85 years, and are thankful that he did not linger in his passing. A Celebration of Life will be held at Collegiate Presbyterian Church in Ames at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, December 29, 2017, with arrangements by Grandon Funeral Home. Lunch and interment at Ames Municipal Cemetery will follow the service.
Jon was born in Salt Lake City, Utah on March 19, 1932, the second son of Einar and Margaret (Musser) Applequist. He and his brothers, Doug and Reid, spent their boyhood years living down the street from the Applequist Bakery operated by their Swedish immigrant grandfather. In 1944, the family moved to Berkeley, CA, where Jon attended junior high and high school, graduating in 1950. He earned a B.S. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 1954, pursued graduate studies in chemistry for one year at Heidelberg University, Germany, and went on to earn his Ph.D. in Chemistry from Harvard University in 1959.

That same year, he was hired as assistant professor at his alma mater in Berkeley, a turn of events he would later describe as the most important in his life, for it was there that he met his future wife, Nancy Bruce. They were married on August 27, 1960, beginning a union that would eventually produce five children, four children-in-law, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild. They were his biggest source of pride, eclipsing, in his view, any of his scientific accomplishments in the field of biophysics.

He and Nancy moved to New York City in 1961, where Jon had accepted an assistant professor position at Columbia University. In 1965, they moved their growing family to Ames, IA where he began as an associate professor in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department at Iowa State University, later advancing to full professor, and finally to professor emeritus. Over the 35 years until his retirement in 2000, his research topics included theory of molecular optical properties, conformation of biological macromolecules, and mathematics of atoms and molecules. His credo was that deriving and performing computational predictions gives the most insight per square foot of lab space. His approaches for computing spectra of biological molecules continue to help bridge the gap between theoretical structures and measured properties. Not just a dedicated scientist, he was an example of kindness to his post-docs and advisees, often inviting them to join the family for Thanksgiving dinner and other special meals.

Jon attended church at Collegiate Presbyterian where he and Nancy taught Sunday school for several years. Over the years, his hobbies and interests included playing his banjo, painting watercolors, crafting shelves, tables, and doors in his wood shop, fixing his Volkswagens, solving word puzzles, and cultivating trees that last a lifetime. In retirement, Jon put his keen intellect and research skills to use in compiling an extensive genealogical report on the family's ancestry. He will be remembered both for his ample repertoire of jokes and quick wit - "Salt is what makes food taste so bad if you don't use any" - and for being a truly decent human being who gave and received an abundance of love in his life.

Jon is survived by his wife, Nancy of Ames, IA; children, Karen (Lennie) Clement of Boone, IA, Reid (Carmen) Applequist of Bonita, CA, Jennifer (Kent) Chittenden of Big Timber, MT, Scott (Cheryl) Applequist of Asheville, NC, and George Applequist of West Lafayette, IN; brother Reid (Naureen) Applequist of Colorado Springs, CO; sisters-in-law Linda Applequist of Champaign, IL and Diana Eskin of Washington, D.C.; grandchildren, Nathan Clement, Kallie (Reed) Johnson, Emily Clement, Jacob Chittenden, Bess Clement, Kevin Chittenden and Joel Chittenden; great granddaughter, Kennedy Johnson; and eight nieces and nephews.

He was preceded in death by his parents Einar and Margaret, his brother Doug Applequist, and his sister-in-law Kathy Bruce.

Jon was a beloved husband, brother, "Daddy," and "Grandpa" who will be missed by all.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the International Rescue Committee or the charity of your choice. Online condolences may be offered at:

Felix Ngassa on Dec 28, 2017

I did not personally know Dr. Applequist. But, as a former graduate student of Dr. Thomasson, who herself was a former graduate student of Dr. Applequist, I came to know of Dr. Applequist. Dr. Applequist has touched the lives of many through mentorship and the amazing body of work in biophysical chemistry published in the scientific literature literature. For his indirect mentorship, through the mentorship I received from Dr. Thomasson and his many contributions in chemical sciences, I say Adieu to a great man.
Felix N. Ngassa
Professor of Chemistry and Chair of the Executive Committee of the University Academic Senate, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, MI.

Kathryn Thomasson on Dec 25, 2017

Dr. Applequist was a wonderful major professor, mentor, and role model for budding biophysical scientists. I know I would never have been able to succeed without his guidance and support.
Infinite love and gratitude,
Kathryn Thomasson, Professor and Graduate Director
Chemistry Department
University of North Dakota

Marit Nilsen-Hamilton on Dec 23, 2017

Jon was one of my favorite faculty colleagues. So kind and unassuming. He did some excellent research that continues to be used and cited. As chair of the department and just before he was to retire, I decided we should put Jon up for a career research award from the college. When we received the letters from his colleagues, we realized that we had much more of a treasure than we had previously appreciated. The writers were highly complementary of Jon's work and pointed out how fundamental the results of his studies were to ongoing work in other labs, which was something he never boasted about. Instead he had just gone about doing excellent quality research in his quiet way. After reading the letters, I decided that we should instead put Jon up for a university award as he would surely receive it - which he did. So well deserved. Even after he retired, I consulted Jon on questions of interpreting spectroscopic data. As usual, his advice was measured, and excellent. Although we hardly touched bases otherwise, Jon was an important part of the fabric of my faculty life and I will miss his presence on this earth, but always remember his kindnesses and balanced approach to life. Marit Nilsen-Hamilton

George Applequist on Dec 23, 2017

To all those wishing us well, aloud or silently, thanks.
George A.



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Collegiate Presbyterian Church
159 North Sheldon Ave
Ames, IA 50014
11:00 AM

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