Wolfgang 'Wolfy' Jakobsberg Remembered

Wolfgang 'Wolfy' Jakobsberg Remembered

One year after his death, wife Pauline remembers husband as compassionate listener.

** Potomac resident Wolfgang Jakobsberg, 71, was struck by a car while bicycling on Seven Locks Road Sept. 27, 2004 and died from his injuries. **

A year ago a tragic biking accident took the life of my husband, Wolfgang Jakobsberg, and the public only read about his death.

Here is our story of a beloved husband, devoted father and much loved Grandpa, called Opa.

Wolfgang (Wolfy), an only child, was born in Germany. He lived in the town of Bahn with his parents who owned a general store that had been in the family for 100 years but in 1939, at the tender age of 6, the three were forced to flee the Nazis. With few choices, they managed to obtain visas to Bolivia and following several harrowing weeks at sea, arrived in Oruro with a suitcase in hand and their lives. Except for a few, the rest of Wolfy's extended family perished in concentration camps. In Oruro, a desolate land 13,000 feet above sea level and filled with hardships, Wolfy learned Spanish and English. In 1946, they immigrated to the United States with the courage to begin again.

In New York Wolfy attended Stuyvesant High, received his Bachelor of Electrical Engineering at City College and was working in his field when we were introduced.

Our first date was violin music over a Hungarian dinner. We both loved dancing, fine food, theatre, old time jazz, nature, chocolate and travel. After marrying in 1957 and honeymooning in Mexico, Wolfy's job took us temporarily to Fort Worth, Tex.

Born with an adventurous spirit he got a pilot's license flying small Cessnas and we managed to spend our weekends flying or driving to other parts of the South. We purchased camping gear from an Army surplus store and camped our way back to New York. Camping became a part of our lives for the next 46 years so it was not unusual to see our pop-up being opened in preparation for another trip.

Five years were spent in Buffalo, N.Y., where Lisa and Phillip were born. Wolfy juggled his time working as an engineer for Bell Aerospace, adoring his family and completing a master's of science degree from the University of Buffalo. He loved the snow and was ready to put the kids on skis at 18 months.

In 1965, Wolfy got a job at Booz Allen in Bethesda, becoming one of the first homeowners on Milbern Drive in Potomac. He built a stone fireplace with hand-picked rocks that we chose from the quarry on River Road. Quite a feat!

The following year he helped create what is now Har Shalom Synagogue and we became one of 10 founding families, which now boast over 1,000. Two years later Denise was born. Wolfy cherished his time alone with each of his children and later relished in his grandchildren, Emily, Oliver, Grady and Gabrielle. His eyes twinkled when they called him Opa. Having moved so many times as a child, Wolfy's home was his fortress and his family his greatest joy.

At Booz Allen Wolfy met his lifetime friend and business partner. They co-founded TTSS Corporation in 1974, where he served the company until his retirement in 2000. A second partner joined in 1978. Because of his own immigrant experience, Wolfy hired young people from diverse backgrounds, offering them a start as an integral part of the company. He was a forerunner in using technology to improve our daily lives.

Under his leadership TTSS provided the first automated driver's license testing system in the country. This system, which administers the driver's license test to the public using computer-based technology, has been used by the state of Maryland since 1976 as well as Pennsylvania. He also developed a range of products that utilize touchscreen technology to help better inform and guide people. These systems have replaced traditional directories and are used throughout the U.S. in hospitals, office buildings and other public places. With his flair for design and engineering talents, Wolfy created a number of kiosks recognized by the architectural community for unique beauty and functionality.

Throughout our life, Wolfy's European flair was evident in the flowers I received every other week, the artistically cut-up fruit after dinner and surprise little gifts. He encouraged and supported my art career often taking over family dinners and the children’s needs so I could complete my university studies. We often shared workspace and brainstormed ideas. He delighted in doing my beautiful framing and found time to accompany me to my exhibitions and other events, some out of the country. Wolfy was my critic, my buddy and my strength.

Accomplished in so many areas, but a modest man, Wolfy preferred being a compassionate listener; those in his presence always felt he cared. His love and passion for planning made him a renaissance man and he loved a challenge. A yearly trip to England to visit the few remaining relatives was treated like a visit to Baltimore. He would hop in the car for an over night visit to Lisa in New York or weekly lunches with Phillip and engineering shoptalk. Wolfy instilled this zest for life in us all; whether through his French dessert baking, hiking Old Rag Mountain, family camping trips (Maine being the favorite) or climbing a mountain with me at 2 a.m. in Bali, Indonesia. Birthdays were always a big event in our family; each one considered special and treated with intricate planning. Still etched in our hearts are the meticulous plans that were executed for his 70th birthday for which he took the whole family to Barbados. He and I often said we felt blessed with what we had.

Wolfy's warmth, honesty and compassion affected all he came in touch with and it showed as well after he retired. It allowed more time for family, lunch with friends and reading, which he did with gusto. There was also time to start a new business at the age of 69, getting a license as a residential renovation contractor. Word spread about his excellent work, strangers called and no job was too small whether he fixed a neighbor’s handrail or remodeled bathrooms and basements.

Since the age of 50, Wolfy had a love affair with biking and encouraged us to join him on Sunday bike trails and trips; one such week was spent in Nova Scotia with Denise. He was a member of the Potomac Pedalers, enjoying Thursday, 5 p.m. bike excursions that were later coupled with stimulating discussions over pizza at Tenley Circle. Like others he used his bike as a second vehicle and was a familiar sight in Potomac.

The increased biking population urgently needs effective lobbying for safe bike paths in Montgomery County. In Wolfy's memory, our family plans to help towards this goal.