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Professor of Engineering, Emeritus, Paul Queneau dies at the age of 101

Apr 11, 2012   |   Valley News

Paul and Joan Queneau Paul and Joan Queneau

Paul Etienne Queneau, 101, of Hanover, N.H., died peacefully on Saturday, March 31, 2012, at Kendal/Hanover after a brief bout with the flu. Queneau was a decorated war veteran who fought at Normandy in World War II, held 36 U.S. patents in metallurgical and chemical engineering, earned his doctorate at age 60 from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and explored the Perry River region of the Arctic in 1949.

Queneau was born on March 20, 1911, in Philadelphia, Pa., to Augustin Leon Jean and Abbie Jean (Blaisdell) Queneau. His mother was a descendant of Ralfe Bleasdale, who landed at Pemaquid Point in Maine in 1635.

As a young man, Queneau and his family followed his father’s engineering career across the globe. He said it was challenging adapting to new schools in new countries every few years, especially when he and his siblings often didn’t speak the local language. Queneau and his brothers quickly found that the quickest route to respect was to fight the toughest boy in the class.

Queneau turned 18 the same year the stock market crashed. After gaining admission to Columbia University in 1927, he persevered in his schooling through the Great Depression, working as a waiter to make ends meet. At Columbia he earned his B.A. (1931), B.Sc. (1932), and Engineer of Mines (1933).

From there he began laboratory work at International Nickel’s (INCO) Huntington, W.Va., alloy plant. In 1939, he married Joan Hodges of Rochester, N.Y.

Always astute on world affairs, Queneau had grown increasingly concerned about the Nazi’s march across Europe, and attempted to enlist in the U.S. armed forces. Though he was an Army reserve officer, he was refused for active duty, told he was too valuable as a civilian engineer. After the Battle of Dunkirk he tried to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force, but was turned down because of color blindness. That December upon learning of the attack on Pearl Harbor, he’d had enough.

With the full support of his wife and without notifying his employer, Queneau went directly to the Pentagon and appealed to John J. McCloy, Assistant Secretary of War. Queneau soon found himself wearing a uniform at Fort Belvoir in Virginia. He graduated from the Army Engineer School, was deployed to Europe as part of the Corps of Engineers, and spent the next several years battling from the Normandy beachhead to the Rhine River. He was awarded the Bronze Star, the Army Commendation Medal and the ETO Ribbon with five battle stars. In 1945 he returned to the Army Reserve as a lieutenant colonel.

Queneau said despite it being one of his life’s proudest moments, he returned from the war a broken semblance of a man. It was only for the limitless devotion, love and patience of Joan that he was able to recover from the trauma of all that he’d seen. Years later as he was being honored by Chemical Engineering for his distinguished career, Queneau threatened to turn down the Kirkpatrick Award unless editors agreed to publish a photo of both him and Joan, saying he owed his life to her and they could “find someone else” if they didn’t want her in the cover portrait.

In 1949, Queneau explored, mapped and photographed the Perry River region of the Arctic in extreme northern Ontario by 13-foot canoe with artist and ornithologist Peter Scott and zoologist Harold Hanson for the U.S. government. Among other tasks, they studied the nesting grounds of the Ross’s goose, which biologists were concerned might be threatened with extinction. Scott wrote about the adventure in his book Wild Geese and Eskimos: a Journal of the Perry River Expedition of 1949, which included Queneau’s photographs.

Queneau’s career at INCO spanned 35 years; he retired as INCO’s Vice President, Technical Assistant to the President, and Assistant to the Chairman. During that time he and Joseph R. Boldt wrote The Winning of Nickel, still considered one of the bibles on nickel recovery and processing.

Professor Paul E. Queneau in 2008 Professor Queneau in 2008. Photograph by Mark Woodward.

After retiring from INCO, Queneau earned his doctorate, then joined the faculty of Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering in 1971, where he taught for the next quarter century. With help from his former employer, INCO, he endowed Thayer School's Paul E. and Joan H. Queneau Distinguished Professorship in Environmental Engineering Design.

Both avid lovers of nature, he and Joan bought a farm near Cornish, NH, where they spent their free time building ponds, making maple syrup, raising cattle and living out Queneau’s boyhood dream of being a farmer.

He relished his before-dinner quiet hour with Joan. They took pleasure in visiting their many friends worldwide. Paul was also an enthusiastic fly fisherman and a duck hunter.

During his career Paul Queneau invented a number of successful industrial processes. His patents focused on extraction of nickel, copper, cobalt, and lead from their ores and concentrates. He was a Fellow and past President of The Minerals, Metals & Materials Society (AIME), and past Chairman of the Engineering Foundation. He received an Evans Fellowship from Columbia University, and in later years was awarded Columbia University’s Egleston Medal, AIME’s Douglas Gold Medal, the Gold Medal of the British Institution of Mining and Metallurgy, the Robert Fletcher Award from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering, and Chemical Engineering‘s Kirkpatrick Award. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering.

Paul was the loving father of Paul Blaisdell Queneau (Jean) of Golden, Colo., and Josie Queneau of Greenfield, Mass. He was a devoted grandparent of Jenny, Sarah, Ben, Renee, Shelly, and Paul, and seven great-grandchildren: Weston, Liam, Callahan, Jackson, Annabelle, Jasper, and Phineas. 
Paul is survived by one brother, Bernard Russell Queneau (Esther) of Pittsburgh, Pa., who will be 100 in July 2012.

Paul was preceded in death by his beloved wife Joan, his brother Roland (Oakland, Cal.), and three sisters: Marguerite (Boston, Mass.), Bertile (Baltimore, Md.) and Francoise (Alexandria, Va.).

A memorial service will be held at Kendal at Hanover, 80 Lyme Rd., Hanover, NH on Saturday, May 19th at 10:30 am in the Cary Room.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to the Queneau Scholarship Fund, Town of Cornish, 488 Town House Road, Cornish, NH 03745; or the Fry Fund, Kendal at Hanover, 80 Lyme Road, Hanover, NH 03755 or to a charity of one’s choice.

To view an online memorial and or send a message of condolence to the family, please visit

Arrangements are under the direction of the Rand-Wilson Funeral Home of Hanover, NH.

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