The musical Lockheed Martin engineer from Newtown was instrumental in the development of the satellite systems that were antecedents to GPS.
Joel H. Bacher, a retired Lockheed Martin engineer who had a song in his heart and expressed it as a member of a barbershop chorus, died July 17. He was 78 and lived in Newtown.
A graduate of City College of New York, where he earned two bachelor’s degrees — Bacher also earned a master’s from Drexel University and an MBA from Rutgers University — he worked for 33 years at Lockheed Marton and its predecessors, where he was involved with the planning of communication satellites until his retirement in 1996.
Bacher’s work was instrumental in the development of satellite systems which were antecedents to GPS.
Nearly 40 years ago, he and three co-workers gained a patent on their invention for a “Satellite Battery Reconditioning System & Method.”
What also sparked his interest in a major way was Jewish communal life. Over the years Bacher had developed a close association with Tzedek v’Shalom in Newtown, which he served as a board member, president, treasurer and as a faculty member of its Hebrew school.
An accomplished portraitist, he exhibited at the Ivyland Art Group and painted a mural outside BARC Developmental Services in Warminster.
He also had a passion for music, as evidenced by his many roles with the BucksMont Squires of Song, a barbershop chorus, of which he was a board member, president and Valentine’s Day coordinator, among other activities.
Music was key to understanding Bacher, who also played folk music with a group known as Good and Plenty. “Dad was always exploring new facets of music,” says his son, Steven.
“He taught himself to play the guitar upside down — left handed— by listening to Hank Williams records as a teenager. Later, he taught guitar, and learned to play banjo, piano, Appalachian dulcimer, hammered dulcimer, recorder and mandolin. He built his own dulcimers, both kinds.”
He wasn’t the only family member who knew the score. Says his son: “He loved to harmonize with my mother, singing folk songs, and was very active with the Princeton Folk Music Society, when we lived in Kendall Park, and the Bucks County Folk Music Society after moving to Newtown.”
Indeed his talents provided background music for his wooing his future wife, Carolyn Sanders, whom he entertained at a college party while playing ukulele. Turns out, his son says, she especially appreciated his serenade since her own father was a ukulele player.
Joel and Carolyn wed shortly after and were married for more than 50 years until her death in 2010.
He was a forever student — studying Hebrew and Talmud for years — and, upon his retirement from Lockheed, took up teaching part-time at Bucks County Community College.
His impact on those around him was immeasurable, says Steven, who heard more than one person relate their feelings about his father in this manner: “It is always sad when someone passes, and everyone is special. But with your Dad,” they told him, “it is especially sad; he was more special than most.”
In addition to his son, Bacher is survived by a daughter, Susan Panick; a lady friend, Eva Kernis; a brother, Louis; and six grandchildren.
Contributions may be sent to the Carolyn & Joel Bacher Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o Bucks County Community College Foundation, 275 Swamp Rd., Newtown, PA 18940.