Gerald J. Oppenheimer

Gerald “Gerry” J. Oppenheimer died August 23, 2016, at the age of 94.  He was surrounded by his loving family, his daughter Dvorah, son Jory and daughter-in-law Kari Anderson and adored grandchildren Jonas and Lina.  His wife of 67 years, Mildred Oppenheimer, predeceased him two years earlier. 

Gerry was born May 8, 1922, in Frankfurt am Main, to Jacob and Bella (Spier) Oppenheimer.  At the age of 18, he escaped Nazi Germany with his parents by way of the Soviet Union, Mongolia, Korea, and Japan.  His family arrived in Seattle in 1940 with $3 in their pockets.  They went to Walla Walla for two years where he attended Whitman College.  In 1943, the family moved to Seattle and he entered the University of Washington.  This is where Gerry met his beloved Mildred in a philosophy class.  He then attended Harvard University to pursue a doctorate in philosophy.  After five years, he transferred to the Columbia School of Library Service when he realized employment opportunities in philosophy were slim.

In 1953, he and Mildred returned to Seattle, where he worked at the Seattle Public Library Technology Department.  He then became head of the Fisheries/Oceanography Library at the University of Washington, then Manager of Information Services at Boeing Scientific Research Laboratories, and finally he became the Director of the University of Washington Health Sciences Library in 1963.  He retired from that position after 24 years in 1987.  

Professionally, Gerry was most proud of how the UW Health Sciences Library grew during his tenure, his role in helping to start the Association of Academic Health Services Libraries, and his contributions to the Phi Beta Kappa Society as Executive Secretary, Alpha of Washington and Vice President, Puget Sound Association. 

His life joys and passions were his family and friends; scholarship in a wide range of fields; travels to Italy, Greece, and Spain; his love of living in Seattle; hiking on Mt. Rainier and in the North Cascades; music, and baseball (particularly the Boston Red Sox).  He was an active participant in support of liberal causes.

Words are insufficient to express the family’s appreciation for the care provided by Alice Kagai and the other staff at the Family Resource Home Care Services and the wonderful Group Health hospice nurse, Wendy Bensussan, thus making his final days bearable.

Contributions may be sent to the ACLU Foundation or the “Gerald J. Oppenheimer Fund for the Professional Development of Health Sciences Librarians” at the University of Washington:  http://psa-pbk.org/spotlight-oppenheimer-fund.html

At Gerry’s request, the cremation will be private and there will be no memorial.


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