When Claud Edwin Cleeton was working on his doctorate in physics at the University of Michigan in 1936, he came across a way to measure light as it passed through ammonia gas. That was the groundwork for a device called radar.
After getting his Ph.D., Mr. Cleeton went to work for the Navy and during World War II he was with the Naval Research Laboratory, where he improved radar systems. After the war, he conceived and developed a space surveillance system that detected Soviet satellites.
For his wartime efforts, Mr. Cleeton received the President's Certificate of Merit from President Truman in 1946 and the Meritorious Civilian Service Award the following year.
Mr. Cleeton, who moved to Bellevue 17 years ago to be closer to his family, died of heart failure April 16. He was 89.
After retiring from the Naval Research Laboratory in 1969, he was awarded the Navy Distinguished Civilian Award and in 1993 the Institute of Electrical, Electronic and Engineers Pioneer Award. He held patents on 15 electronic inventions and authored numerous papers in technical journals.
"When he retired, he wrote books on stock trading, and he taught himself to use the computer," said his son-in-law, Ed Kakaley of Newcastle. "We considered him a genius."
Mr. Cleeton joined First United Methodist Church of Bellevue and wrote computer programs to do the church's bookkeeping, his son-in-law said. Mr. Cleeton also developed computer programs for stock analysis.
"He was a very quiet man, but when he said something, you listened," Kakaley said. "His contributions to any conversation were respected."
Mr. Cleeton is survived by his wife of 66 years, Mary Ellen; two daughters, Sue Guildi of Kirkland and Sarah Kakaley of Newcastle; five grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at First United Methodist Church of Bellevue, 1934 108th Ave. N.E. Donations can be made to American Diabetes Association or the National Kidney Foundation.