Although the creation of vaccines means the end of the pandemic could be in sight, the country faces grim statistics this winter.
As of press time, 400,022 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States. In Pennsylvania, the figure stands at 18,957.
In our five-county region — Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester, Delaware and Bucks counties — the death toll is 6,652.
These people deserve to be remembered as more than statistics, so this is the Exponent’s fifth installment of “Those We’ve Lost.”
Dr. Gilbert Liss of Phoenixville died Dec. 18 after a one-week illness with COVID-19 and a years-long struggle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 91.
Liss graduated from Olney High School (now Olney Charter High School) and earned a degree in accounting from Temple University. After college, he entered the Navy and served as a lieutenant for two years during the Korean War. In 1953, he married Hermine Betty Eisenberg.
He initially planned to join his father in the family business, Louis Bakery, but decided to go to medical school instead. He earned his M.D. from Temple University School of Medicine (now the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University), interned at Philadelphia General Hospital and served a residency at Temple University Hospital. He opened his OB-GYN practice in Phoenixville and delivered more than 8,000 babies throughout his career.
In addition to being on the board and being a fundraising chair for his synagogue, Congregation B’nai Jacob, he channeled his experience from years in the family bakery to bake challahs and hamantaschen for fellow congregants.
Son Jon Liss said he was inspired by his father’s work ethic. As a child, people would approach him to say how much they appreciated his father’s care.
“When I close my eyes and think about my dad, I feel his genuine joy for seeing me, the hand squeeze or arm around me walking side by side, the elation of watching him revel in his grandchildren and the beauty of the true love affair he had with my mom,” daughter Abbe Zuckerberg said in a statement.
Dr. Robert Pollack died of COVID-19 on Dec. 1 at Cathedral Village in Philadelphia. He was 94.
The scientist, author, Navy veteran and former chair of the department of biochemistry at Temple University’s School of Dentistry (now Kornberg School of Dentistry) grew up speaking Yiddish at home with his immigrant Jewish parents in West Philadelphia.
He graduated from West Philadelphia High School and was drafted into the Navy Hospital Corps during World War II. After the war, he earned three degrees in chemistry and bacteriology at Philadelphia College of Pharmacy and Sciences (now University of the Sciences). He married Lydia Aureli in 1952.
Pollack earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry and nutrition from the University of Tennessee and moved to Andorra with his wife and daughters. He worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before becoming a teacher and researcher at Temple University, a job he loved and kept for 25 years.
“He just always stayed so involved,” daughter Janine Shahinian said. “When he was a professor he was on all these committees, he was writing grant proposals and doing research.” He cared greatly about his students and was always happy to encounter former pupils on the street.
Linda Pollack-Johnson said her father stayed connected to his family, including far-flung relatives, until the end of his life, when he was in isolation. During the lockdown, he participated in a worldwide family reunion on Zoom orchestrated by his daughters.
Dr. Ronald Rosenthal died of pneumonia caused by COVID-19 on Dec 31. He was 88 and lived in Artis Senior Living of Huntingdon Valley due to his struggle with dementia.
A dentist who practiced for more than 50 years, he graduated from Central High School, Temple University and Temple University School of Dentistry (now Kornberg School of Dentistry). He was beloved by his community of patients, who often invited him and his wife Pat Rosenthal to their weddings, bar mitzvahs and other simchas.
“His friends became patients, and his patients became friends,” she said.
He was a member of Golden Slipper Club & Charities and enjoyed hosting family around his table for the Jewish holidays at his home in Blue Bell. He was particularly fond of Jewish comfort foods like corned beef sandwiches and matzah ball soup.
Pat Rosenthal said that although he had a busy practice, family was everything to him, and the couple traveled widely with their three children in the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. He also was beloved by the kids in their neighborhood.
“He was the fun guy on the street. The kids would try the doorbell and want to know if Uncle Ronnie could come out and play,” she said. “He was a good father and loved being a grandfather. That was really special for him.”
Saul Victor died of complications of COVID-19 on Dec. 29. He was 82.
Victor was born in Wilmington and spent his younger years living in Atlantic City before his family eventually settled in Philadelphia. After high school, he helped his father in the family paperhanging business before starting his own, serving in the Army and marrying his high school sweetheart, Sybil Schwartz (they later separated).
He was the owner of Pearlstein’s Furniture and later became a professional lead singer in his own band, the Saul Victor Trio.
“There wasn’t a bar or bat mitzvah, there was never a wedding or a friend’s simcha, that he wouldn’t get up with the band and sing Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline.’ That was his signature song, along with Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way,’” wife Beverly Victor said.
She said he was the ultimate family man, and the family was not just his children and grandchildren. Nieces and nephews considered him a beloved second father figure.
People have reached out to say they remember her husband’s ability to listen.
“If you would meet Saul today and have a conversation, you would walk away knowing that he heard everything you said,” she said. “And then if you met him a month or six months from now, he would remind you of that conversation, and what he had learned from you.”
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