Harold J. ‘Hal’ Breaux, Aberdeen Proving Ground mathematician and author, dies

Harold J. ‘Hal’ Breaux, Aberdeen Proving Ground mathematician and author, dies

Harold J. “Hal” Breaux, a research mathematician and author whose career spanned 50 years at what is now the Army Research Laboratory at Aberdeen Proving Ground, died Dec. 5 of lymphoma at his home in Bel Air. He was 85.

“Hal was a unique individual who everyone liked. He was a smart analytical researcher and physicist who went after everything with logic and science and left nothing to chance,” said Charlie Nietubicz, a close colleague who retired in 2010 from the supercomputing center at Aberdeen.

“He was an excellent person, family man and was dedicated to ballistics and continued working in the ballistic lab even after he retired,” Mr. Nietubicz said.

Harold Jim Breaux, the son of Eddie Breaux, an alligator and fur trapper, and Anna LeBlanc Breux, a homemaker, was born and raised in Raceland, Louisiana, where he graduated from the old Raceland High School.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1960 from Louisiana State University, where he had been in ROTC, he then took a job at the research lab Sarnoff Corporation in Princeton, New Jersey.  He then joined RCA in Camden, New Jersey, where he met his future wife, Priscilla Fabris. They married in 1962.

To satisfy his ROTC commitment, the Army sent Mr. Breaux to the Ordnance Corps at Aberdeen.

After being discharged from the Army, he remained at Aberdeen as a civilian scientist in the old Ballistic Research Laboratory, and later its successor, the Army Research Laboratory. At the Army facility, he served two years as an ordnance project officer, 33 years as a research mathematician and 15 years as a consultant on high-performance computing, including the acquisition of supercomputers for the Department of Defense.

“Hal was one of my biggest supporters. [He was] easy to work with and wanted quality work to come out of the organization,” Mr. Nietubicz, an Aberdeen aerospace engineer, said.

“We worked 15 years together at APG to develop a supercomputing center, which he directed. We wrote many white papers together that went up the chain and each of us felt that we did not own the words,” he said.

The center was part of the Army Supercomputing Network which later became the Defense Research and Engineering Network which provides supercomputing access to Department of Defense scientists, universities and contractors throughout the United States.

“He did extremely well in dealing with the Air Force and Navy people because he could sit down with them and figure out what worked well,” Mr. Nietubicz said.

After retiring in 1996, Mr. Breaux remained at the Army Research Laboratory for another 15 years as a contract employee and consultant.

In 2010, in recognition of his many contributions to Aberdeen, the Army Research Laboratory named its fastest and newest supercomputer the “Harold.”

“He was a treasure,” Mr. Nietubicz said. “No one would ever have a thing to say about Hal that was negative. He was the kind of man who brought out the best in people.”

Later in life, Mr. Breaux survived heart bypass surgery, prostate cancer, two varieties of lymphoma and pancreatic cancer.

“I did his pancreatic cancer surgery 12 years ago,” said Dr. Mark Fraiman, who practices at the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center’s Liver and Pancreas Center in Towson.

“Mr. Breaux’s surviving pancreatic cancer is the exception and not the rule. Only 20 percent who have surgery survive more than five years,” Dr. Fraiman said. “His was an unusual case, and his family rallied around him because he was their patriarch.”

“Dr. Fraiman is our family hero,” wrote a daughter, Susie Breaux McShea, of Ellicott City, in a biographical profile of her father.

A longtime resident of Aberdeen where he and his wife raised their three children, Mr. Breaux was active in Harford County, where he coached youth baseball and basketball.

In 2012, the Harford County Cultural Arts Board named Mr. Breaux a “Harford Living Treasure” for his contributions to the county.

He also was a gardener who enjoyed refinishing antique furniture and writing letters to the editors of The New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Breaux wrote papers on Acadian genealogy and American politics and in 2020, was the author of “Illegitimate: Trump’s Failed Election and Failed Presidency.”

“He was very sharp, engaging, and likeable, and it’s quite impressive that he wrote a book when he was 82. It’s just pretty wild,” Dr. Fraiman said. “How many people in their 80s are motivated to write a book? He was a most memorable individual.”

Mr. Beaux was a communicant of St. Joan of Arc Roman Catholic Church in Aberdeen, where a Mass of Christian Burial was held Wednesday.

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by his son, Mark Breaux, of Columbia; another daughter, Mary Toler, of Lutherville; five grandchildren; and a niece and two nephews.

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