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Richard J Lee 3 min read

In Memory of Alfred "Skip" Schwoeble


Richard J Lee

A force of nature, a scientist, a musician, a creator, an athlete, an innovator, an impersonator, a loving husband and father, a friend- that’s what we lost when Skip Schwoebel passed on.

When Skip did “the Duke”, it was as if Big John Wayne was in the room.   In all things, Skip was the ultimate “leader of the band”.  His career was as colorful and varied as his personality.  Beginning in the navy, where he learned the principles of sonar, then to become an instrument technician, to a nondestructive testing expert, an expert metallographer credited with the development of numerous metallographic etches and heat treatments while at USS Research, Skip excelled at whatever he chose to do.  With no formal advanced education, he won the Marion Howe Medal, a prestigious ASM award.

But I believe it was at RJ Lee Group that Skip truly found his home and reached his zenith.  We were in the middle of developing the “Personal SEM” when Skip and I were sitting in the high bay of the office having coffee. I told him that we would have the tool, but we needed the problem.  The next thing I knew, he and Xu Li were developing a tape lift mechanism to sample the hands of suspected shooters.  Soon after, Hank Lentz was writing a gunshot residue analysis program and he, Skip, Hank Beebe, and others were traveling around the country to whip up interest in the new analysis technique.  He succeeded to the point that the PSEM became the most widely used SEM in the forensics world. 

But the broader outcome was Skip became a noted expert in GSR,  he created a new method for testing for GSR, and “we wrote the book” on GSR.  Skip was known and recognized internationally for his work in the area.  He created a business that is still recognized as a world leader under Allison Laneve and her team.

This story repeated itself over and over during my years working with Skip.  Latent Fingerprints, the spread of GSR particulate, distinguishing Cashmere wool from imitation wool—These all fell to Skip’s onslaught.   He was a material part of the creation and success of RJ Lee Group.  Like many of us, he carried and fought with his demons, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully.  But at the end of the day, if there was a lost puppy, Skip picked him up.  In life, he always fought for the underdog, and challenged management not just to exist, but to lead.  In another life, he would have been George Patton.

I have missed Skip every day since he left.  But for the fall that broke his bones so terribly, he would probably still be working on his book. Go in peace Skip.  The Lord be with you.

Richard J. Lee