Joel Peter Compton was born June 11, 1934 in Hermosa Beach, California to the late Mel D Compton and Eleanor Glass. He was an active athlete in high school, playing volleyball on the beach and sailing both recreational and racing, and attended college at USC on a scholarship. At college, he studied mechanical engineering and specialized in rocketry. He spent a short time in the Army and had a heart for our country. Having grown up in Hermosa Beach, he understood the dangers our country faced with protecting itself along a coastline. He became a rocket scientist. His senior year of college, he was elected president of his fraternity, he worked at Hughes Aircraft, and dropped out of school. He decided to continue his work which he saw as doing his part for the US military interest in Vietnam. He spent several years with Hughes Aircraft Co. in Glendale, California,and then McDonell Douglas in Santa Monica, California. He married Rita in 1959 and had two children with her before their divorce in 1967. He married Karen two years later, hoping to find love and a mother for his two young children. He adored his children and fought for the right to keep them during a time when divorce always favored the mother. Eventually, Joel and his family moved to the east coast when he took a position with Atlantic Research Corporation in the DC area where he ultimately retired as a project manager. He had one more child with Karen during that time and moved into his dream house on Lake Anne. He lived most of his life next to water, and found the sight comforting. He still had so much energy and vigor in him that retirement didn't stick for many more years. Instead, he and his wife started a small vending business which kept them both active for another 25 years!
While working for the solid propellant rocket manufacturer, Joel worked on two programs that left the largest impact on his life:The cruise missile program called Tomahawk, and the Air Bag Program now used in all car manufacturing. Air bags use rockets to inflate in a fraction of a second and ultimately save lives! Joel was so proud of the cruise missile program, often bragging that the guidance system could fly under radar and deliver its payload to a card table in the middle of Red Square in Moscow, attributing the cruise missile to the ultimate end of the cold war.
He enjoyed all music, but his favorite was classical. He was a talented singer and piano player, and he could play by ear. He would hear a complicated piece once, go home, and play it. He sang in multiple choral groups over the years including the Master Singers of Virginia where he sang Baritone for several years. He had an amazing range and could sing with the tenors or altos, but every singing group he joined was so happy to have his rich deep notes. He enjoyed whistling,accordion,and panpipes as well. He learned the ukulele and only struggled with the banjo late in life. His other hobbies included drawing, Rotary Club of Herndon-Reston, Reston Bible Church Men's Group, a Bridge Group, and getting together with friends for holidays and annual trips to the beach. He continued to sail on smaller sailboats recreationally until late in life when the leisurely trips on his pontoon boat were more his speed. While racing remained his favorite, he once lost a race because his wife fell overboard and proved she was more important than any race! While part of the Rotary Club in the early 2000s, he helped start a service project to Haiti called Haiti Outreach, which brought fresh well-water to rural communities and taught locals to maintain the wells. The program remains in place some 20 years later. He volunteered with his church, Reston Bible Church, and ventured to China to bring the bible and English to Chinese youth. His devotion to God lead him to work with the mission program at Reston Bible Church, where he routinely read mission reports and helped to determine how Christ could be revealed to the least-reached parts of the world. His grammar and spelling were impeccable and he was an excellent editor, which helped him to teach English both at home to his family and abroad. He was a natural leader and often elected to lead in organizations he belonged to. He enjoyed remodeling homes and altered every home he lived in, some more than once as he learned what worked and what didn't.
He loved fiercely and would drop everything for his family and friends when he was needed. If one called Joel with a problem he was quickly there with a solution and tools necessary for the job. He saw no project as too big to overcome, only one that needed more hands to accomplish. He was happy to lend his hands and expertise to jobs big and small for a friend. He loved to host family visiting the DC area and bring them out on his little lake in one of his boats. He would happily clean up the canoe, sailboat, pontoon, or paddle boat for company willing to try their hand and share his joy of the water. He would even venture into DC proper to show them around the museums and monuments, however his favorite were events at the Kennedy Center or Wolf Trap National Park. He didn't go to movies, but he loved live performances.
He was known for his dry sense of humor and quick wit up to his dying day. His twinkle and humor brightened the days of those around him. Those who knew him loved his jokes, his smile, and his whistling. He enjoyed his annual trips to the beach and continued the tradition for roughly 40 years. Whether he went in a large group with friends and family,grandchildren, or just his wife, he was refreshed after a week at the ocean listening to the waves and swimming in the surf. He would sometimes plan special events such as deep sea fishing, putt-putt golf, and ski-do rentals to add something memorable to the trip and share his passions with his family. His favorite vacation was his trip to Jerusalem and Israel, exploring the holy city and history from the Bible. He was insistent that the meaning of life was "to live for God"and he put the Lord first.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years Karen Compton, as well as three children: John, Cindy, and Jacqueline;6 grandchildren;and 2 great-grandchildren.