Memorial Spaceflights

Dr. William Rudolph Kropp, Jr.

"The sun will come out tomorrow"
1936 - 2021

As you reach for the stars and follow the sun on this incredible journey, your bright eyes and sweet smile shine in my heart. Your cheerful, humble, sweet demeanor, brilliance, and noble character were evident in your adventures with Chicago’s Boy Scout Troop #904 led by your dad, memories with college roommates, times with Irish cousins, and your admirable career spanning over half a century. You earned your Ph.D. at Case Western Reserve and became a beloved UCI professor, as memorialized on the Physics Department website:

You researched cosmic rays, neutrinos, and proton decay, appeared on the cover of Physics magazine, gave the acceptance speech for Dr. Fredrick Reines’ Nobel Prize in physics as part of the Reines Party, and journeyed deep underground to the Morton Salt Mine under Lake Eerie, the Gold Mines of South Africa, and a mountain in Japan for Super-Kamiokande. Experiences with Fred were captured in his cousin’s book: You reflected, “Things only happen Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.” Your “Get it done attitude” not only made you essential at work but as a father.

Our solid relationship was built on making me solve math problems, carrying me upstairs to bid my stuffed animals goodnight, consoling me after a wreck on my red pixie bike, celebrating me being the littlest dwarf and other silly nicknames, driving in the middle of the night to view Halley’s Comet and waking up to the news of a great supernova, and coaching me on where to attend college. Your encouragement to “Follow Your Passion and The Rest Will Fall Into Place” taught me to trust myself.

Our family had the most memorable adventures. My favorites include Hawaiian volcanoes, Lassen’s peaks, paddlewheels, snow-capped Zion, Wisconsin lakes, Montana glaciers, the Matterhorn, endless hikes, bear-filled camping trips, campfire songs, and tailgate lunches that left MaryAnn and me chanting, “We want to see Paul Bunyan.” During a visit to Yellowstone’s “Old Faithful,” President Jimmy Carter surprisingly touched down by helicopter and shook our hands. You led by example and climbed  Mount Whitney. We will forever remember you reciting “In an old house in Paris” in the majestic Tuolumne Meadows. You gifted me your “Travel Bug” and taught me to live in the moment, respect other cultures, and adopt the spirit of “When in Rome…”.  

You adored our families, partners, and pets. You gave the best dinner toasts. We cherish the special times we got to share stories, eat ice cream, drink root beer, and simply laugh at it all. Your witty humor was endless with your dear sister as you recycled the same birthday card back and forth to each other for years. Your kindness and generosity were known far and wide, and I cherish the piggy banks, salt rocks, and other worldly souvenirs. I hear you humming Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana” and the Sound of Music’s “DoReMi” with a strong encore of “The City of New Orleans.” I remember you strumming a mandolin as you waited up for us to come home while drinking a chilled glass of Jameson, McCallum’s, Buffalo Grass Vodka, or Chivas Regal. Your gentle reminders to MaryAnn and me that “I’m The Daddy and That’s Why” are a tribute to your guiding light. From the early sunshine days of when you read the Sunday Comics and got us Pantages Broadway theatre tickets to heavy moments when I most needed hope, I will forever love you and hear you singing, “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.” Love, KT

Photo captions (in order):

Dr. William R. Kropp, DePaul Academy (1954)

Photo taken by Leonard Cole during his book interviews (2018)

Fredrick Reines with his family and Bill at the Nobel Ceremony, Sweden (1995, Photo Source: Leonard Cole)

Dad became Grandpa! Bill is holding his granddaughter, Samantha (2001)

Grandpa and granddaughter, Jessica share a sweet resemblance! (2021)

Dad with his favorite daughters, MaryAnn and Katie

Katie loved hiking her whole life with her dad. (San Luis Obispo, 1994)

Sister Noreen Brandt and Billy were close BFFs (2017)

Billy always loved Christmas! Circa 1940

Grandpa Bill celebrating 80 years with grandchildren! (2016)


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