"U-News & Views," The University of Utah Alumni Association's online newsletter - August 2008
U-News & Views, The University of Utah Alumni Association’s Online Newsletter—August 2008

In Memoriam

Tracy Hall BS’42 MS’43 PhD’48, who created the first man-made diamond, passed away at his home on July 25. He was 88.

Howard Tracy Hall was born on October 20, 1919, in Ogden, Utah, to Howard Hall and Florence Almina Tracy. As a young man Tracy roamed the fields of Marriott (Utah), read avidly at the Ogden Carnegie Library, and assembled home-made contraptions from junk-yard components. As a fourth-grader he told his teacher he would some day work for General Electric, the company so closely associated with his hero, inventor Thomas Edison. While a student at the University of Utah in 1941, Tracy married his sweetheart, Ida-Rose Langford. After completing his M.S., he served for two years as a Navy ensign. Returning to the University, he became Henry J. Eyring’s first graduate student. Two months after receiving his doctorate he started work at the General Electric Research Laboratory in Schenectady, NY. At GE, he joined a team focused on synthesizing diamond in the laboratory. On December 16, 1954, he became the first person to produce diamond from carbon using a verifiable and reproducible process. The next year, Hall became director of research at Brigham Young University, and over his 30 years at BYU, became a highly regarded professor of chemistry and mentor of many graduate students. During that time he also invented the tetrahedral and cubic presses, which allowed him to continue his research in the field of high pressure. In 1966, Hall partnered with two BYU professors, Bill Pope and Duane Horton, to form Megadiamond, a company that manufactures diamond products for industrial applications.

A loyal member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Hall served as a bishop in the Provo Utah Pleasant View First Ward. He and Ida-Rose later served a full-time mission to Zimbabwe and South Africa (1982-83). In his retirement, Tracy returned to his farming roots and spent his days working at his tree farm in Payson, Utah. During recent years, he suffered the effects of long-term diabetes and advancing age. He was cared for by his wife Ida-Rose until her death in 2005, and by his daughter, Nancy, and other devoted caretakers.

Tracy is survived by four brothers, Eugene M. (Joyce Hansen, dec.), Wendell H. (Merrill E.), Donald R. (D. Louise), and Delbert (L. Carlyn Henshaw, dec.); seven children, Sherlene (Daniel R. Bartholomew), H. Tracy (Helen Gardner Van Orman), David R. (Karen VanDyke), Elizabeth (J. Martin Neil), Virginia (Barry D. Wood), Charlotte (Bryan Y. Weight), and Nancy (Douglas A. Mecham); daughter-in-law Elizabeth Huntington Hall; 35 grandchildren; and 53 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Ida-Rose, and a daughter-in-law, Donna Rae Coy Hall. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to the LDS Church’s Perpetual Education Fund.

Edited from the notice published in The Salt Lake Tribune from 7/27 - 7/29/2008.


Coy Miles JD’49, who helped create and produce significant Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints collectibles such as the “CTR” ring, died July 4 of congestive heart failure. He was 92.

Douglas Coy Miles was born August 15, 1916, in Baker, Ore., the third of four children to Earl and Verdie Miles. He served an East Central States LDS mission, 1936-38, and attended BYU where he was active in student affairs and fell in love with Blanche Bowen. The day after Pearl Harbor he joined the U.S. Navy, and commanded a Martin PBM Mariner flying boat in the Pacific. Coy and Blanche married on Jan. 26, 1943, in Corpus Christie, Texas, and the two were later sealed in the Salt Lake Temple. After the war, Miles received a law degree from the University of Utah and became an active member of the Utah bar. A gifted salesman, he established O.C. Tanner’s first national sales force. In 1955, he joined the L.G. Balfour Co. as national sales manager and worked with Chevrolet and GM, creating original incentive programs. He designed many well-known awards for the LDS Church, among them the Duty to God award, Relief Society pendant, Articles of Faith wall hangings, and the CTR ring. Active in the LDS Church, he taught seminary at West High School and was a guide at Temple Square.

Coy is survived by his wife, Blanche; their three children, Bowen (Denise), Kent (Linda), and Margo (Nelson); grandchildren Lindsay and Sam Miles, Alex and Hannah Kate Anderl, and Corbett, John, and CJ Miles; and nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Perpetual Education Fund, (801) 422-3945. Online condolences may be left at www.larkincares.com.

Edited from the notice published in The Salt Lake Tribune on 7/9/2008.


John Renteria BS’93, a longtime Latino social activist in Utah, died unexpectedly on June 29. He was 56.

John Manuel Renteria was born January 27, 1952, in Salt Lake City to Juan and Refugio Bernal Renteria. He grew up in Bingham Canyon and Salt Lake, graduating from Judge Memorial High School, where he was a member of the baseball team. He went on to receive his bachelor’s degree in political science from the U and (though a devout Catholic) a J.D. from Brigham Young University Law School, and married Colleen J. Pearson in 1972. The couple had two children together, and though they later divorced, remained good friends. At the time of his death, Renteria’s companion was Viola Tovar.

John was about service and looking out for others, especially the less fortunate. His many accomplishments include serving as president of Centro Civico Mexicano, a member of the board of directors for Legal Services, and a member of the board of Crossroads Urban Center. He served as a mediator for Utah courts and, most recently, was the liaison to the Hispanic community for National Alliance for the Mentally Ill of Utah (N.A.M.I./Utah). He was also a candidate for Salt Lake City Mayor twice and once for the Utah State Legislature. A former owner of John’s Big Deal, his other interests included music, marathons, and, most importantly, his family.

John is survived by his son, John Michael, and his daughter, Angelina; four grandchildren, Christian, Cortland, Stetson, and Jerron; longtime companion Viola Tovar and her children, Gilbert, Chris, Rosa, and Patty Mae Serrano; father Juan; brothers and sisters Jose Luis “Pepe” (Julie), Teresa (Cory) Lyman, Georgia (Mike) Maloney, Mike, Alfonso, and Gloria (Saul) Castruita; and several nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts, uncles, and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother, Refugio Bernal Renteria, brother Alfonso, nieces Ashley and Vanessa, and nephews Matt and Alejandro. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Chicano Scholarship Fund, c/o University of Utah, 201 S. 1460 East, Room 105, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.

Edited from the notice published in The Salt Lake Tribune on 7/1/2008.


Toru Sakahara JD’44, a respected attorney and leader in the Northwest Japanese American community, passed away peacefully among close family members April 26 in Seattle. He was 91.

Sakahara was born September 19, 1916, in Tacoma, Wash., the eldest of six children of Tojiro Sakahara, a prominent Fife area farmer originally from Osaka, Japan, and his wife, Kazue Hattori of Kumamoto. After receiving his B.A. from the University of Washington in 1940, Sakahara became one of the first Japanese American students to win admission to the University of Washington School of Law, where he studied until receiving notice of relocation in March 1942. He and his college sweetheart, Kiyo, married quickly to avoid placement in separate internment camps, and were transferred together to the relocation facility at Minidoka, Idaho.

With the intercession of a UW Dean, the Sakaharas were soon released, and Toru completed his law degree at the University of Utah in 1944. He was admitted to the Utah State Bar the same year, and the Washington Bar in 1946. In 1953, Sakahara was accredited to practice before the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court and the Board of Immigration Appeals, and in 1965 founded Sakahara and MacArthur, a groundbreaking minority-and-female-owned law firm.

A lifelong civil rights advocate, Sakahara was instrumental in the 1966 repeal of the Alien Land Law, which since 1921 had prohibited land ownership in Washington State by immigrants of Asian descent. In 1968, in the midst of nationwide urban unrest, Sakahara convened an unprecedented meeting between International District leaders and members of the Black Panther Party, where his incisive plea for racial justice helped defuse tensions in Seattle’s Central Area.

Sakahara’s leadership in civic organizations included presidencies of the Japanese American Citizens League, Seattle Japanese Community Service, Jackson St. Community Council, and the Seattle Citizens Housing Board, where he served as a member until 1978. He was a past president of the Seattle First Hill Lions Club, and was active in a wide network of community associations including the Seattle Japanese Language School, Japan-America Society, and the forthcoming Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington. His longstanding service on behalf of the community was honored by the Emperor of Japan, who awarded him the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Fourth Class, in March of 1984.

Toru is survived by his wife, Kiyo, son David, and daughter Julie, all of Seattle; daughter April, of Bellingham; brother Hiroshi, of Houston; grandchildren Michael Sakahara of Reston, Va., Brett Sakahara of Houston, Melissa Sakahara of Seattle, and Brennen Smith of Bellingham; and great-grandchildren Tiffany and Joshua Sakahara of Houston. Remembrances may be made in care of the Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Washington.

Edited from an obituary on the Evergreen-Washelli Web site.


David B. Timmins BS’53 MS’54, a former U.S. diplomat, passed away peacefully on July 16. He was 78.

David Brighton Timmins was born in Salt Lake City on May 21, 1930, to William Montana Timmins and Mary Brighton Timmins. As an Eagle Scout , he worked as a counselor at Boy Scout summer camps. After graduating from East High School in 1947, he attended Utah State University for one year and graduated from the University of Utah, where he was elected to Pi Sigma Alpha, the international political science honorary society, and Omicron Delta Epsilon, the economics honor society. He became a Littauer Fellow at Harvard, where he received an MPA and doctorate with honors. His first professional job was as statistician for the State of Utah in the administration of Gov. J. Bracken Lee, but he spent most of his life abroad as a career officer in the U.S. Foreign Service, with postings to the U.K., France, Iceland, Madrid, Morocco, and Guatemala. He had several assignments at the State Department in Washington, D.C., including a tour as a member of the Board of Examiners. During a two-year leave of absence from the State Department, he organized and staffed an independent Department of Economics at Weber State University, achieving accreditation by the American Academy of Collegiate Schools of Business.

Timmins’ doctoral dissertation on the newly created Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was published in book form on the silver anniversary of the OECD, the first analytical treatment of this important organization. He was later assigned to USOECD. He was executive assistant and secretary of delegation to the NATO ambassador and later chief of economic section at the American Embassy in Madrid. As deputy director of the Bureau of Economic Research in Washington, he briefed the under secretary of state for economic affairs, predicting the embargo of the OPEC oil cartel and organizing an international seminar on the emerging problem of multinational corporations, writing the summary and foreword for the seminar’s collected papers. As senior economist in the State Department’s Office of International Monetary Affairs, he wrote the international finance section of the Council of International Economic Policy Annual Reports to the President. During his assignment as deputy director of the Office of European Political-Economic Affairs, Timmins made regular trips to Paris, Brussels, and London to coordinate the activities of the OECD, NATO and the European Union.

David married Laurel Mae Nelson of Morgan, Utah, in 1952. They had four children. They were later divorced. In 1978, David married Lola Ann Gygi of Salt Lake City. Following his retirement, he accompanied Lola on her own Foreign Service assignments to France, Mexico, Beijing, Romania, and Geneva, Switzerland. He taught international finance and economics at universities in Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Guatemala, Mexico, and Geneva, as well as BYU-SLC. He and his wife were also active participants in the Boyer British Mission reunions, in the Ensign Club, and as members of the Foreign Service Retirees of Utah. He participated regularly in meetings of Swiss, Chinese, Romanian, and Scottish groups, and in a monthly luncheon with a group of University of Utah Kappa Sigma brothers. In 1996 he ran for Congress from Utah’s Second District.

An active member of the LDS Church, David served from 1949 to 1951 in the British LDS Mission, where he was president of the Scottish District, and had many other opportunities to serve overseas, including in several bishoprics, district presidencies and high councils, in the stake presidency in Guatemala, and as a counselor in the mission presidency in Romania. He also served on the high councils of Boston, Washington, D.C., Guatemala, and Paris. While in Madrid, he had the privilege of escorting Elders Howard W. Hunter and Gordon B. Hinckley on their visits to U.S. Embassy and Spanish government officials to petition for recognition under the new religious liberty law.

David is survived by his wife, Lola; sisters Margaret Bailey (Robert B.) and Verna Smith; a brother, James Stuart Timmins; children Mark David, Robert William (Karen), Karen Marie Brown (Blaine), and Catherine Margaret McGreevy (Patrick); 16 grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents; a brother, William Montana Timmins, Jr.; brothers-in-law Wallace N. Gygi and Dr. Paul M. Smith; and sister-in-law Devin Timmins. Interment is in the family plot in the Smithfield City Cemetery.

Edited from the notice published in The Salt Lake Tribune from 7/19 - 7/20/2008.

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