Vladimir Mikhailovich Vavilov

September 12th, 1926December 25th, 2021

Vladimir (Volodya) Mikhailovich Vavilov, engineer and World War II veteran, passed away at the age of 95 on Christmas Morning of 2021 in Pennsylvania, after a long struggle with dementia. He will be remembered for his boundless energy, generosity, endless curiosity, and zest for life.

Mr. Vavilov was born in Dmitrievka village of the Tambov province, USSR on September 12, 1926. As for many people of his generation in the USSR, the beginning of his life was not easy. His father was imprisoned on a false political accusation in a labor camp from 1933 to 1942, and was released only to be sent to the Prussian front of World War II, where he was killed in March 1945. Thus, Vladimir became the patriarch of his family at seven years of age, and helped his mother raise his younger brother and sister. The family struggled to survive. Vladimir attended a school ten kilometers away from his village, and, on snowy days, he found his way to school and back by following telegraph posts. He was very fond of reading, and often remembered the books that the school teacher/librarian gave him, especially Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. At the age of twelve, he started his training as a mechanic at a technical school in the nearby town of Morshansk. In 1944, at the age of 18, he was conscripted into the Red Army, and served on the frontlines of World War II. He was first assigned to the medium machine-gun team, and recalled how he started the day as the “number five” on the team, but, by the end of the day, rose to “number two”. As a mechanic, he also took a special pride in having assembled thirty Chevrolet trucks that were shipped in parts to the USSR by the Lend Lease Act. Hospitalization for battle wounds lead him to his future wife, Lydia, who was a nurse at the field hospital.

After WWII, Vladimir and Lydia married and moved to Moscow, where he worked as a mechanic and a driver. The family moved again to the Kola peninsula of the northwestern Russia, a time fondly remembered by Vladimir’s daughter. Vladimir finished high school while working “up North” at the age of thirty-four, graduating with distinction. A life-long learner, he dreamed about advanced technical education, and ultimately graduated from the Bauman University in Moscow, the best engineering school in the USSR, earning a Master’s degree in rocket engineering in 1966. He worked and studied relentlessly during these years, with the selfless support of his family. He had a long and diverse working career as a leading engineer, until he retired in his late sixties, and he loved to reminisce about the various projects he worked on until the end of his life.

Vladimir didn’t have much time for pleasures, but one of his true passions in life was sailing. He built his first sailboat himself. He became a member of a yacht club, got captain’s license, and, together with his son Igor, participated in many regattas and cruises to the Onega and other big lakes in Russia. His stories about these cruises were extremely interesting, and his granddaughters fondly recall the making of boat models and plans at the dinner table in the family’s “kommunalka” apartment in Moscow. In the 1980s, Vladimir drew up more plans, and built, by hand, a “dacha” summer house, a couple of hours north of Moscow. Vladimir and Lydia tended to a nice garden around there, which provided for delicious berries, apples, and vegetables, as well as beautiful flowers. This place was very much loved by the whole family and was extremely beneficial to the grandchildren. 

Vladimir’s daughter Valentina, son Igor, and their families emigrated to the U.S.A. in the 1990s, and Vladimir and Lydia joined their children in 2002. Vladimir became a proud U.S. citizen in 2016 in a special ceremony at Rocky Mountain National Park, with Governor Jared Polis presiding in his role as Congressman at the time.

Vladimir was preceded in death by his wife, Lydia. He will be buried at the Louisville Cemetery next to her. Vladimir is survived by his children Valentina (Alexander) and Igor (Olga); grandchildren Zoya (Kai), Anna (Adrianus), Katharine, and Eugene (Ani); great-grandchildren Katrine, Zowey, Hugo, and Ethan.


Services are private.


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