Bernard Luskin died peacefully in the Hospice Suite at Grace Cottage Hospital on July 19, four days short of his ninety-third birthday.
He was the son of Jacob Luskin, who emigrated from Russia to New York in 1914, and Dvorah Leah (Farberova) Luskin, who arrived in America with their two sons in 1921. Bernie was born in Brooklyn, NY, on July 23, 1925.
Bernie spoke Yiddish until age 6, when he entered the New York City Public Schools, graduating from Tilden High School before turning sixteen, and entering City College in 1941 to study engineering.
He interrupted his studies in 1943 to enlist in the US Army, where he served as an infantry soldier in the Third Army, 94th Division. He suffered a concussion in action at the Saar-Moselle triangle along the Siegfried Line during the Battle of the Bulge. Sent to England to recover, he was in London on VE Day (May 8, 1945), when the lights were turned on for the first time in six years. Afterwards, he was stationed with the Army of Occupation in Czechoslovakia before his Honorable Discharge in January, 1946.
Bernie returned to City College, earning his BS in Electrical Engineering in June, 1947. After a brief stint working for General Electric, he worked for Columbia University, designing seismographs while earning his Masters in Electrical Engineering. He installed the first seismograph when Columbia established the Lamont Geological Observatory in 1949. While working for Columbia he sailed on sixteen cruises aboard the Research Vessel VEMA, doing geophysical and oceanographic research; from 1951 – 1955 he relocated to the Columbia Geophysical Field Station in Bermuda.
In 1951, Bernie invented the Precision Depth Recorder, an instrument that expanded both the precision and accuracy of deep-sea depth recording, collecting data critical to the development of the theory of plate tectonics. The PDR was also used on Polaris submarines.
Bernie left Columbia University in 1961 to be a department head of the Westrex Division of Litton Industries for two years, where he discovered he didn’t care for corporate life. He spent another two years as founder of Precision Marine, Inc. and as an independent consultant before joining five other independent thinkers and doers at Bolt Associates, where he spent the remainder of his career. Located in Norwalk, CT, Bolt Technology grew to be a world leader in the manufacture of marine air guns used in offshore exploration for oil and gas. In its hay day, Bolt Technology acquired four subsidiaries and employed over 150 people serving the oil and gas industry around the globe. He retired as president in 1990 and as Chairman of the Board in 1995.
Bernie was a devoted husband and father. He met Bernice Spikol, the love of his life, on January 2, 1943, corresponded with her while he was overseas, and married her on August 27, 1946, her twenty-first birthday. Their life together included adventure, hard work, and four children. They began their married life in Brooklyn, moved to Philadelphia, Bermuda, Teaneck, NJ, Weston, and then Westport CT.
At age 43, Bernie learned to ski, which he enjoyed into his eighties. He and Bernice spent part of every winter in Stowe, Vermont. They also skied in Europe, Canada and in the American West. Bernie traveled extensively for both business and pleasure, visiting thirty-three countries on six continents.
Bernie believed in education. He taught his children to sail and his grandchildren to ski; in addition, he encouraged and supported the college careers of his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.
After tenderly attending to Bernice through her final illness and in a remarkable act of courage, Bernie moved to Holton Home in Brattleboro, Vermont, where he created a new life as a widower. He enjoyed swimming, walking into town, and attending the Met Live in HD. He spent his final years writing the seventh volume of his memoirs, Reflections of an Old Man, in which he documented his life’s history and his core values and beliefs. One of his foundational beliefs, based on extensive reading, is that all the major world religions are based on the Golden Rule. He was fond of saying, “Everything else is commentary.” Bernie lived the American Dream of rags to riches and believed in charitable giving. He supported education, conservation and social services for immigrants.
Bernie is survived by four children and their spouses: Michael and Judith Luskin (Scarsdale, NY), David Luskin and Claire Bender (Frisco, CO), Deborah Luskin and Timothy Shafer (Williamsville, VT), and Jonathan Luskin and Leslie Katz (San Francisco, CA); by five grandchildren: Sarah (Luskin) and Kenan Stern (Irvington, NY), Rachel Luskin and Greg Croteau (Pasadena, CA), Miriam Shafer (Berkeley, CA), Naomi Shafer (Brooklyn, NY), Ruth Shafer (Brattleboro, VT); three great-grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, and a brother- and sister-in-law of more than seventy years.
There will be no funeral. The family will sit shiva at the home of Michael and Judy Luskin in Scarsdale on July 21 (7 pm) and July 22 (5 pm). There will be visiting hours on Monday, July 23 from 6-9 pm at the home of Deborah Luskin and Tim Shafer, in Williamsville. Contact Deborah for details. A memorial service will be held at Holton Home at a later date.
Memorial Contributions can be made to Grace Cottage Hospital, 185 Grafton Road, Townshend, VT 05353 or Holton Home, 158 Western Ave, Brattleboro, VT 05301.
Dana Grossman says
Oh, Deb, I am so sorry to learn that your father’s far-reaching life has ended, but I was so interested to learn more about all that he did during his nearly 93 years on this earth. I hope your memories and the embrace of your family will help to sustain you. My thoughts are with you.
What a wonderful and long life your dad had.
My love, thoughts and prayers go out to you and your family.
Deb, my heart is with you and your family. What a beautiful tribute and bio of your father’s amazing life.
Thank you for sharing with us his story and his legacy.
Sending you hugs and love.
Beryl Goldsweig says
What an amazing man your father was, Deb! He epitomized “living life to the fullest” and obviously set you on a similarly diverse track yourself. I’m so sorry about your loss. Hang onto all those great memories and count yourself lucky!
Martha Healey-Nelson says
You and your family are in my heart and thoughts as you all transition to life without your dad’s physical presence. I remember fondly when your need to be available to support the transition your dad would make to Holton Home. You shared stories about how he was able to go with your daughter to movies at the Latchis Theater.
Your dad led a remarkable life, as you so eloquently speak of him and his love for your mom and of course his children.
I also want to thank you for sharing, through your writings, what is important to you and why. You are a great influence on my thoughts.
christina isobel says
Blessings to you and your family.
Janis Brown says
Deb Our Thoughts are with you What a remarkable life your DAD lived God bless you all
Roger and Janis
Peter Rusatsky says
Amazing life. I see he had a strong connection to our neck of the woods (Bolt). I’m sure he will be greatly missed. I concur with his conclusion on the “Great Religions”. Wise man.
Francette Cerulli says
You must be so proud to be the daughter of this remarkable man, Deb. I was moved to tears by this account of his life, like I was after seeing RBG, the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Such focus and intelligence and love in action both of them had!
Thank you for letting us share in the life of Bernie Luskin.
Flo Nestor says
Deb-If Reflections of an Old Man are as engaging as the tribute you have written about your dad, it would be a fascinating read. It is evident Bernie Luskin led a varied and interesting life. How wonderful to have been inspired by such a remarkable individual. May you find comfort when reflecting on the fond memories he has left with you and your family.
Deborah Lee Luskin says
Thanks for your kind words, Flo. They inspire me to keep teaching memoir. Our stories may be the only things of real value that outlive us.