Walt Atchison was a key member of the LANL team of computational physicists who were responsible for using LANL’s sophisticated, multidimensional computer codes to design, simulate and analyze the very complex experiments being conducted by the joint LANL/VNIIEF collaboration. Walt was instrumental in designing experiments at both LANL and VNIIEF that investigated material properties at ultrahigh pressures. Walt’s interaction with his VNIIEF counterparts was a prime example that scientists worldwide speak a common language of science, even if they can’t speak each other’s native tongue. As with most, if not, all of the LANL team, Walt was very proud of his contributions and developed a strong attachment to his Russian colleagues. In 2007, Walt made the tough decision to accept LANL’s early retirement incentive, knowing that it would sharply reduce, and perhaps end, his contact with the Russians whom he had come to know so well.
All of the LANL team had learned the Russian tradition of toasting at the many banquets that ended a successful experimental campaign or an enlightening period of pre- or post-shot discussions. We learned that the last toast of the evening is always NA PASOSHOK i.e., the "walking stick.” Walt had been an avid writer of poetry in his youth but hadn’t written for many years. However, just before his retirement, as he realized that the approaching banquet could well be his last, a poem began to form in his mind. He wrote “The Walking Stick” and read it at the last banquet he attended in Sarov. From the reaction of his Russian colleagues, including some tears, it was obvious that many felt the same emotions as he did.
Irv Lindemuth, Tucson AZ, June 2017