Jesse M. Cleveland, Jr.

July 3rd, 1929May 16th, 2017

Boulder- Jesse Marvin Cleveland, Jr. died Tuesday evening, May 16, 2017 at Landmark Memory Care in Lafayette following a year long illness but surrounded by family and friends.

He leaves his daughter Jane and her husband William Flageolle and his three grandchildren Claire, Mikah and Ellery; and many friends gathered over 87 years.

Born and raised in Grantville, GA, the son of Jesse and Mildred (Sewell) Cleveland, he graduated from Newnan High School. Jess went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Georgia Tech and then a PhD at the University of Colorado in Boulder. He met his wife Janice Forney at the Estes Park YMCA camp in 1949 and they were married on June 16, 1951.

After he moved to Boulder in 1951, Jesse proudly declared Boulder to be the best place in the world. As an enthusiastic world traveler, reaching every continent less Australia and an avid reader and photographer; he ought to know. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed hiking and camping. His wide ranging knowledge made all his conversations with friends and family an adventure usually leading, eventually to a joke. He was proud that his book, The Chemistry of Plutonium, published in 1970 is still being used as a reference today.

Jess, an only child lost his father Jesse in 1979, his mother Mildred in 1985 and wife Janice in 1998.

Jess’s family request that in lieu of cards or flowers guests bring a favorite story about him to share during the service.

Anyone unable to attend the service may make memorial contributions in Jess’s name to the Nature Conservancy at the address: . Friends may share memories and condolences to the family online at .


Services will be Friday, May 26, 2017 at Darrell Howe Mortuary in Lafayette. Visitation is from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m., and Funeral Service will begin at 1:00 p.m. Interment will follow at Green Mountain Cemetery in Boulder.








I was sad to hear of Jesse's passing, though I have not talked with him much since his retirement from the USGS. For much of his career, he worked in Building 15 of the Federal Center in Lakewood, in a two-man project dealing with plutonium chemistry. I worked in another project in the same wing of that building and often rode down on the G bus from Boulder with Jesse. On those rides, he would amuse me with his strange and wry sense of humor. His work with plutonium chemistry had considerable ramifications for the U.S. Government's attempts to devise "safe" storage for plutonium contaminated waste, and, to judge from some oblique remarks he made at the time, got him into serious trouble with the Department of Energy. It is true even today that his research has relevance for the current dispute about opening the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge for recreation. The country needs more scientists of the sort that he was.
I am so grateful that I was able to meet someone with such curiosity for the unknown. I could tell from the time I spent with him that he valued the knowledge he acquired over the course of his life. I will forever admire his courage, strength and of course, humor. He taught me that a good laugh can always cure a bad day and that there is always light at the end of the tunnel no matter how dark it may seem. Thank you Jesse for the honor of meeting such a beautiful, genuine, and generous soul. May you rest in the most peaceful of places with those who have gone before you.