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Obituary: Thomas Sternberg

1 August 2023 316 views One Comment

Thomas (Shlomo) Paul Sternberg passed away June 19, 2023, after 86 years of a life of loyalty, love, and generosity.

Sternberg’s childlike gist for life and indomitable independence were shaped by being a child survivor of the Holocaust. For a man whose family meant everything, he arrived on the shores of New York in 1952 at the age of 15 without any.

Sternberg was born in 1937 in Arad, Romania. He spent his early childhood during World War II hiding in the Transylvanian mountains to avoid capture. After the war, he was reunited with his father, Simcha Sternberg; stepmother, Dahlia Sternberg; and younger brother, Haim Sternberg, in Arad and, together, they emigrated to Israel in 1950.  In Israel, he was further reunited with his older brother, Mordecai Sternberg, and mother, Aviva Moses.

Sternberg lived and went to school at Kibbutz Kfar Szold. While playing table tennis at the YMCA in Jerusalem, he met a US Navy sailor named Wallace Hudson (known later as Uncle Wally). In 1952, Uncle Wally brought Sternberg to the United States and eventually arranged for him to stay in Alexandria, Virginia.

Sternberg attended George Washington High School and, while trying to learn English and supporting himself, joined the debate team. After graduating high school in 1955, he attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute, earning a bachelor’s in chemical engineering. He returned to Israel to serve in the Israeli Air Force prior to graduating from VPI.

Sternberg developed a life-long love of and fascination with statistics from his best friend at VPI, Al Romano. To pursue this calling, he attended Stanford University and earned his master’s in statistics.

While at Stanford, Sternberg met and—within six months—married the love of his life, Jette Ibæk Jakobsen in 1964. Their loving marriage lasted 50 years, until Jette passed away from an aggressive form of multiple sclerosis that confined her to a wheelchair for 40 years of their marriage. Despite these challenges, they had a daughter, Maya Raquel Sternberg, and lived in Minnesota, London, Budapest, and Copenhagen. They returned to the United States in 1973 and settled in Atlanta, Georgia.

Sternberg started a travel agency that specialized in student travel and began designing a software system—the first of its kind—that allowed travel agents to streamline and automate their office tasks.

Sternberg sponsored his brother Haim and Haim’s family to come to the United States in 1981. Together, they built the company that sold the T.O.M system. After retiring from his entrepreneurial enterprises, he returned to work as a statistician at various research institutions.

Sternberg’s hobbies included aviation, going to the opera and symphony, meeting new friends, debating history and current events, and reading (or at least always carrying a book—often Shakespeare or a statistics book). However, his biggest joy and pride was family. Sternberg had an infectious eternal optimism and boyish sense of humor. He lived in the present until he drew his last breath.

Memorial donations can be made to Americans for Ben-Gurion University or Books for Africa.

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One Comment »

  • Albert Romano said:

    I met Tom at VPI. He was a young, energetic, and fun person who could create charming mischief. Tom, Herb Windmueller, and I became close friends that lasted until they each passed on. I have missed Herb, and now I shall miss Tom (Shlomo). I cherished Tom and Herb. They are brothers to me.
    Al Romano

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