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Martin L. Gursky

Obituary
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Martin L. Gursky, 85, passed away Jan. 17, 2013 in Los Alamos. Martin was the moral, intellectual, economic and political compass of a close, loving and devoted family. His wit, wisdom and thoughtful counsel will be missed by family, friends and acquaintances alike. At his side since graduate school has been his devoted and accomplished wife Judith Cassidy Gursky.
Martin was born in New York City, N.Y. on March 19, 1927 to Mayer Gursky and Sonia Balen Gursky, who preceded him in death. He is also preceded in death by his only sibling, noted astrophysicist Herbert Gursky. His family relocated to Miami Beach, Fla. in the late 1930's. With his father ill, his strong determined mother supported the family by running a small grocery store in Miami, while instilling the value of education in her young sons.
At age 16, Martin entered Georgia Tech majoring in aeronautical engineering. Short of his graduation, Martin was drafted in the waning days of WWII. Martin was a Sargeant in the Engineer Corp, working on such vital projects as testing can openers by opening the other end of thousands of already empty cans. Vowing to leave the practical engineering of the Army behind, he returned to Georgia Tech, finishing his bachelor of science andmaster of science in theoretical physics. He entered Vanderbilt for his doctorate. He was joined at Vanderbilt by his brother Herb and met his soon-to-be wife Judith there. Martin and Judy were married on Aug. 23, 1952, in Atlanta, Ga.
On March 1, 1954, the day of the infamous Castle Bravo thermonuclear weapon test on Bikini Atoll, Martin started work in T-Division. He came at the behest of his former professor and mentor David Hill. Martin finished work on his dissertation in those early days and was awarded his doctorate in theoretical physics from Vanderbilt. One of the interesting memories of Martin and Judy was about arrival in the still closed town of Los Alamos and staying shortly at Fuller Lodge, when it was a hotel and restaurant and the only place to stay in town. The family lived in several lab housing assignments over the next several years before finally settled in 1961 in a home on Barranca Mesa, still home to the family.
Martin's career at the Lab was spent in T-Division and X-Division. There was even a six month period as a reporter for the Los Alamos Monitor during the budget cuts of the 1970's. Martin also spent years as an instructor at UNM-LA as the math department coordinator, teaching a generation of students before retiring.
One of Martin's real passions was politics. His first political fight was as a driving force in the process of self-government for Los Alamos and the transfer of services and property from the Federal Government to the County and its citizens, rather than allow them to go to private corporate ownership. He was on the original Charter Commission and later served several terms as a Democratic member of the County Commission. The then Commission, in the mid 1960's, presided over the transfer of government services, housing and property from the Federal Government to the County and its residents and the building of the much revered and maligned County Building overlooking Ashley Pond. He continued his activism throughout his life, among other things, running unsuccessfully for state legislature, championing and helping to direct the senior center to its success as a community organization and serving on many boards of numerous County and civic organizations. He was president of the Los Alamos Jewish Community during the acquisition of the site for and construction of the Jewish Center. He was named a Los Alamos Living Treasure in 2003.
Through the rest of his life, Martin continued as a public advocate for the thoughtful and restrained use of County funds and power. One of the images remaining from long ago is that of Martin and his Democratic political buddies in the family room playing poker, talking politics and filling the room with laughter, cigar smoke and the joy of a simpler time.
The real joy in Martin's life was in his lifelong dedication to his wife and large devoted family. Among his functions was a dedicated audience to a family of musicians and performers; was the primary family tennis instructor and playing partner; was little league and lassie league umpire when called upon; was the purveyor of age old disciplinary wisdom such as "stop crying or I'll really give you something to cry about"; but most of all he was the personal embodiment of parental guidance, support and wisdom. The family we enjoy is due to Martin and Judy's indelible example.
He is survived by his wife of more than 60 years Judy and five children: Michael (Diana Bittern), Philip, Kathy (Rick Bolton), Paula Lindgren (Tim Lindgren) and Daniel, as well as grandchildren Alex Morosco-Gursky, Leila Bittern, Michael Lindgren, Jonathan Lindgren, Josephine Lindgren, David Lindgren and Emily Gursky, and step-grandchildren Vanessa Morosco and Kris Spinka. Even divorce does not separate this family, as Martin is survived and beloved by ex-daughters-in-law Sibley Morosco and Kay Brown. Martin is also survived and fondly remembered by his brother's family, wife Flora, sons David and Robert and family.
Martin will be interred at Guaje Pines Cemetery in a private ceremony. A public memorial celebrating his life will be announced later. The family acknowledges the outstanding care and assistance of Dr. Tyler Taylor, Darlene George and Arlene Garcia in Martin's later years. Martin was a strong believer in the institutions that bind and support the community, so in lieu of flowers or gifts, please make a contribution in his memory to the Los Alamos Jewish Center, the Unitarian Church Building Fund, the Los Alamos Senior Center, the Los Alamos Concert Association or other local institution that supports the needs of the community.

Published in Los Alamos Monitor from Jan. 23 to Jan. 24, 2013
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