Jay Frederick Onken

Jay Frederick Onken, 54, of Toney, Alabama, passed away on Wednesday, June 2 after a year-long battle with cancer. He was born August 28, 1966 to Fred (Fritz) and Betty (Cunningham) Onken. He married Erin Marshall on June 23, 2018 in Toney. She survives. He is also survived by his parents, of Lincoln and three children: Elizabeth Onken of Irondale, AL, Jacob Onken of Hazel Green, AL and Michael Onken of Meridianville, AL. He is also survived by a stepdaughter, Julianna Vinson of Toney, AL. His sister, Debbie (Ken) Schweitzer of Lincoln also survives, along with a nephew, Adam (Katie) Schweitzer of O’Fallon and a niece, Hilary (Spence) Kelly of St. Charles, MO. Mr. Onken graduated from Mason City High School in 1984 and received a Bachelor’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1989. During his career at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, he worked on the Chandra X-Ray Observatory Program, was deputy manager for the International Space Station Payload Operations, the director of the Missions Operations Laboratory, Space Launch System deputy chief engineer, and Director of the Space Systems Department at the Marshall Space Flight Center Engineering Directorate. He retired from NASA in 2018. In 2011, he was awarded a Distinguished Alumnus Award from the University of Illinois Department of Aerospace Engineering. Services for Mr. Onken were held on June 7 at Berryhill Funeral Home in Huntsville with burial following at Valhalla Memory Gardens. Memorial contributions may be made to the Mason City United Methodist Church.

1 Comment

  1. Jilian Peeke on July 19, 2021 at 9:24 am

    I just heard about Jay and I offer my deepest condolences to Erin, the kids, and his entire family. I worked with Jay at Dynetics for a time and he talked about his family almost every day. He liked being a newlywed and he was proud of his son and his daughter. I heard him say “I love you” when he closed a phone conversation with one of his kids and I would think, wow, what a great dad. And what a great person. He will be missed.

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