Retired Bell Labs archivist Sylvia Lipton, of Summit passed away on Monday, October 10, 2016, six months shy of her 100th birthday.
The second youngest of five children of Eastern European immigrants, she was born Sarah Kornfeld in Brooklyn, NY, and worked after school in her father’s Manhattan bakery. She changed her name to Sylvia (deciding it was more fashionable), found work as a secretary, and met her future husband, Sidney Lipton, a handsome young engineering-school graduate.
During World War II, she was a young suburban homemaker in Maryland, raising the couple’s three children, Phyllis, Stephen and Michael, while her husband went to work for the Army’s Edgewater Arsenal. In the ‘50s, the family followed Sid, now an optical engineer, from the Aberdeen, MD, Proving Ground to the White Sands, NM, Proving Ground to Cape Canaveral, FL, where Sid helped track some of the earliest aerospace missile launches and Sylvia worked as a secretary for an Air Force colonel.
Widowed in 1960 after the family moved to Pittsburgh, Sylvia -- then just 42 -- put her secretarial skills to good use at the University of Pittsburgh medical school, where she met luminaries such as polio vaccine pioneers Jonas Salk and Louis Sabin. She would go on to work for distinguished scientists and mathematicians throughout her career. Relocating to Bethesda, MD, in the mid-‘60s, she landed a job at the Institute for Defense Analysis and later rose to de facto office manager of the Pentagon think tank’s Princeton, NJ, branch.
In the ‘70s she similarly proved herself invaluable to prize-winning physicists at Bell Labs in Murray Hill, NJ. Before she retired, she had carved out a new career as a Bell Labs archivist. But what the high-school graduate called her proudest achievement was earning a college degree -- at age 70 -- from Rutgers University.
Never one to sit still, Sylvia determined to make the most of her retirement. She volunteered her secretarial skills to help reorganize the rabbi’s office and stock the library at the Summit Jewish Community Center. She spent one tax season as a preparer for H&R. Block, learning skills that would enable her, as an AARP volunteer at the Roselle and Summit libraries the following year, to help low-income residents do their taxes.
And, at Saint Barnabas Medical Center in Livingston, she helped the elderly solve their Medicare problems She joined a book club, became a superstar at Summit Y bridge games, traveled to England, France, Spain and numerous Elderhostels, voiced her strong political views in letters to the editor, and doted on her ever-expanding family.
She is survived by Phyllis Sank (Lewis) of Summit; Stephen Lipton (Kimberly Barbar) of Fort Lauderdale; Michael Lipton (Teresa Hagan) of Long Branch Island; and her six grandchildren: Laura Gump, Anna Haselmann, Adam Sank, Stacey Ramer, Jodi Berman and Scott Lipton, as well as 15 great-grandchildren.
A private funeral service and burial was to be held on Thursday, October 13 at B'nai Abraham Memorial Park. A memorial service for family and friends is being planned for a future date.