[This is my translation of my speech at Dad’s funeral. I am sure Dad would have done a much better job at translating it!]
In the beginning I would like to say a few words about my father’s life and about the kind of man he was.
My father was born on August 8, 1935 in Chernigov, Ukraine. He was not yet 6 years old at the start of the Great Patriotic War in June 1941. With his mother (my grandmother Minna) and sister Lora he was evacuated to Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Those were difficult years that Dad didn’t like to talk about. After the War, the family moved to Leningrad. There Dad went to an all-boy school. He became close friends with some of his fellow students and even the teachers. I know about these friendships not only from my Dad’s stories, as even when I was already a teenager, Dad’s classmates continued to gather together, including at our home. We visited Dad’s French teacher, Valentina Lukinichna. As he did with everything he put himself to in later years, Dad studied hard and graduated with all A’s and a gold medal. In the summer of 1952, he was accepted to the Military Mechanical Institute in Leningrad. It was a particular feat for a Jew because of the quotas, but Dad’s grades practically guaranteed his acceptance. After graduation from the Institute, he worked and studied in a graduate program, and later defended a Ph.D. dissertation in Mechanical Engineering.
On October 8, 1971 my Mom and Dad got married. They lived together for over 30 years, inseparable in good and bad times alike. When my Mom was ill with cancer, Dad did everything to help her, and several times brought her back from the brink of death. Dad spent the last twelve days of Mom’s life by her bedside in the hospital, not leaving for more than a few minutes at a time. He donated blood to be transfused to her, and did all he could to ease her suffering. He was a devoted husband and a loyal friend.
In 1993 Mom and Dad moved to California. My father was really happy to live in the States. a country he really loved. He was very proud to be an American, which he considered himself from the day of their arrival to San Francisco. Dad considered the States his home, he never said “here” meaning Russia, only the U.S. He had a good life in America though it was not always easy.
About a month after arriving to the U.S., my Dad got his first job at Polyglot (in the photo on the left, he is pictured with two of his colleagues there: Irina and Boris). At first, he worked as a editor, then also as a translator. This was not exactly a job that he trained for or worked in for 30 years in Russia, but Dad was very enthusiastic about it. He worked on many important projects, including the International Space Station, international satellite launches, oil and gas exploration on Sakhalin, decommissioning of chemical weapons and of radiation therapy equipment. He worked with such partners as NASA and Boeing, Department of Defense and Khrunichev Space Center. I once helped Dad translate documents about meal arrangements for US personnel working at Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Dad worked with great enthusiasm and dedication to the very last day, even though he was already in partial retirement, on vacation, and it was his birthday. But even these three excuses didn’t stop him. He always worked hard and treated everything he did with great responsibility. He often cited the words he ascribed to Margaret Thatcher’s grandmother, saying: “If it’s worth doing something at all, it is worth doing it well”. From the early age, he taught me his responsible and industrial attitude. He never checked my homework and didn’t let Mom check it either. He used to say to Mom: “Freyda, she must learn responsibility and discipline now”.
Dad not only worked a lot and with great dedication, but he also loved to learn new things and continued to do so his whole life. When he was already in his 60s, he learned to drive a car. Also in America, Dad learned to use a computer. When he started his first job at Polyglot, he made his edits with a red pen on paper, but in a few years he taught himself the mastery of computers: he didn’t just use it as a type-writer, but could do very complicated things, install software and hardware, repair computers, even put them together from pieces. And he was always happy to teach others.
This is another very important quality that Dad possessed—he always shared everything he knew and was ready to help in any difficult situation. I already mentioned that Dad helped Mom in so many ways. And of course, Dad helped me a lot! When I got ill (I lived in Connecticut then), Dad took the first flight from California in order to be near me, in the hospital. He traveled a lot—to Norway, Canada, around the States—helping me pack, move, and settle in a new place. In this photo Dad is pictured in front of a Hurtigrute boat in Tromso in June 2002, when he came to help me move to California. I should note that Dad didn’t think of all he did helping others as a chore, but more as an opportunity and a pleasure for himself. Very often he would do something for me, and I’d thank him, but Dad would say: “No, thank YOU!” I’d ask “what for?” and Dad would always say something like “without you I wouldn’t have visited such a beautiful place” or “without you I wouldn’t have had dinner at such a nice restaurant” and so on.
Dad had an uncanny ability to see good in everything and everyone. He knew to live “yummily”, as he would say, to enjoy life. He spent his last week in Hawaii, enjoying every minute of it. We spoke on the phone or skype every day, and he told me every time: “Everything is perfect, we are having a great time, swimming in the ocean…” This was a paradise for him, and he spent those days that turned out to be his last with the people he loved: Lyuda and the 5-year old Paul, whom Dad adored.
On this morning that was going to be his last, Dad, Lyuda, and Paul took a ride to Lohaina to look at tropical fish. As a veritable knight that he was, Dad met his death “in a saddle”: he was driving. While losing consciousness, he managed to swerve the car to a parking lot and make sure that nobody else was hurt. This characterizes him to perfectly!
Dad was not a religious man and didn’t believe in God. But I think God exists and heard his wishes: Dad didn’t want to have a slow decline into the fog of old years. God gave him a quick and painless death. The last thing he saw was a breathtaking view of West Maui Mountains. But how sad that he left us so early! He could still enjoy so much of life, be happy and full of energy as he always was. I miss him! I will remember and love him always, and he will always be just nearby.
Rest in peace!
One last thing: look at this photo taken in Chicago a couple of years ago. He’s wearing a T-shirt that says “Give Blood, Give Life”. He received this T-shirt for donating a certain amount of blood. He had several T-shirts from the Blood Center, as he was a dedicated blood donor. He was giving blood not only for Mom, for family members, but even for people he didn’t know. Even after 9/11 Dad donated blood, hoping it could help folks on the East Coast.