1920 - 2014
Bernard Leonard Pollack, 94, of Oceanside, California, passed away peacefully at home on July 14, 2014.
Born on January 18, 1920 in Detroit, Michigan to John and Ida Pollack, Bernie grew up the oldest of four siblings. In 1933, John Pollack passed away and it fell to Bernie to help Ida care for Lane, Alvin, and Miriam. Bernie graduated from high school in Tarentum, PA in 1938, excelling on both the soccer pitch and in the chemistry classroom.
Bernie attended the Penn State School of Forestry in Mont Alto, PA. In 1940, he enrolled in a government course on the inspection of war materials. Two years later, he was drafted into the US Army to train ordinance personnel in small arm and military mechanics. On Christmas Day, 1942, Bernie's company was deployed from New York Harbor.
In England, Bernie was stationed at Camp G25, repairing broken armor. In 1945, he was sent to the Philippines by way of the Panama Canal where in Manila, around the time the bomb was dropped, Bernie was responsible for accepting all war materials coming back from the Pacific. Finally, he boarded the USS Constitution and headed home. In total, Bernie spent 152 days on the water.
At home, Bernie finished his degree in horticulture at Penn State. One afternoon in Happy Valley, Bernie helped a young lady by the name of Sonia Blostein find her way home via the town's bus system. The two began dating and were married in 1949. Upon graduation from Penn State, the university offered Bernie an assistantship in plant genetics. He earned his PhD in horticulture with a major in plant genetics and a minor in biometry four years later. His son, John, was born in 1951, followed by Abbie in 1954. In 1960, the family moved to East Brunswick, New Jersey. At his new job in the Rutgers Department of Horticulture, Bernie conducted vegetable breeding and research. He is perhaps most renown for his development of the famous Ramapo tomato.
Bernie suffered his first heart attack in 1961 and his second four years later. While recuperating in 1965, Bernie took up clock repair, cultivating a love for all things that ticked and tocked. He remained a clock enthusiast until his death.
Over the next decade, Bernie traveled to Africa nineteen times with the Peace Corp, training volunteers in vegetable production. Twice in Africa, Bernie found himself in the middle of a coup d'etat, once in Niger and once in Upper Volta (Brukina Faso), forcing him to flee the African revolts in order to return safely to the United States.
In 1985 the Pollacks retired to Southern California, where Bernie kept a lush garden full of fruits and vegetables. Bernie is survived by his brother Alvin, sister Miriam, wife Sonia, children John (Karen) Pollack and Abbie (John) Morrison, and grandchildren Kelsey and Alex Morrison. Donations can be made in Bernie's name to the Rutgers University School of Environmental and Biological Sciences Academic Excellence Fund, (732) 839-2006.
Published on NYTimes.com from July 18 to July 19, 2014