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Noah I. Halper of Mt. Lebanon died on Dec. 4, a week after his 92 birthday. He liked to quip that he was born “at a very early age,” and he routinely advised his three grown children not to get old. He entered the world on Nov. 27, 1926 in New Haven, Conn., the son of Philip Halper whose parents immigrated from the Ukraine and Bessarabia, and of Frances Sulkis Halper, who immigrated as a child from her native Belarus or thereabout, depending on shifting borders.
He, his sister Sheila (who predeceased him) and his parents were poor, but as Noah once reflected “I didn't really know it,” such was the love and care in the peripatetic family which bounced around Massachusetts and Connecticut including Boston, Lowell, Springfield, Hartford and New Haven, where he graduated from Hillhouse High School in 1944.
Throughout the many moves, Noah made friends and dabbled at sports, in which he had a lifelong interest. “I played football my last year in high school,” he told his oldest grandchild Alexis about 20 years ago during a memoir project for her high school studies. “I was awful. An undersized lineman on the Connecticut state champions. I played little.”
But there was nothing undersized about his life accomplishments, starting from humble beginnings as the grandson of a baker whose accent was so thick that Noah had trouble understanding him, and the son of an itinerant store manager and factory worker who would switch the conversation with Noah's mother into Yiddish when they didn't want him to hear.
Noah, who would go on to become a consummate news writer, showed a facility for language at a young age when he translated all of Genesis and part of Exodus from Hebrew to English, benefitting from attending Hebrew school as well as public school, and from studies for his bar mitzvah as a 13-year-old.
Before heading into journalism, his first stop immediately after high school was the military. After training at Norwich University in Vermont and at Camp Wheeler in Macon, Georgia, he was boarding transport from Ft. Meade, Maryland to Europe's battlefields when his commanders pulled him after Congress banned sending little-trained 18-year-olds overseas.
“I'm sure guys I trained with died in Germany,” he reflected with his granddaughter.
The Army redirected him to Camp Maxy near Paris, Texas, for more training.
“One day, I heard on radio that we had dropped something called an atomic bomb on some place called Hiroshima, Japan,” he recalled. “A couple days later we dropped another on Nagasaki, and a couple days later Japan surrendered.” The army sent the Camp Maxy troops to Ft. Ord in Monterey Bay, California. There Noah boarded the USS General Gordon for US occupied South Korea, where he served in Pusan and Inchon as a combat engineer and military policeman guarding Japanese prisoners of war camps, protecting military installations, maintaining guns, patrolling roads, purifying water, running recreation activities, and coping with a bout of malaria. He was honorably discharged on Dec. 2, 1946.
Backed by the G.I. Bill, Noah graduated with an English degree from the University of Connecticut around 1950, and soon joined the Associated Press as a newsman in Albany, NY, quickly gaining a promotion to Philadelphia. He covered everything from McCarthy to Parkinson’s research to the Philadelphia Eagles, earning a string of national bylines.
By the mid-1960s he swung into public relations, joining what was then known as Bell of Pennsylvania, part of the Bell telephone system, first in Philadelphia and a few years later transferring to Pittsburgh where he helped the company establish its first ever Western Pennsylvania news bureau, which he would supervise. Noah effectively and candidly conveyed developments to the media on all matters of public interest, such as Bell's rate increases, labor strife, emergency services and so on. He retired in Dec., 1989, age 63.
Throughout it all, as in his earlier days as a newsman and for his nearly three decades out of the workforce, he conducted himself and treated others in his professional and personal life with a guiding sense of fairness, an attribute much appreciated by all those he touched.
Oh, and he wasn't all that bad at sports. He watched them much more than played them, but his sons thoroughly appreciated the backyard catches. And he is purported to have once bowled a 280 (for non-bowlers: that's nearly perfect), although auditors have never proven it.
Despite his Jewish upbringing Noah was not a religious man. But he maintained a Jewish identity, abetted by his beloved and non-Jewish wife of 65 years Jean Marguerite Bassett Halper, who learned how to make a mean chopped liver early in their marriage. While Noah accomplished and experienced so much in his life, it was clear that nothing meant as much to him or made him as proud as the life that he built with Jean. They met on a blind date arranged by friends and married on September 19, 1953. They raised their boys and later found time to enjoy traveling, frequently visiting with family and friends. Noah and Jean were active and dedicated grandparents. They inspired others in the way they navigated marriage, naturally recognizing that a good sense of humor was the key to longevity.
Noah is survived by his wife Jean of Mt. Lebanon, his three sons Craig (Jenny) Halper of Ross Township, Mark (Lisa Lipman) Halper of Bristol, England and David (and partner Cathy Hill) Halper of Aurora, Illinois, by ten grandchildren and one great grandchild
Family and friends will be welcomed to a Memorial Service on Saturday afternoon Jan. 5, 2019 from 1:30p-2:30p at the Jewish Community Center South Hills, 345 Kane Blvd. Scott Twp. 15243. In lieu of flowers, family requests that donations be made to Ronald McDonald House Charities.
In lieu of flowers, family asks that donations be made to the Ronald McDonald House Charities, which help families stay near their hospitalized children. Online donations can be made using the following site: http://support.rmhc.org/site/PageNavigator/pw/Donation_Landing.html