Valerie Kopecky Craig, who served as chief operating officer of the her husband’s scientific enterprise at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, died peacefully on April 22 at her La Jolla home. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2004.
Born in Chicago in 1926 to parents of Czech origin, she was the wife of the late Harmon Craig, a professor of geochemistry at Scripps who died in 2003.
The Craigs joined Scripps in 1955 and became part of one of the most remarkable geochemistry faculties ever assembled by the legendary Scripps, according to officials at the institution.
She received a master’s degree in business administration from the University of Chicago, where she met geochemistry graduate student Harmon Craig. The Craigs’ marriage in 1947 began a 55-year familial and academic collaboration.
Cynthia Craig, one of their three daughters, said one of her favorite stories was one “of my father standing on my mother’s shoulders to get a sample of a rock face--because it reminds me of Newton: ‘If I have seen further than other men it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants'--and my mother was that giant.”
Mrs. Craig provided logistic, administrative, and emotional support not only to Harmon but also to his graduate students, laboratory staff, and visitors. She served this function, not only at Scripps but also on Harmon’s sample-collecting expeditions around the world, many with long-time Scripps marine technicians Fred Dixon and Ron Comer.
Ron Comer, a longtime Scripps marine technician who went on expeditions with the couple said, “She was a devoted wife. She was Harmon’s partner in everything, and her wit matched his.”
Survivors include her daughters; Claudia Craig Marek, Cynthia Camilla Craig and Karen Constance Craig; a brother Zeno Kopecky Jr.; a brother-in-law, John Craig III, and four grandchildren.
The family has no specific requests, but suggests that those who wish to make a donation in Valerie’s honor consider the Alzheimer’s Association or Oxfam International.