Robert A. Makofski, a retired Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory scientist and administrator who headed Howard County General Hospital's board, died of cancer Dec. 25 at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine. The former Columbia resident was 81.
Born in Wanamie, Pa., he was the son of a coal mine fireman and a homemaker.
"His father would not let him visit the coal mine until he had graduated college," said his wife, the former Cathy Lickteig. "His father did not want him to work in the mines. His parents wanted him to become a physician and take over a local practice, but Bob loved aeronautics."
After graduating from Newport High School, he earned a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering from Pennsylvania State University and a master's degree from the University of Virginia. He also studied at the California Institute of Technology.
He joined the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in 1957 and retired in 1997 as assistant director for development.
"He was the Tip O'Neill of the APL, a lumbering, big guy with a quirky sense of humor," said Helen E. Worth, a co-worker and former director of public affairs for the lab. "He was his own person who didn't mind going a different direction. He was down-to-earth and was very civic-minded."
According to a biography supplied by his family and the lab, Mr. Makofski was named the assistant director for laboratory operations in 1968. He worked in lab administration, handled personnel issues and oversaw facilities.
"The lab is not run like a military structure," said Edward Portner, a Silver Spring resident who worked with him at the lab. "People work in teams and you have to promote a spirit of cooperation. He excelled in getting people to work together. In all things, he tried to be fair. When women were becoming more prominent, he treated them equally."
In 1994, he was named assistant director for development, as well as supervisor for public affairs. News stories at the time quoted him when there were lab layoffs.
He also was a member of the lab's top echelon, the principal professional staff, before his retirement.
Mr. Makofski worked in missile systems for the Navy. His colleagues said he analyzed fluid flow at hypersonic speeds and designed concepts for hypersonic wind tunnels. He also joined the aeronautics department, where he designed a hypersonic tunnel used for testing projectiles. He also investigated shock waves.
Among other duties, Mr. Makofski had been a manager of the lab's Urban Transportation Program, which focused on mechanized walkways. He was also a supervisor of its transportation technology group and was associated with the Johns Hopkins Center for Metropolitan Planning from 1974 to 1980 at the school's Homewood campus.
"He was a strong, silent guy," said his wife. "He loved solving problems through calculations and equations. He also had a dry, devilish sense of humor."
From 1980 to 1981, he was a Parsons visiting professor at the Hopkins department of geography and environmental engineering, also at the Homewood campus. He served on numerous transportation committees for the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment and the National Academy of Science Transportation Research Board.
He was chairman of Howard County General Hospital's board of trustees from 1991 to 1993.
Victor Broccolino, the hospital's president and chief executive office, recalled that Mr. Makofski joined the hospital's Community Relations Council before taking a seat on the board.
"He had an analytical mind," said Mr. Broccolino, who lives in Catonsville. "He asked probing and delving questions of me and the staff. He wanted to know how well we could serve the community. He was always looking forward and talked of long-term strategies."
He said that under Mr. Makofski's leadership, the hospital began planning expansion in the 1990s.
In 2004, Mr. Makofski moved to Camden, Maine. He enjoyed reading from a library he assembled on the Civil War.
"He loved the serenity of Maine and a house in the woods not far from the ocean," said his wife.
A remembrance of his life and career will be held at 1:30 p.m. Jan. 27 at the Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, 11100 Johns Hopkins Road in Laurel.
In addition to his wife of 19 years, survivors include two sons, Richard Makofski of Waller, Texas, and David Makofski of Elkridge; a daughter, Kathleen Moxley of Ellicott City; a sister, Barbara Soper of Wopwallopen, Pa.; a stepson, Alex Goldstein of Phoenix, Ariz.; a stepdaughter, Anna Black of St. Leonard; and four granddaughters. A son, Stephen Makofski, died in 2008. A previous marriage ended in divorce.
An earlier version of this obituary misspelled the names of two survivors: daughter Kathleen Moxley of Ellicott City and sister Barbara Soper of Wopwallopen, Pa. The Sun regrets the errors.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun