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In Memory of Bob de Zafra  

Robert (Bob) deZafra, died peacefully on 10 October, 2017 from an incurable pneumonia following successful knee replacement surgery. He was a close friend and cherished colleague who served in the physics department for 38 years, and retired in 1999. Bob was born in Westchester County, NY in 1932, raised in Connecticut, earned his B.S. from Princeton, and his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He is survived by his wife of 34 years who published extensively in immunology as Julia Phillips-Quagliata.

The biographical information cannot convey the extent and depth of the many facets of his life. We knew him as a scientific colleague who had worked on positron annihilation, optical pumping, laboratory spectroscopy of interstellar molecules, detection of trace gases in the atmosphere, and ground-based observation and measurements of the South Pole ozone layer. For this last activity, he made several trips to the Antarctic to lend his expertise to the teams working there. His contributions were so vital and revealing that a major mountainous feature was named deZafra Ridge in 2002 (and a German rock band has adopted the name). Among his important papers was an introduction to optical pumping that has served as a bible for generations of students.

Some of us also knew him as intensely civic minded. In 1995 he helped found the Three Village Community Trust and also served on the land usage committee of the Three Village Civic Association. He was relentless in his insistence for common sense and reasoned logic into discussions of environmental issues such as clean water and air. His actions demonstrated the popular maxim "think globally, act locally" because of his thorough dedication to community issues, such as the greening of 25A. He received public recognition from multiple civic organizations. In addition to these civic activities, he was also politically involved, advising and cajoling legislators and other local political leaders in his unique and pragmatic style about issues that needed their attention and support. Most local residents are unaware of the benefits they enjoy as a result of his efforts.

Bob liked to sketch, and there are several examples of his extraordinary skill at this diversion. Because he touched so many lives in various different ways, he will be dearly missed by many people.

2017-10-10

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