Michael Aitken

Obituary of Michael Demilt Aitken

Michael Demilt Aitken, 64, of Chapel Hill, NC passed away peacefully at home on September 19, 2020 due to complications from cancer.

A private celebration of life and burial was held at Carolina Memorial Sanctuary in Mills River, NC on September 23, 2020. Once the coronavirus pandemic has subsided and large groups can safely gather in person, a public memorial celebration will be held at the University of North Carolina, with details to be determined at a later date.

Michael was born in Glen Cove, NY to Demilt Fairchild Aitken and Denise (Roy) Aitken on September 6, 1956 and grew up in Syosset, NY. He attended high school at Holy Trinity Diocesan in Hicksville, NY and graduated in 1974. He went on to earn a B.S. from the University of Buffalo in 1978, M.S. from the University of California, Davis in 1980, and Ph.D. from the University of Notre Dame in 1988, all in civil engineering. At the time of his death, he served as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the University of North Carolina, where he taught and conducted research in wastewater treatment and the bioremediation of contaminated soil from 1988-2019. In addition to serving as chair of the department from 2006-2016, Michael was a member of numerous professional societies and received a variety of awards and honors, including his election as a fellow of the Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors in 2018, a singular distinction bestowed on the best practitioners in the field. Outside of work, Michael loved reading, gardening, listening to music, and torturing his family and friends with abysmal puns and spoonerisms.

Michael is survived by his devoted wife, Betsy Bea Rudolph; his sons Matthew Lawrence (Dana Clifton), Myles Emmet (Jessie Schrubbe), and Graham Robert; his granddaughter Madeleine Clifton Aitken; his siblings Elizabeth (Stephen) Fleury, Peter (Patricia) Aitken, John (Mary Beth) Aitken, and Nancy (Philip) Foisy; as well as a dozen nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by both of his parents.

In lieu of flowers, those who wish may consider donating to the North Carolina Botanical Garden, the V Foundation for Cancer Research, or Water.org, (please use links on the left) as well as planting a (native) plant species in memory of Michael. The family wishes to extend their sincere gratitude to UNC Medical Center’s Hospice Care for their invaluable support during the final phases of his illness.

Bon voyage, Michel. Je me souviens.

The Aitken family is under the care of Walker's Funeral Home of Chapel Hill.

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