David Goldknopf

  • "David was a man of great wit and wisdom. He will be missed."
    - Peter
  • "David was an inspiring teacher with a wry wit. I always..."
    - Ron Knapp
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1918 - 2015
On Memorial Day, 1941, David Goldknopf married Irma Galef; after the ceremony, guests wished them a long and happy life together. Having enjoyed just such a life, David Goldknopf died of complications of pneumonia on Saturday, March 21, 2015 at the age of 96.

Born in Bethlehem, PA on October 16, 1918, to Israel and Lena (Widrowitz) Goldknopf, David grew up on a Connecticut farm with his father, his stepmother Bessie, and numerous relatives; he worked in the family's icehouse. His intellectual abilities and interests were apparent from an early age. He excelled at the Norwich Free Academy and then received a B.S. cum laude in philosophy from New York University in 1938. Also while at NYU, he met Irma on the running board of an ambulance that was to be sent to the Loyalist side in the Spanish Civil War.

In 1943 during WW II, David was drafted into the military and joined the Army Air Forces. He served as a radio and communications officer for the storied 368th Fighter Group as they worked their way across Europe. He was devoted to his unit and formed lasting friendships during the war.

After the war he lived in New York City, freelancing and writing fiction including numerous short stories and a novel, Hills on the Highway (Harper, 1948). He moved to Rosendale and then to New Paltz to work as a technical writer at IBM in Kingston. David and Irma's daughter Emily arrived in 1956.

David and Irma both attended graduate school in English at Syracuse University, David with a fellowship and Irma with a teaching job. David received his Ph.D. in English Literature from Syracuse University in 1969. In 1972, he published The Life of the Novel (University of Chicago Press), a well-received work of literary criticism.

After working at Bennett College, David became a professor of English at SUNY New Paltz, where Irma already was a professor. After their retirement, David and Irma established a scholarship for single parents attending SUNY New Paltz. David and Irma loved to travel and visited many places in Asia and Europe, often meeting with colleagues and former students during their trips.

David was an astute observer of human nature and of the cultural and political scene. Though stubborn, stoic, and not given to social chitchat, he also was kind, loving, and generous.

David's immediate survivors are his wife and daughter. A small memorial service, with Rabbi Zoe B. Zak officiating, was held on March 29.
Published on NYTimes.com from Apr. 10 to Apr. 11, 2015
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