Deceased August 7, 2022
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Newton “Larry” Jassie was born June 30, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York, to Mary (Wiener) and Harry Jassie. His father was an Austro-Polish immigrant who arrived at Ellis Island between the World Wars as an orphan, with his older brother, Nathan, and younger sister, Rose. Harry was about 13 years old when he arrived and lied about his age so he could work, never continuing the eighth-grade education he received in Poland. Mary, who had just barely been born in Jersey City, N.J., as her Hungarian mother was nine months pregnant when she came to the U.S., graduated from high school and became a secretary.
Harry became a fur merchant with his brother Nathan; their business was known as Jassie Brothers Fur, causing them to travel intermittently to the UK. Larry loved playing stickball, growing up in his Brooklyn neighborhood, and sometimes he and the other kids would go knock on the door of Gil Hodges, the great baseball player who lived around the corner from his junior high school. Larry was known as “Whitey” because of his white, blond hair, until high school, when it turned dark. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and frequently remembered the hour and a half subway ride there early in the morning. Larry and his older brother, Martin, were the first in their family to complete college and both went on to medical school. Larry was all set to attend Oberlin College in Ohio when he was offered a scholarship to Amherst College.
He considered the liberal arts education he received at Amherst to be the formative experience in his life, encountering classmates from all over the country with different beliefs, and he remained lifelong friends with his freshman year roommate Winfred Koll, an Austrian exchange student. Larry and his family visited Win and his family in the Austrian Tyrol, and Win’s children had the opportunity to stay with Larry and his family in Bethesda, Maryland, when traveling across the U.S. At Amherst, Larry was a waiter at Valentine Hall and played on the baseball team until a knee injury ended his competitive sports career. One of his favorite memories of the dining hall was that there was a local dairy that liked to test new ice cream flavors on the college students. He claimed there was one called “tiger stripe” which was orange with licorice stripes. Larry would continue to attend reunions and alumni weekends at Amherst College until 2019, particularly while spending half of every year at his home in the Berkshires.
After completing his freshman year at Amherst, Larry worked as a “sanitary engineer” at Camp Ramah in Connecticut, where he was linked up by the camp doctor with a rising college freshman soon to be at Simmons College in Boston. She was the waterfront safety instructor and lifeguard, Lois Berman. As Larry recalled, on their first date, Lois kicked his ass in a game of tennis, which was a new sport to him. He thought that was pretty neat. He and Lois would date until they married in April 1962, remaining life partners until Lois’s death in July of 2008.
Larry went on to medical school at NYU with an internship at Kings Hospital, followed by several years of public health service in the Coast Guard. He served on a ship off the coast of Newfoundland and at the Merchant Marine Hospital in Baltimore’s Wyman Park. While living in the Hamilton neighborhood of Baltimore, Larry would ride his bicycle to work in Wyman Park. When the Baltimore Orioles won the World Series in 1966, they were, as was the custom, invited to Japan. When they showed up at Wyman Park for their vaccinations before traveling, one of the nurses alerted Larry, knowing what a huge baseball fan he was, so he did their vaccinations. Brooks Robinson’s autograph on his prescription pad was one of Larry’s favorite mementos.
Larry and Lois also went to the Mercedes Benz factory in Germany as a part of a European trip, where they custom ordered a dark green diesel stick shift Mercedes to be shipped to Baltimore, beginning a lifelong obsession with the standard transmission diesel Mercedes. They moved to Seattle where Larry completed his general practitioner residency at the University of Washington. They imagined staying and raising a family in Seattle, as it seemed young and progressive. However, Larry applied for and accepted a job as a regional medical officer with the U.S. Foreign Service, necessitating a move back to Washington, D.C., and from there on to Conakry, Guinea; Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia, Brazil; Belgrade, Yugoslavia; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Carthage, Tunisia. During this time, Lois and Larry also developed a love of Siamese cats, which would also last a lifetime, encompassing eight Siamese cats, some simultaneously, with several living into their twenties.
Upon returning to Washington, D.C., the Jassies settled in Bethesda, Maryland, where their two daughters would graduate from high school and Lois and Larry would reside until their death. They also spent part of the years, beginning in the mid-1990s, at their home in the Berkshires, enjoying concerts at Tanglewood; Shakespeare plays; the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown; events at Bard College; berry-picking; and canoeing, boating, and swimming in Otis reservoir. In the winters, they enjoyed cross-country skiing and skating on the frozen reservoir. Occasionally, Lois and Larry would travel to Sarasota, Florida, for spring training baseball, and enjoyed a baseball-themed cruise.
Larry retired from the State Department in the 1990s after 25 years of service, which included not only his overseas tours, but traveling with Secretaries of State Alexander Haig and George P. Schultz as their personal doctor on missions abroad. He subsequently served as medical director of several walk-in clinics in the D.C. area of Maryland and hired on at the Bethesda Naval Hospital during the Gulf War to fill in for deployed active duty personnel. Larry had always wanted to be a doctor to practice medicine and help people, and he was non-plussed at the idea of running a medical practice as a business or dealing with insurance companies. He found a home to finish out his career as an in-house medical doctor for the World Bank personnel in D.C. This completed the cycle, where in reverse of his foreign service days, he took the metro into D.C. and world came to him for medical care.
In later years, Larry enjoyed traveling with his wife on her business trips to France and taking vacations in Israel and Italy. After his wife’s death, he continued to participate in donation drives of medicine to help Russian communities in need and served as medical editing advisor for manuscripts. He played tennis regularly and organized the schedule for his doubles group. He was a long-time member of Congregation Beth El in Bethesda, Md. Larry took advantage of the numerous films and art exhibitions in Washington, D.C., and maintained contact regularly with friends all over the world. He occasionally traveled to Baltimore for a baseball game at Camden Yards with his daughter Nicole. He had enjoyed watching his youngest daughter Nicole play rugby at Swarthmore College and later took care of her rescued German Shepherd/Chow Chow mix dog, Pudge, when she traveled abroad. As late as 2020, he was still serving as resident babysitter for her many foster dogs. He related this back to being the caretaker of his fraternity’s dog at Amherst College.
Larry had a lifelong love of classical music, opera, reading, Yiddish theater, foreign films, current events, politics, strong coffee, spicy food, good desserts, tennis and baseball. He died August 7, 2022, in Rockville, Maryland, after a relatively brief illness. He is survived by his daughters Kira and Nicole Jassie, his brother Martin (Sylvia) Jassie, three nephews and his first cousin Fran (Bob) Staiman.
Larry Jassie’s medical career assumed an unusual trajectory when he became a State Department Regional Medical Officer. His posts included Washington, D.C.; Conakry; Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia; Belgrade; Kathmandu; and Carthage, always, he noted, moving where prior acquired language skills were useless! Larry wanted to practice medicine to help people and was dismayed as medical practice became a business shaped by insurance companies. He finished his career as an in-house physician for World Bank personnel in D.C. At the State Department in 1995, Larry briefed departing Fulbrighters including his daughter, Nicole Jassie (Côte d'Ivoire), and Dick Weisfelder (Lesotho), on appropriate health precautions, advising against unnecessary inoculations resulting from “malpractice suit avoidance” medicine.
At Amherst, Larry was closely associated with Bob Glickman ’60, another classmate from Brooklyn in Alpha Theta Xi. Bob remembers Larry as a collaborator while they struggled with the challenges of the pre-med curriculum. Bob recalled, “We studied together in the late hours in the library basement, and I could count on him to help solve any problem.” Jim McClelland ’60 remembered Larry’s competence in history where “he was much more able and willing than I to answer and discuss the questions thrown out by Prof. Halsted.”
In later years, Larry enjoyed traveling with his wife and life partner, Lois, on her business trips to France and taking vacations in Israel and Italy. But her death in 2008 was a major blow. Thereafter he helped organize collection of medicines for needy Russian communities and served as medical editing advisor. He loved attending baseball games with Nicole in Camden Yards. Until 2020, he served as resident babysitter for Nicole’s foster dogs, a pattern dating back to his being the caretaker of the ATX dog at Amherst. He died on Aug. 7, 2022, after a relatively brief illness.
Bob Glickman ’60, Nicole Jassie, Jim McClelland ’60 and Dick Weisfelder ’60