Semour "Sy" Leibowitz (1927 - 2013)

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Seymour (Sy) Leibowitz

Juneau resident Sy Leibowitz died July 12, 2013, at the age of 86.

Sy Leibowitz was born in New York City on March 26, 1927, to Lena and Jack Leibowitz. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he attended Stuyvesant High School and City College of New York. In 1945, he entered the Navy and served in the occupation forces in the Pacific just after the end of World War II. He was honorably discharged from the Navy in August 1946. He once said that he saw the mountains and open spaces of the western United States while he was on a train being sent to deploy to the Pacific, and after that, he did not want to go back to New York City. He used the GI Bill to attend the first western college that accepted him, the University of Montana in Missoula. There, he met Margaret Schessler, another student, and they were married in December 1948, between semesters.

After graduating in 1950, Sy and Margaret accepted teaching jobs in Montana. At one point, they moved to Boston, where Sy took graduate courses in philosophy. They returned to teaching, mostly in rural schools, from Montana to Oregon. Sy served as principal for Hood River Elementary School in Hood River, Oregon. They also homesteaded for three years in British Columbia, where Sy learned carpentry and built cabins.

Within a year or two after leaving British Columbia, they came to Alaska, and taught in Hollis, Russian Mission, and Tok, interspersed with Margaret completing her master's degree in library science at the University of Washington. They moved to Juneau in 1963, when Margaret accepted a job with the Alaska State Library.

At first, Sy and Margaret lived in the Mendenhall Apartments, but Sy, in particular, wanted more space and privacy. They purchased land on North Douglas Highway, which at that time featured neither electricity nor pavement. Sy built the first of three houses on the property. In 1971, he began work on a second, larger house, which he completed in 1975. He and some neighbors also put up a rental cabin next to the second house, and a number of people lived there over the years. In the 1990's, he constructed a third house on the land.

Sy appreciated building, gardening, and reading, including Science News and the New York Times.

He was preceded in death by his spouse of 58 years, Margaret Leibowitz, who died in 2007, and his brother, Herbert Leibowitz.

He is survived by his daughter, Beth Leibowitz, of Juneau, and by his sister-in-law, Ruth Leibowitz (of Philadelphia), his cousin, Yetta Center (of Florida), and their descendants.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations by made to the American Civil Liberties Union (, the Natural Resources Defense Council (, or the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council ( or 419 6th St., Suite 200, Juneau, AK 99801). An informal memorial will be held at a later date.
Published in The Juneau Empire on Aug. 6, 2013
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