Spotlight on Seniors: Meet Del Tweedie

Del and Sally Tweedie have been members of MLUC since 1965 when Del was hired by the Space Division of General Electric and they moved their family to Pennsylvania. At MLUC, Del says, “I’ve held just about every job there is to hold.”

Del and Sally were college sweethearts who met at the University of Michigan. Del is 91 and Sally is 90. They have been married 73 years and they have three children: Kate Tweedie Erslev, a UU religious educator; Ian Tweedie, the director of a US-sponsored public health program in Nigeria; and Sue Sim, an environmental scientist who led a group that developed disease-free plants. They also have seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Del, who calls music “the spiritual part of religion,” describes himself as a religious humanist. He began to develop his life’s philosophy reading the works of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, and the transcendentalists in a college course in which the focus was on rational thought.

Del received his undergraduate and graduate degrees in chemistry, and in 1958, the year NASA was formed, he went to work for Aerojet in Southern California formulating rocket propellants. He and Sally joined a local Unitarian society, where Del was elected president of the board. When Del took a job with Union Carbide in Charleston, West Virginia, they joined a Unitarian fellowship so small that everyone could gather in one person’s home.

The family moved to the Main Line when Del was hired by General Electric to help build space satellites. In his autobiography, It Takes a Rocket Scientist, Del describes his work in the space industry, emphasizing the joy of being a scientist, of brainstorming, experimenting, and making discoveries.

Del and Sally own 130 acres of wooded land on Bear Mountain in Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. The whole Tweedie family built their cabin there, and Del built all the furniture for it. Over the years they have hosted many MLUC families and the church youth group, which was invited one year to practice carpentry skills by building a guest cabin on the property. Del and Sally established the property as a tree farm, and recently they sold carbon credits in exchange for not cutting down trees.

Del and Sally love the outdoors. Years ago, they led family groups from MLUC canoeing on the Brandywine River, and from their place in Rock Hall, Maryland, they sailed to Montreal and through the Great Lakes to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.

In Pennsylvania, Del was involved in local politics. He was an elected member of the Willistown Committee and the Tredyffrin/Easttown School Board and, later, state coordinator of Common Cause. At MLUC, Del was elected president of Board of Trustees in 1970 and later served as chairman of the Building Committee. He and Sally worked on a district extension committee designed to grow the faith and took up the torch for the Chalice Lighters from Ron and Ellen Cotts. The UUA Chalice Lighter program collects financial donations from individuals to help smaller congregations with projects.

Del led the effort to rebuild the church after the fire in 1990, working closely with the lead engineer and the architect. Del helped carry the fireplace mantle out from the debris of the fire; it is now in the Fireside Room. The church’s electric lift is known as the Delavator in Del’s honor.

What makes a good life, Del says, is to be happy and to be able to accomplish things.