by | Sep 25, 2017 | Obituaries

Norfolk —Commander Harold (Hal) Howard Sacks, U. S. Navy Retired, died on September 8 after a long illness.

Hal will be mourned by Annabel, his wife of 65 years, his daughter Judy and son Skip (Ellen), his five grandchildren, Jonathan (Hava) Anderson, Micheline (Roger) Brown, Nathan, Samuel and Hannah Sacks, and his great-grandchildren Eli and Noa, as well as numerous cousins. He will be remembered by members of the Tidewater Community and especially the Jewish Community which he served for more thatn 40 years in both lay and professional roles. He will also be remembered by his former shipmates with whom he served during a 20 year naval career, in particular the loyal crew and officers he commanded in Vietnam, who continue to value the experiences and associations they shared.

Hal was born August 2, 1930 in The Bronx, New York City, New York. He attended public schools there and graduated from De Witt Clinton High School before his 17th birthday; he went on to Syracuse University where he majored in English and graduated shortly before turning 20 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1950. Hal immediately entered Columbia University and received a Master of Arts degree in American Literature and was awarded a New York State High School English Teaching Certificate based on studies at Columbia Teachers’ College.

Deferred from military service to finish his education at Columbia, Hal enlisted in 1952 and graduated from Naval Officer Candidate School in December of 1952 with a reserve commission, reported to his first ship (USS Owen–DD536) and immediately deployed in January of 1952 to the combat zone in Korea. The USS Owen, operating in Wonsan Harbor, was taken under heavy fire more than 10 times—Ensign Sacks was cited for his cool behavior while standing watch on the open bridge during enemy fire.

Hal went on to become a regular naval officer and served on USS Stickell (DDR- 888) as Fire Control Officer, on the heavy cruiser USS Des Moines (CA134) as Combat Information Officer, at the Fleet Training Group, Guantanamo Bay Cuba, as Combat Information and Navigation Instructor/ Inspector, and as Staff Operations Officer on the Staff of Commander Destroyer Squadron Twelve. Ordered to postgraduate school in 1960, Hal then served as officer in charge of the Electronics Intelligence Unit of the Naval Scientific and Technical Intelligence Center, prior to commencing a one year in-country tour in Vietnam as Chief of Special Research on the staff of General Westmoreland (Commander U.S. Military Assistance Command, Vietnam). Hal was awarded the Joint Service Commendation Medal. He then served as Executive Officer of USS Gyatt (DD-712) and Commanding Officer of USS Steinaker (DD-863) which deployed to Vietnam in 1968. Hal was awarded the Bronze Star with Combat V for his service in Vietnam, and then reported to Commander Anti-Submarine Warfare Force, Atlantic Fleet, as Assistant Chief of Staff (Intelligence) from which billet he retired in 1972, having been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal.

An 11-year career in business followed as Hal became general manager of Checkered Flag Motor Car Company and subsequently general manager of Checkered Flag Honda. Hal retired from that position to become assistant executive director of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater in 1983 with primary responsibility as Campaign director, having served as volunteer vice chairman of the Annual Campaign in prior years.

Over the years Hal served as adjunct faculty, teaching college freshman English for George Washington University, San Diego State University, and Tidewater Community College.

Having served as UJFT Campaign director for six years, during which the Annual Campaign almost doubled in size, Hal created the Tidewater Jewish Foundation (TJF). Beginning with a fledgling endowment fund of about $300,000, the Foundation grew to more than $20 million by the time he retired in 1995. As executive director emeritus, Hal was able to participate in the growth of the Foundation to its present stature with assets in excess of $100 million.

After retirement, Hal created the Dominion Consulting Group through which he personally facilitated the creation of over a dozen foundations, including the United Way of South Hampton Roads Foundation, the Virginia Opera Foundation, as well as Jewish foundations in North Carolina, Florida, New York, California, and Utah. Among Hal’s fundraising legacies is the Reba and Sam Sandler Family Campus, which was created to provide a central location for Jewish community agencies in Tidewater.

Hal’s volunteer service includes: membership on numerous local charitable agency boards, founding member of the United Way Keel Club, member and panel chair of the United Way Fund Distribution Committee, member Norfolk Public Library Foundation Board, member Jewish War Veterans Post 158, and a dedicated Lion for many decades.

Hal was an accomplished chef as well as a writer, and served as Book Review editor of the Jewish News and its various iterations for 33 years. He published Hal’s Navy, a military memoir, and Passing in Review, a selection from three decades of reviews. Hal donated the proceeds from sales of his books and raised additional funds to create an archive for the Jewish News, which was subsequently named the “Hal Sacks Jewish News Archive” in his honor.

A memorial service conducted by Hal’s beloved family took place at H.D Oliver. Hal spent his life in service to his family, his friends, his community, and his country. His life was extraordinarily full and there should be no tears shed for this fortunate man who lived life to its fullest.

Memorial donations are requested for the Annabel and Hal Sacks Unrestricted Fund of the Tidewater Jewish Foundation. Online condolences may be shared at www.hdoliver.com.