Eugene J. Lefferts

China /
| 17 Feb 2022 | 06:18

Eugene J. Lefferts, of West Milford, NJ, previously of Timonium, MD, died peacefully at his beloved home in Bald Eagle Commons on Monday, February 14th, from complications related to a fall. He was 96.

Born in Queens, New York on July 14, 1925, Gene grew up in Philadelphia, often wandering far from home to go on all-day fishing trips. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1943. A small, wiry man then, he would sometimes have to sit on the shoulders of the pilot or co-pilot during an aerial reconnaissance to complete his job as weather observer. He was stationed in China and the Philippines, which sparked his interest in the region, and prompted him to eventually study Chinese. He was honorably discharged in 1946.

He met a quiet Polish woman, Hedwig Radwanska, after a professor made him change seats to sit next to her, because he had been talking too much to another woman who was seated nearby. They married in 1948.

Gene received a B.S. in Education from Westchester State College in 1951, quipping that “those who can’t do, teach.” He then earned his M.A. in mathematics from Temple University in 1953 after it was discovered that he had an uncanny aptitude for doing mathematics. From 1953 until 1967 he worked at the Glenn L. Martin Company, later called Martin-Marietta Corporation, and then joined NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where he headed the Attitude Dynamics Section of the Mission and Data Operations Center starting in 1972. He was responsible for attitude mission analysis for numerous NASA missions.

Throughout his life, Gene continued to fish whenever he could, usually outfishing all of his companions. He had a passion for music, and although he did not play an instrument, he collected tens of thousands of LPs and CDs. He had a keen interest in the work of young and lesser-known composers. He patiently drove his daughters to all their lessons—piano, ballet, swimming—and especially, horseback riding lessons and horse shows, and was always up for a trip to the ice cream store. He taught them that many problems can be solved by looking at them in a different way. He was oblivious to fashion, mixing paisley shirts with checkered pants.

After he retired, he traveled extensively and fell in love with Bali, Indonesia, visiting it many times, collecting numerous paintings and sculptures, and making lifelong friends. He opened his home in Timonium to many young people who needed a place to stay. He also served as an advisor to Explorer Post 828, where it was discovered that he was relatively impervious to the chatter, giggling. and enormous appetites of teenagers. He became an important mentor to many of the members, and introduced any who were interested to the joys of being covered in mud while caving, avante garde theater, and of course, fishing. He also introduced them to music spanning centuries and covering the globe, drawing from his vast collection. He convinced more than one that lentil soup was made from tick-like insects whose legs had been removed. He advised them to “cultivate eccentricity,” a precept he religiously followed.

Gene, Unk, Paman, Dad, Kakek: your generosity, wisdom, and humor touched the lives of so many, you made friends with nearly everyone you met, and you will be sorely missed. You were stubborn to the end, and you lived life on your own terms.

Eugene was predeceased by his wife, Hedwig Sophia Radwanska Lefferts, parents Eleanor Rose Thyselius Lefferts and Clyde Lefferts, brothers James and William Lefferts, and sisters Lorraine Lefferts Coppola and June Lefferts Prince.

He leaves behind his daughters Gina Lefferts, Lisa Lefferts, and Longah Lastrini, sons-in-law David Capps and Daniel Vadnais, his daughter’s partner James Stephens, and grandchildren Rosalie Capps, Dorian Capps, Saraswati Vadnais, and Guillaume Vadnais, and many nieces and nephews.

A celebration of his life is tentatively scheduled for July.