Ruth Byrd Wilk died January 2, 2014 in Norman at the age of 81 years 3 months 25 days. In keeping with her wishes, her family will celebrate her life at a private beach side ceremony at a later date.
Ruth was born September 8, 1932 in Kansas City, Kansas to Clarence and Leilia (Czarlinsky)B Byrd. She graduated from Wyandotte High School in Kansas and started work at Trans World Airlines in Kansas City. Ruth then served two years in the Air Force as a Meteorological Technician. Following her service, Ruth went to work at the University of Illinois in the Meteorological Research Laboratory. She supported defense research on the effects of raindrops on supersonic missile penetration of thunderstorms. Ruth established a program to use student assistants to facilitate the calculation of a million raindrop measurements from seven global sites on one of the first main frame computers. This data enabled meteorologists to determine a variety of storm densities around the world and was critical in developing radar to measure rainfall. In 1959 she married Ken Wilk, a meteorologist at the University of Illinois. They moved to Oklahoma to help establish the first National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman. Ruth initially worked at the first United States Postal Service Training Center, also established in Norman, and then transferred to the National Severe Storms Laboratory. She provided administrative support to the lead engineer and lead meteorologist in the development of the Next Generation Doppler Radar (NEXRAD). In 1988, after over three decades of service to the pioneering of meteorology, she joined her husband in retirement on a farm in Goldsby, Oklahoma.
Ruth is preceded in death by her parents and one sister. Survivors include her loving husband of 54 years, Ken Wilk, of Norman; her adoring children, Vince of Kansas City, Missouri; John and his wife, Kathy of Washington, Oklahoma; and Jennifer and her husband, Curtis Price, of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Ruth is also survived by seven grandchildren, five great grandchildren; two brothers and two sisters.
Ruth was a lifelong nature enthusiast and supporter of the environment, the family request memorial donations be made to the World Wildlife Fund.