Obituaries for March 3, 2017

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‘The People’s Court’ Judge Wapner dies at 97

Joseph Wapner, the retired judge who starred on “The People’s Court” — the first television reality show — has died.
Wapner died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 97.


“The People’s Court” premiered in September 1981, and Wapner heard thousands of cases during his 12 years on the show, according to the entertainment website TMZ.

Before appearing as a judge on television, Wapner served as a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.
Wapner, a Los Angeles native who grew up in the city, was the son of immigrant parents. His father came from Romania and became an attorney. His mother was from Russia.

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He graduated from the University of Southern California and its law school.

During World War II, he was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for heroism while serving in the Pacific in Cebu.
He was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1959 and two years later to the Superior Court, where he served for 18 years before retiring in 1979. He also served as president of the California Judges Association.


Wapner received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2009. He wrote a popular memoir titled “A View from the Bench.”
Wapner’s son, Fred, followed in his father’s footsteps to become an attorney and then a judge. His son David Miron-Wapner also became an attorney.

Wapner’s daughter, Sarah, died in 2005. He and wife, Mickey, were married for 70 years. n

—JTA News and Features

Physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, ‘Queen of Carbon,’ dies at 86

Physicist Mildred Dresselhaus, the daughter of impoverished Polish Jewish immigrants whose pioneering research into the

Official White House photo by Pete Souza

thermal and electrical properties of carbon earned her the nickname “Queen of Carbon,” has died.

Dresselhaus, who was an advocate for women in science fields, died Monday at 86.

Her research was foundational to the field called nanoscience, in which matter is manipulated at an atomic and molecular level.

Her pioneering work earned her the $1 million Kavli Prize in Nanoscience in 2012, the National Medal of Science, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and IEEE Medal of Honor, the highest award of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Dresselhaus had gained wider fame in recent weeks with her starring role in a television commercial promoting General Electric’s efforts to promote women in science. The commercial, titled “What If Scientists Were Celebrities?” imagines a world in which young girls dress up as Dresselhaus, glossy magazines feature her on their covers and gossip columns keep tabs on her comings and goings.

Dresselhaus, nee Mildred Spiewak, was born in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn in 1930 and grew up in the Bronx.

“The Bronx, I remember, was a very poor neighborhood, but that was all that immigrants could afford at that time,” she recalled in a 2013 interview. “Life was tough. I grew up — my father didn’t have a job, but there weren’t too many people who did have jobs.”

The prestigious Bronx High School of Science was not open to girls in her day, so she attended the selective Hunter College High School in Manhattan. She received a bachelor’s degree in 1951 from Hunter College, where she took an elementary physics class with another daughter of Jewish immigrants, Rosalyn Yalow, a future Nobel laureate in medicine. Dresselhaus often said it was Yalow who pushed her to go down the path of science and physics at a time when educated women were expected to become secretaries, nurses or teachers.

Dresselhaus went on to earn a master’s degree from Radcliffe College and a doctorate from the University of Chicago.

Two years after her marriage to fellow physicist Gene Dresselhaus in 1958, both were offered faculty positions at MIT. In 1968 she became a professor at MIT, where her research led to advances in carbon-based materials used in solid-state electronics.
As early as the mid-1970s she became a public advocate for women in engineering and science, and mentored countless young women during her time at MIT. Later in her career, MIT named her institute professor emerita, its highest distinction, and she continued teaching and researching until shortly before she died.

Dresselhaus is survived by her husband, their four children and five grandchildren. n

—JTA News and Features

Martin Alan Davis

Martin Alan Davis of Chevy Chase died Feb. 20. He was the beloved husband of 45 years of Belle Negrin Davis; dear  brother of Joel (Evelyn) Davis, Gale (the late Naftali) Teitelbaum, Rabbi Edward (Meira) Davis, Rabbi Kenneth (Anita) Davis, Marcelle (the late Moshe Aronstein and the late Sam Shayowitz) Aronstein and the late Daryl Brown Klonoff. He was a loving uncle to 55, great-uncle to 115 and great-great-uncle to four. He was a graduate of the Hebrew Academy of Washington, Roosevelt High School and the University of Maryland. He had a 47-year-career at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Interment at Elesavetgrad Cemetery, Washington. Contributions may be made to The Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy or to the charity of choice. n

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