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Beatrice Marx Prosnitz

In Remembrance
December 27, 1936 – April 6, 2024


Beatrice Marx Prosnitz, 87, died peacefully in her sleep, at home on April 6 , three days after her 64th anniversary, her husband Len at her side. The cause of death was complications of Parkinson’s disease. PD had robbed her of her quality of life, so death was not at unwelcome event. It was preceded by a most enjoyable visit with children and grandchildren. It was facilitated by UNC Hospice and the skillful compassionate care provided by her long term home aides, Jazzmin Fowler and Teyin Gramby.

Bea was born Dec 27, 1936 in Rachtig, Germany, a small town on the Mosel river in western Germany in the heart of the wine country. The family fled, however, to avoid Nazi persecution, arriving in the U.S. Aug 23, 1939, days before the outbreak of World War II. They settled in Providence, R.I. where Bea grew up, attended high school and then college at Brown University, graduating in 1959.

Bea and Len met the summer of 1957 at a summer camp in Connecticut where both were counselors. After college graduation in 1959 she moved to New York City where Len was attending medical school. They married in April of 1960. Bea worked in N.Y. for N.Y. Life Insurance Company, supporting the family, as was the custom of the day, while Len completed medical school. In July, 1961 they undertook the first of several moves in conjunction with Len’s career, to Hanover, N.H. and Dartmouth Medical Center. The time at Dartmouth was notable in several respects: Bea’s athletic abilities surfaced – she became a proficient downhill skier, the forerunner of later forays into cross country skiing, heliskiing, snowcat skiing, backcountry and ski mountaineering with many trips involving the latter activities. If you’ve ever experienced deep untracked powder, you know to what extent powder devotees will go in pursuit. (Notably her 50th wedding anniversary was spent heliskiing in Alaska).

Her first child, Susan, was born in Hanover, Oct 20, 1962. Susan began her ski career in utero the winter of 1962 eventually leading to a place on the Amherst ski team in 1982. Susan also manifested interest in all sports at a very early age, having begun her journey to exit the uterus at a Dartmouth football rally the evening of Oct 19th.

After two years at Dartmouth, Len elected to fulfill his military obligation (the doctor draft was operative in those days) by volunteering for the U.S. Public Health Service. The assignment was to the Indian Health Service and the P.H.S. Hospital in Tuba City, AZ. on the Navajo and Hopi Indian reservation. Although Tuba City was quite isolated, the experience of living on the reservation was stimulating, educational, afforded the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the southwest and see that part of the country in depth. Tuba City was 60 miles due east of the Grand Canyon and Bea made many trips there.

From Arizona, Bea and Len returned to New Haven, CT, where she spent the next 18 years, as Len resumed training in Oncology and later joined the Yale faculty. Bea’s two sons, Eric and Robert were born in 1966 and 1969. With now three children she was a stay at home mom devoted to their welfare but finding time to become an active tennis player, bike rider, duplicate bridge player, and a highly skilled, bargain finding, shopper with exquisite taste and judgement (Favorite store? Sports Basement, San Francisco, owned by her son Eric). Vacations were usually a physically active affair, family ski trips in the winter, cycling ones in the summer, often to Europe and Canada but also diverse places like Morocco, Japan and Vietnam.

As the children grew older she returned to work as a research assistant in the department of psychiatry at Yale where she was a skilled field interviewer. Her productivity was such that when she transitioned to part time work, she still matched those who were working full time.

Two sabbatical leaves in Jerusalem in 1980 and Taipei, Taiwan in 1992 were formative experiences. The entire family went to Israel in 1980, a time of relative calm in the Middle East. Eric had his bar mitzvah in Jerusalem. Susan returned to the U.S. for college in the fall, but the boys stayed the entire time, learning Hebrew, Middle East history, oil politics, Jewish culture, too many things to mention. By the time of the Taiwan sabbatical, all three children were in college or starting their careers, but again the educational experience was extraordinary. In addition to time spent in Taiwan, Bea had the opportunity to visit many Asian countries including mainland China, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore, Korea and Japan, generally not as a regular tourist but often hosted by other medical professionals.

In 1983 the family moved from New Haven to Durham/ Chapel Hill when Len joined the Duke faculty. Bea was most enthusiastic about transitioning to NC and a warmer climate. Susan and Robert eventually found themselves at Duke Law School and Duke Medical School respectively. Bea became a Duke basketball fan. She resumed her work at the Duke Department of Psychiatry, again becoming a valued member of the research team. She took up whitewater kayaking, albeit somewhat reluctantly at first, but her natural abilities became manifest, and she became sufficiently skilled to paddle the Grand Canyon in 1998, a singular achievement.

In short it was a fine life, with no regrets. Bea is survived by her three terrific children, Susan(Washington, DC), Eric ( San Francisco) and Robert (Penn Valley, PA), their equally wonderful partners, Patrick O’Connor, Courtney Klinge, and Lisa Dabbon, six grandchildren and her husband Len.

Bea was a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood, South Atlantic. Charitable contributions to this organization or the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation would be welcome.

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