Obituary: Sidney Darwin Putnam

Posted at 1:59 PM, May 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-13 15:59:21-04

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Sidney Darwin Putnam, firstborn of Mildred Lindsay and Sidney Putnam of Frankfort, NY. Sidney was born on January 14, 1935 on the Putnam dairy farm in the height of winter, surrounded by Holsteins and snow drifts that he ardently avoided the rest of his life.

The oldest of six children, Sidney looked to school, science and music for salvation and determinedly charted a course due west. Having milked, shoveled and “fixed everything” as a boy, he excelled in his studies and piano, and was elected Valedictorian of his Frankfort high school class of 1952. With a New York state scholarship, he left the farm to attend Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute where he earned a B.S. in Physics in 1956 and applied to graduate schools in temperate, non-rural cities.

In 1958, Sidney moved to Berkeley, California to attend a Ph.D. program in physics and found his “home” amidst Berkeley’s liberalism, gourmet food and vast musical and cultural offering and California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. In 1967, through music, he met his future wife Joyce Staples, and they were married in Chico on July 21,1968. Soon after the wedding, they bought the house next door where they lived for over 50 years.

“Sid” spent many years getting his Ph.D. in plasma physics from UC Berkeley. During that time, he started working at Physics International, and he and Joyce welcomed their daughters, Claire in 1970, and Emily in 1976. It was at P.I. that Sidney would form a bromance-triumvirate of sorts with friends Phil Spence and Ian Smith. In 1981, the threesome left P.I. and formed Pulse Sciences Incorporated (Phil Sidney Ian), a private physics research group.

His work at PSI, along with his loving family, wide travels, music, gourmet food and friends helped shaped his wonderful life. At age 70, Sidney loved to say he retired so that he could take organ lessons, study Spanish, travel leisurely and search for the perfect Brut Rose.

Last March, Sidney and Joyce left Berkeley for Bozeman, MT to escape the pandemic lock-down. Even there, with his piano, music, family and fine food, he longed to go back to Berkeley—to his life of organ practice, local restaurants and his sunny, snow-less patio. He died on April 11, 2021 in Bozeman, Montana, surrounded by his wife, daughters, son-in-law, grandsons and cats, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

Sidney is survived by his wife of 52 years, Joyce; his daughters, Claire and Emily; son in law, John; three grandsons, Owen, Declan and Cole; his sisters, Barbara and Beverly; and his brothers, Darwin (Budd) and Donald. He was preceded in death by his brother, James (David), and by many nephews, nieces and their offspring.

A memorial will be held this summer in Berkeley, TBD. The family requests that in lieu of flowers or cards, that you plant a memorial tree or share a story, memory and/or picture on his page. Arrangements are in the care of Dokken-Nelson Funeral Service