By the time he was 17 years old, my father Arthur “Art” Jarvis had already bought and run a gas station, learned to fly an airplane, and graduated from high school. He graduated early so he could enlist in the navy to fight the Japanese, who had just attacked Pearl Harbor.
He served throughout the rest of World War II, spending much of it in Naval Intelligence at a direction finder station on a nearly deserted atoll in the middle of the Pacific. He had three main jobs: intercepting and interpreting Japanese communications, relaying allied radio communications to Hawaii, and locating airplanes using radio triangulation, the air traffic control technology of the day. He proudly boasted of having helped locate famed pilot Eddie Rickenbacker, assisting during the Battle of Midway, and relaying the Japanese surrender directly to Hawaii in 1945.
After the war, my father served with the air force as an intelligence officer in Okinawa, and then joined the newly-formed Central Intelligence Agency. While at the CIA, he developed the first laboratory that used tape recorders to teach foreign languages, and toured Europe on a “research yacht” collecting signal intelligence.
After leaving the CIA, my father went to work for RCA, where he invented the technology that allowed radio communications to pass un-attenuated through undersea cable; helped develop the first computer communications system; managed the construction of communications for the Pacific Missile Range (where I was born) and the Atlantic Missile Range (where my brother was born); and coordinated the development of television technology that was used in the space program from the early satellites through Apollo. As a district manager, he continued his association with the Defense Department, routinely making trips to the Pentagon where he held a civilian rank of rear admiral.
After RCA, he applied his creative talents to the loudspeaker industry, and then consulted with the government on classified communication encryption and personnel detection technologies. In his “spare” time, Art Jarvis invented a radical new approach to teaching math and science, and with the help of some fellow engineers started a business to market his approach to schools. He died of a heart attack while working full time trying to improve elementary school education, soon after most people would have retired.
My father’s dedication to serving others has served as a model for me and many others. His life exemplified the kind of sacrifice we celebrate on this Memorial Day, and like so many who have given their lives selflessly so others could live better lives, he deserves our profound thanks.