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NORTHAMPTON - Henry Oppenheim died Saturday, March 2, 2013, at Baystate Medical Center.
He was born in Nurnberg, Germany on Sept. 19, 1926, and came to the United States in 1938 at age 11. He attended the Bronx High School of Science in New York City, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1946 and graduated with honors from the City College of New York in 1949. He received a masters degree from the University of North Carolina in 1952, a doctorate from the University of Kentucky in 1955 and became a Diplomate in Clinical Psychology in 1968. He moved to Northampton in 1956 to work as a clinical psychologist at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Leeds.
After his retirement in 1989, he served as chief psychologist at the Northampton State Hospital until it closed.
Dr. Oppenheim's perspectives on life were significantly influenced by the traumas of his childhood in Nazi Germany where he was viciously assaulted by a bully member of the Hitler Youth and expelled from public school so that it might be "cleansed of Jews." He would recall a childhood incident in which he was walking home and came across a crowd saluting Adolf Hitler, who stood above on a Nurnberg hotel balcony.
Dr. Oppenheim was proud to become an American citizen and believed deeply in moral responsibility, devotion to community and one's obligation to fight prejudice and care for others. As a clinical psychologist, he revealed an exceptional attunement and empathy toward patients with major mental illnesses. He was a dedicated mentor to clinical interns and to graduate students at the Smith College School for Social Work where he served as research adviser. He served on the Board of Congregation B'nai Israel, as chair of its Social Action Committee and was elected president.
Above all, Dr. Oppenheim will be remembered for his deep love and devotion to his family and for his exceptional courage in adapting to dementia in his latter years with characteristic humor and love of life. He developed warm relationships with the caring staff at the Holyoke Soldiers Home, and despite impaired memory, was still able to retain impressive remnants of knowledge of his lifelong interests in geography, history, language and music, gaining great pleasure from joining with his wife and children in singing arias from familiar operas and songs in German, French, Yiddish and Hebrew.
Dr. Oppenheim is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, Adele Oppenheim, daughters Lisa Berzins and Jody Gastfriend; son Keith Oppenheim, son-in-law David Gastfriend, daughter-in-law Susan Weinstein, and grandchildren Laila Berzins, Melanie Berzins, Eric Gastfriend, Daniel Gastfriend, Rebecca Gastfriend and Ellen Oppenheim. He was predeceased by his older brother Walter Oppenheim in 1995.
Funeral services will be held at Tuesday, March 5th at 1 p.m. at Congregation B'nai Israel at in Northampton. Burial will be held at the B'nai Israel Cemetery, followed by a luncheon. Shiva will be held at the Lathrop Inn, 100 Bassett Brook Drive in Easthampton, on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings at 7 p.m. Contributions may be made to Congregation B'nai Israel, to the Holyoke Soldiers Home or to Alzheimers research.
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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Mar. 4, 2013