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Richard Solo, longtime Stony Brook chemistry professor, dies at 79

Richard Solo is seen in this undated photo.

Richard Solo is seen in this undated photo. Credit: Family Photo

Richard Solo had several lifelong loves: Stony Brook University, chemistry, teaching, the Boston Red Sox and chili, to name a few.

He was among the original faculty when the university opened at its current location in 1962 and remained a part-time teacher until cancer forced him to retire four years ago, his family said. He died of the disease Friday at age 79, surrounded by family at his Port Jefferson home.

"He loved his family, students, nature, the Red Sox, and a good bowl of chili," his family said in a Web posting about his life.

"Every one of our friends that loved him made him chili. My daughter, Julie, and he had a tradition. Wherever they went they got chili," his wife of 56 years, Naomi, said. But he didn't make it himself. "He was a creator, not a cook," his wife said.

Solo was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, on July 2, 1936, and met his future wife, Naomi, in a folk music cafe on the day he graduated from MIT, June 13, 1958. They were married the next year.

He got his doctorate in physical chemistry in 1961 from the University of California, Berkeley, and took a teaching job at Stony Brook on the recommendation of a friend.

He and his wife lived in Poquott at first, then bought a house in Port Jefferson in 1970, where they lived ever since.

In addition to teaching, Solo developed a three-day orientation program for new students and integrated ethics into his chemistry lessons, his wife said. "He dedicated himself heart and soul to Stony Brook," she said.

He was also active in civic affairs in Port Jefferson. He worked on developing the waterfront area, including the creation of Harborfront Park, and opposed efforts to build a large parking lot in the downtown area, she said.

He was an avid photographer and his pictures appeared in several local publications and on various websites. He tinkered with a variety of projects in his garage workshop, and played the trombone and guitar.

"He was very musical," his daughter, Julie, of Durham, North Carolina, said. "It was a big part of my life growing up. People would come by and play in the house," she said.

Solo is also survived by sons David of Brooklyn Heights and Michael of Manhattan and Port Jefferson; and a sister, Marge Seltzer of Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

The family will receive visitors from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Bryant Funeral Home, 411 Old Town Rd. in East Setauket. The funeral is private.

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