Leo “Nardi” Herzenberg, 82, passed away in Chicago on Wednesday, March 9, with his wife and daughters by his side. He died of respiratory failure followed by sepsis after an unexpected hospitalization.
Herzenberg was born in Oruro, Bolivia in 1934. His family, Ashkenazi Jews, had emigrated first from Latvia to Poland, and finally to Bolivia. Herzenberg’s father, Robert, worked tirelessly to assist relatives and friends in Europe with obtaining South American visas, money, and sponsorship so that they could flee the Nazis. Robert was a highly respected mineralogist, and his wife, Gerda, was an artist. As a result of this extraordinary familial influence, Herzenberg grew up in a household in which eight different languages were spoken, and art, science, and education were highly valued.
He attended the Anglo-American School in Oruro, which was founded by his father, in an effort to protect his son from German-run, Nazi-sympathizing schools in the region. Herzenberg’s family then sent him to college at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park at age 16. He and his wife Carol met in Hyde Park, swimming at Promontory Point, and married in 1961. They shared interests in science, engineering, various martial arts, and obtained their pilot’s licenses together. Although Herzenberg studied philosophy at U. of C., he became a computer engineer and worked on early computer development , including MANIAC III, a second-generation computer. In later years, he worked at Honeywell’s Microswitch facility in Freeport, Ill.
Herzenberg’s father handwrote a family history for him in German, and Herzenberg spent many hours of his retirement translating this history into English and making it available on the Internet for all of the descendants of the Latvian Herzenbergs. He also carried on Robert’s tradition of helping those who are oppressed or suffering by donating to various organizations and delivering meals to homebound individuals.
Herzenberg enjoyed birding twice a week with the Jackson Park birding group, being a school science fair judge, discussing current events and political topics with the Hyde Park Cafe Society, serving as treasurer for the board of the hi-rise condominium where he and Carol lived, visiting museums (especially the Art Institute), watching tennis and figure skating on television, listening to classical music on WFMT and reading The New Yorker, The New York Times and professional journals in the fields of science and engineering.
Herzenberg is survived by his wife and best friend, Caroline Littlejohn Herzenberg, his daughters Karen Ann Herzenberg (Katie Rooney) and Catherine Stuart Larson (Andrew Larson), as well as his cousin, Inka Allen, who was like a sister to him.
A memorial service and reception for Herzenberg will be held on Sunday, March 20, from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. at the Ida Noyes Hall Third Floor Theater on the campus of the University of Chicago (1212 E. 59th St., on “the Midway”). Information about directions and parking can be found on the following website: https://eventservices.uchicago.edu/page/directions?parking.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Greater Chicago Food Depository (www.chicagosfoodbank.org), the Hyde Park Art Center (www.hydeparkart.org ) or WFMT (www.wfmt.com) For Information: ELEMENTS, the cremation company, 855.550.5151, www.elementscremation.com.