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Judith Goldhaber, science writer and poet, dies at 81

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Senior Staff Writer

JUNE 03, 2015

Judith Goldhaber, a science writer for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a prominent figure in the Berkeley community, died May 26. She was 81 years old.

In addition to writing more than 1,000 articles for the lab during her 35-year career, she was also a playwright and prolific poet. She authored two books of poetry, “Sonnets from Aesop” and “Sarah Laughed: Sonnets from Genesis,” illustrated by her husband, Gerson Goldhaber, a physicist with the lab, who died in 2010.

The duo, married for 41 years, often collaborated on projects that combined Judith’s gift for words and her husband’s artistic talent. The Goldhabers started the local publishing company Ribbonweed Press together and converted their garage into a studio.

Their daughter, Michaela Goldhaber, said she remembers her mother and father turning on salsa music and dancing around the house. She said she remembers her mother’s sense of humor and how nothing made her happier than watching funny dog videos on YouTube. She also said her mother was close with her rescue dog from Oakland named Honey.

Goldhaber grew up in New Jersey, where she attended Princeton High School, and later majored in journalism at Brooklyn College in New York. She worked a series of jobs before eventually landing at the Berkeley lab, even working in Alabama delivering books for the library in a car dubbed “the Bookmobile.” Though she said in an interview with Author’s Den, an online literary community, that she took a break from writing poetry while raising her children, Goldhaber went on to win several awards for her sonnets, including the 2009 Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse prize.

“We always joke that she was already talking in iambic pentameter in her cradle,” Michaela Goldhaber said. “If it didn’t rhyme, she wasn’t interested.”

Goldhaber had a knack for making the inaccessible accessible through her writing, often translating complex scientific language into easy-to-read articles. Despite having an accomplished physicist as a father, Michaela Goldhaber said she frequently turned to her mother for advice on her science homework.

Goldhaber’s colleague and friend Carl Pennypacker echoed this sentiment, crediting her with the success of collaborative projects at the Berkeley lab. The two also worked together on “Falling Through a Hole in the Air,” a play about Stephen Hawking, whom Goldhaber was deeply inspired by. Pennypacker described Goldhaber as having “eternal optimism” and as being the “glue” of their community.

“She was always upbeat in the face of imminent doom,” he said. “(Goldhaber) just had a huge, huge imagination and a sense of big projects.”

Goldhaber is survived by her daughters, Michaela Goldhaber and Shaya Cuellar; her grandsons, Sam, Ben and Charles Goldhaber and Cayden Cuellar; and her stepson Nathaniel Goldhaber and his wife, Marilyn.

Contact Gillian Edevane at [email protected].

JUNE 03, 2015