Mark Allen Ketchum

January 23, 1954 - February 24, 2014
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Mark Allen Ketchum led a joyous, remarkable life, which sadly ended much too soon. He was an outstanding structural engineer, a loving and devoted husband, father and brother for his family, and a wonderful friend for many.

Mark was born in Denver, Colorado on January 23, 1954 to Gretchen and Milo Ketchum, joining his brothers David and Matthew, and sister Marcia. He received his BS in Civil Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and then moved to California to get his MS and PhD in Civil Engineering at UC Berkeley, specializing in structures. He cofounded the engineering firm OPAC with his partner Kwong Cheng in 1992, working in collaboration with Professor T.Y. Lin. He formed deep business and personal relationships that lasted over time and extended to everyone in the firm; OPAC was like a second family for him. Mark and OPAC are internationally known for their award-winning, innovative engineering projects and bridge designs built throughout the world. Local examples of his well-known work include the Berkeley Pedestrian Overcrossing and the Carquinez Suspension Bridge. Details and photographs of all his projects can be seen at www.opacengineers.com. Mark and his colleagues at OPAC also cofounded an engineering website, www.cetoday.com, that aims to advance the knowledge and practice of civil engineering.

Mark loved talking about bridges and appeared on many television programs, including Discovery Channel, PBS’s American Experience, and local news. He made even the most technical details understandable and engaging.

Mark died on February 24, 2014 in his home in Berkeley, in the company of his loving wife, Valerie Knepper, and their loving sons, Daniel and Calvin Ketchum. He is also survived by his sister Marcia Baird and brother, David Ketchum. Mark was known for his love of motorcycles, sailing, great stories, and terrible jokes.

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Timeline for Mark Ketchum

Born: January 23, 1954
Died: February 24, 2014

Condolences for Mark Ketchum

Sunset View Mortuary

Our sincere condolences.

The staff of Sunset View Mortuary.


Ron Polivka posted on 3/29/14

My earliest memory of meeting Mark was around the time of the Loma Prieta earthquake, when we were both involved with the seismic analysis and design of bridges, and I got to know him better through our interactions at various SEAONC dinner meetings. Mark and I had a lot in common - not only working on bridges at that time and having received our MS and PhD degrees from UC Berkeley, but also, we came to realize that we were both 3rd generation Civil/Structural engineers, which formed a special bond between us. Mark's grandfather and father were both named Milo, and my father was Milos (who was a professor at UC Berkeley while Mark was in attendance). We both were close to Professors T.Y. Lin and Alex Scordelis and their families, but even more interesting was in a recent conversation, we discovered that my son Daniel is now the 4th generation engineer in our family, having graduated from Cal Poly with a BS in Civil Engineering in 2009, and Mark's son Daniel was attending Cal Poly at the time, also majoring in Civil Engineering and soon to become the 4th generation Civil engineer in the Ketchum family! When my wife and I were vacationing in New England in the Fall of 2012, we went to a very large antique barn in Maine. There, I discovered a copy of the 1906 edition of the Surveying Manual by Milo Ketchum and William Pence. I was so excited that I called Mark right away at home to see if he would like me to get it for him, which I did. He said that he only had one in average condition and it would be nice to have an extra one for his family. That was sadly, once of the last times that I spoke with Mark, other than on a couple of brief occasions after that when we were both working in San Francisco. I always enjoyed seeing Mark and talking with him. He was very upbeat and enthusiastic, with a great sense of humor. I will miss him very much. I extend my deepest condolences to his family. Ronald Polivka, P.E. March 29, 2014


John Nelson posted on 3/7/14

I first met Mark when we worked together on the Recordation of the Bay Bridge prior to its strengthening and replacement. We were lucky to have such a talented and knowledgeable bridge consultant. I also came to know what a good person he was. My image of Mark is him strolling into our office, helmet and kevlar riding jacket in hand, ready to talk bridges. He will be missed.


Karen Cormier posted on 3/7/14

I worked with Mark at TYLI in the 80's. He was a brilliant engineer and an influence to all of us. I still have a copy of the 1986 SFRAME owner's manual; next to the "by M.A. Ketchum" line, one of our colleagues wrote "....says "It is all incredible!" This was a favorite saying of Mark's regarding a host of engineering and non-engineering wonders. Mark, You were incredible! Thanks for enriching our lives. May you rest in peace.


Steve Thoman posted on 3/7/14

On my first day at TY Lin International (1979) Mark showed me to my work area. From that day forward Mark played a role in my professional career. Always available to discuss an engineering issue, and life in general. Our comaraderie after work hours at Ginsberg Pub was memorable. I am sure Mark is having discussions with St. Peter to design the longest span bridge from the Gates of Heaven to Earth. Condolences to Family. sjt


Ken Hirschmugl posted on 3/6/14

I was most privileged to work with Mark at the Hoover Dam Bridge Project. He put his heart and soul into the project. Mark was an excellent problem solver, teacher and friend. His temperament was always humble, and there to help others understand. I am certain that he will be missed by everyone that was fortunate enough to know him. My heartfelt condolences to his closest friends and family, I am certain that if Mark could, he would tell one of his bad jokes and cheer everybody up. Now we have to carry on that tradition for him.


Julie Robb posted on 3/6/14

Mark was a wonderful human and a valued and beloved member of our family. Everyone is going to miss him so very much.


Kuen-Yi (KY) Ho posted on 3/5/14

Mark was a senior colleague, a mentor and a friend. I first met Mark at TY Lin International in the late 80’s. He, along with other senior colleagues at TY Lin, had a significant influence on the principles on which I practice engineering and act as a leader today. Mark had a big heart, always had time to chat and was full of ideas. Like a little boy and in a good way, he always had a scheme or two and always itching to take action. Of all the visual snapshots I have of Mark, one has always remained prominent. It is from many years back and of him on the sidewalk of Powell St at lunch time near 315 Bay. He was looking down at and holding on to the hand of his young son (then about 2 years of age – might have been Calvin), and turning slowly like a merry go round as the toddler ran in circles around him. What I saw stuck because that was the first time I saw him in fatherhood mode. My condolences to Valerie, Daniel and Calvin. I too will miss him.


Gregory P. Luth posted on 3/5/14

Mark was a brilliant engineer, creative, intuitive, inquisitive, and confident. He was an extraordinary person, friendly, kind, and all those other boy scout attributes that fit him to a T. I was honored to know him and blessed that he was part of my life. He will stand out in my memory for as long as I live.


Irina Khavina posted on 3/5/14

I worked with Mark in T.Y. Lin International in late 80s. We worked on Golden Gate bridge analysis for EQ and wind evaluation. Mark was sitting two desks across me. I saw Mark every day, he rode motorcycle to work. Great Engineer with a loud voice. I remember him telling a story one morning how he was stopped on the Bay Bridge by a cop. It was a rainy day. Mark came late to work, wet in his leather jacket. He said he was delayed because he was stopped by police who wanted to give him a ticket. Since Mark did not stop at the toll booth, police (also on motorcycle) thought that Mark passed without paying. However, Mark had a toll card and got away without getting a ticket. He was laughing telling this story how police had chased him in vain. Mark will always remain in my heart as a big guy, strong, vibrant with a head full of black wavy hair. My condolences to the family, Irina Khavina March 5, 2014


George K Lo posted on 3/5/14

Mark, We shall miss you tremendously. We love your smile, wisdom, humor and your creativity. May you be in peace. a dear friend George


Theresa Loomis posted on 3/7/14

Valerie, So sorry for your loss.


Verna Lin posted on 3/9/14

I first met Mark in June of 1976 at my father's retirement event and later at TYLI when we worked together. Later, when Mark and Kwong started their own firm, OPAC, and worked with T.Y., the three of them had quite a time together. Mark, I last saw you in November. You were hanging in there, mind sharp as ever. We will all miss you. May you rest in peace now. Condolences from Margaret and me to the family.


Carl Maletic posted on 3/9/14

During the Summer of 1977 while moving into a new apartment in the Haight-Ashbury; I had bought a new couch and needed to move it from my truck up three flights of stairs. I asked the next passerby to help me. He gladly did. That person was Mark Ketchum. That curious meeting turned into a close friendship of 37 years. And it also exemplifies the character of this wonderful man. He was always there when someone needed help. He didnÂ’t hesitate or shy away; he simply did what was needed to get the task done. Over the 13 years that Mark and I worked on projects together at T.Y.Â’s it was always a pleasure and most always it was a learning experience. The world has lost a wonderful man, husband, and father . . . and a brilliant structural engineer. He was one of T.Y.Â’s favorites. Quite often T.Y. would say to me: "Go ask Mark." I send my sincere condolences to all his extended family. Mark was smart yet funny; sincere yet whimsical. He will be very missed by all. --- Carl Maletic, Architect


JP Singh posted on 3/29/14

I was really shocked when I got a call from OPAC’s office about Mark passing away. I am on the Facebook with Mark and until recently saw activity from Mark on his Facebook page - in particular, completion of his home addition in Berkeley. He looked frail and aged in the photos but had no clue that it was the toll of the cancer he was fighting. I got to know Mark in late 1980s when my firm Geospectra teamed up with TY Lin for the seismic vulnerability studies on the Golden Gate Bridge. What a pleasure to know Mark … he was a real brilliant engineer and truly a gift to the “bridge” structural engineering community. His preliminary seismic vulnerability findings using my first earthquake time history pretty much prevailed throughout the entire seismic retrofit study. Our team’s visible work among the other DOTs bagged OPAC/Geospectra team with seismic vulnerability studies of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Here Mark’s studies predicted damage in some hidden parts of the bridge during previous earthquake. Damage being hidden was not noted in post-earthquake bridge inspections. However, destructive inspections following Mark’s study confirmed the presence of damage at his predicted locations. I found Mark a real inspiration in my bridge engineering studies. Your open and thought provoking discussions will be remembered and missed forever. Since now you are in a better place….rest in peace.


Bob Dameron posted on 3/26/14

Hearing the news of Mark's passing brings sadness and loss to me, and to the bridge engineering community of California. In 1982, Mark and I shared a cubicle in 410 Davis Hall, working for Prof. Scordelis - Mark, a few years older, worked on his PhD, and I, on a Masters. Mark was a brilliant engineer and teacher, and knew how to make work and life fun. Always a great conversationalist and story teller, here are a few memories and Markisms. For Prof. Scordelis, I was adding prestressing to the computer program MUPDI (which was co-written by Mark). The name of the enhanced program became 'MUPDI-P'. Mark: "You can't call it that - it sounds like Sheep Dip." On motorcycling, Mark: "It takes 27 measurements of my body to order my riding jacket and pants." On Public Policy, Mark: "Politicians, NOT Engineers, set Public Policy," (something I've found vital to remember in our profession). Mark's humor: "What's the difference between an epileptic oyster shucker..."...I guess I should stop here! Mark believed passionately in bringing good science and art to engineering, not just following the Design Code recipe. My mid-career benefitted directly from Mark's leadership in this regard, when he hired our analysis group (ANATECH) to help study the Golden Gate, and other iconic briges. In ways like this, Mark pioneered the use of advanced structural analysis tools to bridge engineering. And the opportunities he created for me had a huge influence on my career. Mark, you'll be greatly missed. Best wishes to all your family. Bob Dameron


jerry Forstater posted on 3/25/14

A Poem for Mark Flowing hair, fair analysis Audio earful, always unafraid Mighty laugher, mainly bike Enduring smile,engaging concern Polite submitter, political challenger Interesting imagination, insightful insight Currency contempt,common consciousness So sensitive, soft calculations Teaming enthusiasm, total immersion honest irony, hedged humility Sandy eyes, sandier sandals Dynamic discusser, diligently detailed Skinny sinew, Saybrook sailor Ultimate educator, unknowing audience Golden's gate, Hoover's bypass, Oakland's CrossWalk... Who am I? ...I left my mark.


Ken Saindon posted on 3/21/14

I consider it an honor to have enjoyed MarkÂ’s company and counsel for even a short while. Mark radiated positive energy in all directions at all times. His zest for life, both personal and professional, was inspiring. He will be remembered as much for his charisma and flawless character as he will be for the contributions he made to the enduring landmark bridge projects he touched across the globe.


Mayor Tom Bates posted on 3/21/14

MarkÂ’s death is a sad loss for Berkeley, a city he loved, and for all those who valued the inspired aesthetic he brought to his work. We are fortunate that his legacy remains not only in the hearts of those whose lives he touched but also in his engineering designs that help define our environment. BerkeleyÂ’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge over Interstate 80, for example, has become a familiar landmark for the city and an enduring example of civic infrastructure that excels in both function and form.


C.-Y. Chang posted on 3/19/14

It was a great pleasure to work with Mark for a number of projects including the Carquinez Suspension Bridge. Mark was a great bridge engineer to work with. We will miss him.


Wayne & Jutta Collins posted on 3/19/14

Dear Valerie, So sorry to learn of Mark's passing. It was fun to have you as neighbors, and Wayne recalls you on the student housing case a long, long time ago. In deep sympathy, Jutta & Wayne


Christoph Laa� posted on 3/14/14

He build a bridge from Berkeley to Berlin and with the help of his great family a second home for me.


John Bunzick posted on 3/11/14

I met Mark in 1972 while we were at Worcester Polytechnic Institute together. I consider him one of my oldest and best friends. We had great fun together in that bastion of nerdy, unsocialized engineers, which he was decidedly not. Much of that fun cannot be posted in a public forum, but I will always remember the twinkle in his eye. Mark had a wry way of viewing the world which I greatly enjoyed. It was also fun to be regaled by stories of the engineering challenges he loved, and which I could just barely understand sometimes. I had the pleasure of visiting him, Valerie, Daniel and Calvin in their wonderful home in Berkeley. He was my Bay Area anchor to which I could return now and then, and which I still hold dear to my heart after having lived there in 1975. Mark, I will miss you.


Mike Russell posted on 3/5/14

We will all miss Mark immeasurably. He was as loving in his private life as he was brilliant in his professional life. Family and friends will miss him most of all, but also the world, who will never see the many bridges he would have build had he lived.