Thursday, January 14, 2016

Peter Petroff: From Bulgaria to Alabama

Maple Hill Cemetery in Huntsville is a place crowded with tombstones and history. The original portion dates from the early 1820's and is operated by the city. The 75 acres are believed to hold more than 80,000 graves, ranging from the forgotten to a notorious local madam and five Alabama governors. 

In recent years more acreage has opened up, and this section is maintained by a private firm. My parents have a plot there, and dad was interred when he died in 2003. Across the narrow road from the area with his grave is the stone you see below for Peter Petroff.

Mr. Petroff had quite a busy life; his stone only hints at his interests and achievements. Born in Bulgaria, he made his way during World War II through the French Foreign Legion, POW status in Germany, and the Bulgarian Army before ending up in Canada in 1950. After some time in the Arctic and Vietnam, he reached the United States and the U.S. space program in Florida. For several years he worked on early weather and communications satellites. Petroff moved to Huntsville in 1963 where he joined Wernher von Braun's team at NASA. 

In 1968 he started his own electronics business that developed a wireless heart monitor for hospitals. That venture led to development of the Pulsar, an early, pricey prototype digital watch.

 Petroff died in February 2003. You can read more about his life here and here. A New York Times obituary is here.

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