Obituary | Angus Duncan McRonald

Angus Duncan McRonald
Date of Death

Angus Duncan McRonald was born on July 23, 1928, in Peterculter, a suburb of Aberdeen, Scotland, and died of natural causes at his home in La Cañada Flintridge on June 5. His parents were Alexander Kelly McRonald and Mary Jane (Shepherd) McRonald, and he was one of seven children.
Angus excelled at school, earning high marks and scholarships. Still at school when World War II broke out, he did five years’ service in the U.K. RAF Volunteer Reserve as a student pilot, learning to fly before he could drive.
Graduating with a B.S. in physics from the University of Aberdeen in 1950, he began his career in England at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment (AWRE). He traveled with the British Navy for the first U.K. atom bomb test at the Monte Bello islands off western Australia. Back in England, Angus met his future wife, Ida Margaret Magness, a nursing student and future R.N.
After marrying in 1954, they sailed to Australia, where Angus worked for the Australian government’s Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) in Adelaide. Their family grew with the births of their son and daughter. In 1962, the family moved to Sydney for Angus’ post with the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. In the Sputnik era, his love of aerospace was born, and he learned Russian for translating technical articles. In 1963, the family sailed back to Britain, where he was employed at the National Physical Laboratory.
In 1965, the family came to the LCF area, where he began work at Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the wind tunnel and shock tube area. He earned a master’s and Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from USC and became an American citizen. At JPL, much of his career was spent in mission analysis and design, providing planetary trajectory and launch approval support for Voyager, Galileo, Ulysses, Cassini, MER, New Horizons, Mars 96 and Mars 98 missions. His original analysis included aero-braking, aero-gravity assist, aerocapture and hypersonic ballutes. During his 35 years at JPL, Angus was active with the JPL Tennis Club, JPL French Club and San Gabriel Valley section of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). Following retirement from JPL in 2000, he continued to consult on JPL and NASA projects.
A devoted tennis player and volunteer, Angus also organized the San Gabriel Valley Foothill Tennis League for more than 20 years. Starting in 1980, he devoted his time to the United States Tennis Association Adult League program, promoting adult tennis participation across the valley. His passion for the sport kept him an active coordinator year-round in adult tennis leagues. All told, he volunteered for more than 50 years supporting tennis growth in Southern California.
Though he lost his wife, Ida, of 58 years in 2013, he continued to travel internationally, visiting relatives in Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and England. He enjoyed weekly breakfasts with fellow Caltech retirees as well as AIAA activities until age 90. His love of gardening earned him a La Cañada Valley Beautiful prize, and his devotion to his two yellow Labrador retrievers Roger and Rafa is legendary.
All who knew Angus noted that he was a gentle man, honorable, kind, intelligent, active, with a positive outlook. Always a loving husband and father, he leaves a son, Andrew, in Portland, Oregon, and his daughter, Carol, in LCF.
A celebration of his life will be scheduled after the current COVID-19 issues subside.
We will miss him.