by | Nov 24, 2019 | Obituaries

Virginia Beach—Maurice Sidney Spivak of Virginia Beach, died peacefully at home on November 7, 2019. He was 93.

Spivak lived an exemplary life devoted to family and country. He came from humble beginnings, yet his legacy of commitment to the principles of honesty, integrity, equality, responsibility, and generosity touched hundreds of people throughout his lifetime.

At 17, Spivak volunteered for service in the U.S. Army. He served in the 65th Infantry Division under General George S. Patton in some of the bloodiest battles of WWII, including the Battle of the Bulge and the push through the Rhineland. During the battle for Saalaurtern, at the French-German border, Spivak spent 13 days manning a fortified machine gun position in the cellar of a home facing heavy resistance from German troops, fielding grenades from the floors above and direct enemy fire. Near the Siegfried Line, during a German counteroffensive, Spivak volunteered to locate American troops trapped in enemy territory and escort them to safety. He succeeded and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for his valor.

Spivak participated in the liberation of seven concentration camps, including Mauthausen, where future Medal of Honor recipient Tibor Rubin was a child prisoner. Spivak’s unit rescued Rubin and Rubin went on to save hundreds of American lives during the Korean War.

Fluent in German, Spivak remained in Europe serving as a special agent in the Counter Intelligence Corps. He deposed hundreds of German officers, soldiers and Holocaust survivors, collecting information for post-war trials, including Nuremburg. During this duty, his assigned housing was the former Nazi officers’ quarters of Dachau concentration camp. While in Munich, he worked behind the scenes to help several Jewish families escape war torn Europe and build new lives in America. There he also met a young refugee from Romania, a member of the country’s royal family. He helped him as well, and they became close friends.

Dedicated to life-long learning, Spivak began his post-war studies at the Hebrew Union College rabbinical school in Cincinnati, but transferred to The Citadel, where he received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and became a dedicated “Bulldog.” He pursued graduate studies at Boston University and received a master’s degree from West Virginia University in biochemistry. Spivak began his career as a research scientist at Worcester Polytechnic Research Institute and later at Massachusetts General Hospital where he worked with 1953 Nobel prize winner for biochemistry, Dr. Fritz Lipmann.

Spivak was commissioned with the U.S. Naval Reserves and served aboard the USS Champlain. He joined the civil service and worked at the Springfield Armory, the Charleston Naval Shipyard and Edgewood Arsenal developing many innovative products for the Department of Defense. These included a reinforced metal to support the vulnerable under-bellies of helicopters used in Vietnam and the freeze-dried food process used for America’s astronauts in the fledgling space program.

Recruited by the Army Corps of Engineers, he returned to school and got another master’s degree in civil engineering. One of the highlights of his career with the Corps occurred in 1975, when he served as lead engineer for the transition of infrastructure in the Sinai Peninsula from Israeli to Egyptian authority. He spent over 30 years in government service receiving numerous awards. After retirement, at age 70, Spivak returned to his studies and obtained a Ph.D. in engineering.

Spivak considered his 67 year-long, loving marriage to Annette “Honey” Spivak his greatest life achievement. He took pride in nurturing his family relationships and his life-long friendships.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children, Michelle Spivak Melinger (Joseph Melinger), Jonah Spivak (Karen Takane) and Myra Spivak; by his grandchildren David Lessans, Aaron P. Kelley, Ariel Melinger-Cohen, Emily Ostrom (Brandon Ostrom), Asher Spivak, Miranda Spivak, Eden Melinger and his great-grandson, Merlin Ostrom; and by his many dear extended family members and beloved friends.

A funeral service was held at Altmeyer Funeral Home, followed by a service at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery, Suffolk. Contributions in memory of Maurice S. Spivak to Temple Israel, Norfolk; Operation Smile; or Children’s Hospital of The Kings Daughters. May his memory forever be a blessing.