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Sheldon Lapan

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Sheldon Lapan, a retired public health researcher, scholar, baseball aficionado, and Francophile died Monday (Nov. 7) of complications from multiple myeloma in Baltimore. He was 77. "Shelly," as he liked to be called, cherished his radio, library card and passport, all of which kept him connected to things he loved. He lived more than half his life in Baltimore, but was a New Yorker by birth and spirit. He was an avid sports fan, loyal to the Mets, Giants and Knicks, and he often fell asleep listening to New York sports talk radio. He loved to travel, and, in particular, his passport was freckled with stamps from France. He studied French interminably, so he could practice on always-courteous-but-never-encouraging Parisian waiters. He was also a voracious consumer of news and history, and never stopped going to his local library to do research or simply delight in its publicly-available wonders. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Russian immigrants Sam Lapan and Minnie Eisenstein. He played baseball and other sports, and excelled in his studies, graduating from Tilden High School in three years. He earned his degree from City College of New York before he met his future wife, Caroline Horton, while the two of them worked in the same social work office. He chose to specialize in public health, and his graduate work at John Hopkins University brought him, and his family, to Baltimore. He spent the bulk of his career as an epidemiologist with the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, where he teased and prodded data to illuminate the factors behind fire fatalities, suicides, infant mortality and other prominent issues. One of his favorite thinkers, Jean-Paul Sartre, said: "Man is nothing else but what he makes of himself." For Lapan this meant a devotion to education, and a lifelong appetite for knowledge and new discoveries - qualities he instilled in his two sons. He appreciated good conversation and good food, held fast to his ideals and believed in speaking truth to power. He also believed desserts didn't have any calories if you just nibbled at them. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his sons, Sam and Tovin; their wives Julia and Sarah; granddaughter Zahra; and nephews Tevyen, David and Ira Dorfman. Funeral services and interment will be held at Mt. Lebanon Cemetery - Glendale, NY on Sunday, November 13, at 11:45 am. Please omit flowers. Contributions in his memory may be sent to Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, 750 E. Pratt Street, Suite 1700, Baltimore, MD 21202 or Our Daily Bread, 725 Fallsway, Baltimore, MD 21202. The family will be receiving at 411 Cedarcroft Road, Baltimore, MD 21212, Tuesday, November 15, between 3pm-8pm.
Published in Baltimore Sun from Nov. 9 to Nov. 10, 2016
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