MADISON—Theodore Jones Iltis (Ted) (1929-2019) was the son of professors Leon Iltis & Josephine Jones Iltis. Ted grew up in Madison, learning voice from his mother, and piano from his father and Stella Kaiser. Their home was always full of music, and Ted developed lifelong professional passions for performing—singing and playing French horn and piano, and for supporting classical music performance and the arts.

Ted also loved the outdoors, and from an early age, scouting became an integral part of his life. He was proud to be an Eagle Scout, and remained active as a leader throughout his adult life wherever he lived. He loved nothing more than getting up in front of a group of scouts—or any group for that matter—and leading them in songs—patriotic, scouting, school songs—whatever.

Ted graduated from Madison West High in 1946 and went on to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemical Engineering from UW in 1950. During his college years, playing in the Badger marching band and active in Hoofers, he and his brother, John, were avid skiers and told stories of flying off the Nordic jump formerly located on Bascom Hill (up behind Science Hall) with a run-out onto Lake Mendota. In his senior year, he met Helen Louise Nelson, a UW art education student from Oshkosh with a shared passion for outdoor adventure—especially skiing and sailboat racing. Helen and Ted were married in Oshkosh in 1951.

Ted first began working as an engineer for General Electric and was quickly recruited as a civilian nuclear engineer by Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover to work on the cooling systems for the world’s first nuclear-powered ships, beginning with the submarine Nautilus, and including the George Washington and the aircraft carrier Enterprise. While in Washington, D.C., Ted and Helen raised three children, Steven, Linda, and Robert (Bob) with many fun weekends spent exploring, hiking, and camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

In 1965, Ted left the Navy Department for a position with the Atomic Energy Commission, and was named as Nuclear Affairs Attaché to the U.S. Mission to the European Economic Community, located in Brussels, Belgium. The family lived in Brussels from 1966 until 1969, which opened the door to great adventures and rich cultural experiences throughout Europe.

Upon completion of Ted’s assignment overseas, the family returned briefly to Washington D.C. and then moved to Greensburg, in the Pittsburgh area, where Ted worked as a government liaison with Westinghouse, developing the breeder reactor at Waltz Mill. He retired from government service in 1978 and returned to Madison to work as Director of Nuclear Affairs for Wisconsin Power and Light. He and Helen settled into a home on the shores of Lake Mendota where they lived for 31 years.

Full retirement in 1985 allowed Ted to refocus his energies on his passions for music, sailboat racing, scouting, travel, and other community service—notably the Madison Symphony Orchestra, Madison Opera, Boy Scouts of America Four Lakes Council, First United Methodist Church, and Kiwanis. He served on the Board of Directors of the Madison Symphony Orchestra for a number of years during the completion of the Overture Center.

The family wishes to express sincere gratitude to the vigilant Attic Angel staff and caregivers, especially to private caregiver, Bernadette Geoghegan-Croake, who supported and engaged Ted to keep playing piano in his last year, and made him laugh up until the end; to Blessed Brass, choral groups, and the congregation at the First United Methodist Church; to the Director’s Board of Madison Symphony Orchestra, Barbara & John DeMain; to Madison neighbors and friends around the world; and to the medical teams at UW Health.

Ted and Helen spent their last 6 years together at Prairie Point and in the loving care of the Attic Angel Community in Madison.

Helen passed away in 2014, followed by Ted at age 90, on May 29, 2019. Ted was also preceded in death by his parents; older brothers and spouses, Charles (and Betty) and John (and Ada); and older sister, Josephine (and John Schuster).

Ted and Helen are survived by their three children and spouses, Steven (and Kristina), Linda (and Terry), and Robert (and Sharon); their grandson, Andrew and wife Jennifer and two great-granddaughters, Hadley and Emerson. Contributions in memory of Ted and Helen may be made to the Madison Community Foundation “Iltis Family Fund”, 111 N. Fairchild St., Suite 260, Madison, Wis. 53703.

A memorial/celebration of life is planned for friends and family to be held in the Community room at Attic Angel Place, 8301 Old Saul Rd., Madison beginning at 11 a.m. on Saturday, August 10, 2019. For more information, contact Bob at 618-534-4138 or

To plant a tree in memory of Theodore Iltis as a living tribute, please visit Tribute Store.

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