Pleasanton Weekly

Community Pulse - April 16, 2010


George Lewis Helgeson

George Lewis Helgeson, inventor of the first mobile whole-body radiation counter, died March 31 after suffering his second stroke in six weeks. He was 86.

Mr. Helgeson founded Helgeson Scientific Services in 1966 in Pleasanton, after developing the whole-body counting technology while working at General Electric's Vallecitos facility near Sunol. It allowed operators of facilities using nuclear materials to immediately evaluate exposure to radiation. The company's equipment was used after the Three-Mile Island reactor accident. The company sold its units worldwide, including installations in Pakistan, South Korea and Spain. He traveled widely to install and service units. He also helped write a health manual on radiation for NATO.

Mr. Helgeson's firm also developed other equipment to measure exposure to radiation including a "mini-finger" detector and a "Quickie" Stand-up counter. Growing up, he had a footlocker full of radio tubes that he used to build Ham radio and other devices. His fascination with technology lasted throughout his life. He continued to operate his company and used state-of-the-art computers daily. He also was an avid photographer. He routinely recorded and videotaped his wife's organ concerts while Carolyn Helgeson served as the choir director at the Pleasanton Presbyterian Church.

Mr. Helgeson grew up in Minnesota, the oldest of four boys, graduating from Denfeld High School in Duluth. He enrolled in the University of Minnesota, Duluth before entering the U.S. Army in 1941. He had built an X-ray machine as a college project so the Army trained him as an X-ray technician. He spent World War II in England. His brother recalled that Mr. Helgeson managed to take a photograph of himself with the Queen Mother. Ever the perfectionist, he reportedly told the Queen Mum to move away from the window to improve the image.

After being discharged from the Army, he returned to marry his high-school sweetheart, Carolyn, and then moved to Seattle. He trained as a health physicist at the University of Washington. After graduating, he joined G.E. in Hanford, Wash., and then was transferred to Pleasanton in 1956.

Mr. Helgeson was a leader in the Presbyterian Church and led the campaign to build the church's campus on Mirador Drive in the 1970s. The Helgeson family loved going to Rio Del Mar Beach in Aptos and body surfing. Last September, he attended his 68th high school reunion.

He is survived by his sons, Peter Helgeson of Pleasanton and Steve and his wife Sandy Helgeson of Eureka; a daughter Julie and husband Mark Wilkins of Soulsbyville, Calif.; and his brother, John Helgeson of Ritzville, Wash. He has three grandchildren and four great grandsons.

Helgeson's wife of 63 years, Carolyn, died in 2009.

A memorial service celebrating his life will be held at 3 p.m., Saturday, April 17, at Centerpointe Presbyterian Church, 3410 Cornerstone Court. The family prefers contributions in his memory to the Centerpointe choir program.

Fay A. Dishong

Fay A. Dishong died March 4 at the age of 90. He had lived in Sunol for 55 years.

He was a veteran of World War II. He volunteered for many years at the Cancer Society, at Pleasanton Kaiser, at the Pleasanton Senior Center and for Sunol 4-H. He was a bocce champion, playing for years at the Pleasanton Senior Center, and he collected many trophies. He was a kind, giving, loving man who was there for everyone.

He is survived by wife of 60 years, Joan; son Glenn and wife Patti; son Mike and wife Julie; and daughter Kristy and husband Tony; granddaughter and grandson, Adrianne and Andrew Nigg; grandson Christopher Dishong; and granddaughters Victoria and Leilani Dishong. He is also missed by his dog Mattie.

Family and friends will gather to remember him at the Sunol KWA Clubhouse, 12051 Glenora Way, Sunol, from 2-4 p.m., Saturday, April 24.

Branca Catherine McDonald

Branca Catherine McDonald died April 12 at the age of 75 at her home, surrounded by her family.

She was born Feb. 25, 1935, the youngest of Arthur and Maria Silva's seven children. She attended Holy Names High School in Oakland. She met Ed and started her married life in Hayward, then moved to Castro Valley. The family moved to Monterey for a few years and for the last 40 years, Branca and Ed lived in Pleasanton where she was an active member of the Catholic Community. Full of life and spirit, she loved living in Pleasanton; she loved her church, her family and friends, flowers and everything positive. She had a smile, a hug and a prayer for everyone and finished every conversation with, "I love you."

She was predeceased by her sister Eleanor Muller and brother Roy Silva. She is survived by Ed, her loving husband of 55 years; sons Larry (Clare) and Steve (Sally) McDonald; daughter Marie (Cliff) Kennedy; seven grandchildren: Matt, Nina, Eddie, Tim and Maggie McDonald, and Nick and Mike Kennedy; siblings Helen (Jay) Amaro, Tony (Pat) Silva, Mary (Jim) Porep, and George (Lorraine) Silva; and dozens of nieces and nephews. The family thanks everyone who helped during her illness, especially Jennifer Silva, the Tandowsky family, and Hope Hospice.

A vigil was held April 15 with a Mass at 9:30 a.m., Friday, April 16, at St. Augustine's Church, 3999 Bernal Ave., Pleasanton. Donations may be made to Hope Hospice ( or St. Augustine's Church.

John Peglow

Pleasanton resident John Gilbert Peglow, Pfc. U.S. Army, died April 11 at the age of 21. He was born Dec. 9, 1986, the oldest child and only son of Mona and Steve Peglow.

He was a graduate of Valley Christian High School and attended Diablo Valley College. He leaves behind an everlasting imprint of his love, sense of humor, loyalty to his friends and devotion to God and country. He was an avid runner, swimmer, martial artist and snowboarder, and his love of life energized all who knew him.

He is survived by his parents and younger sister, Sarah Louise; maternal grandparents Manuel and Mary Louise Calderon; and many aunts, uncles and cousins.

A prayer vigil was held at Graham-Hitch mortuary April 14, with a funeral Mass on April 15 at St. Elizabeth Seton in Pleasanton. Donations may be made to The Wounded Warrior Project at


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