Manfred Hilsenrath, Fred to most of his friends and family, age 90, passed away quietly at home in Fairfield Bay, Arkansas on February 27, 2019. He was born January 22, 1929 in Leipzig, Germany, the second son of David and Annie Hilsenrath. He was preceded in death by his parents and brother, Edgar Hilsenrath. He is survived by his loving wife, Eleanor Daniels Hilsenrath, his sons, Peter and Tom Hisenrath, his stepsons, Michael, Paul, and Alex Daniels, three wonderful daughters-in-law, and seven grandchildren.
Fred’s family endured the horrors of Hitler Germany with his father hiding in France, while his mother, brother, and Fred were interred in a Romanian administered ghetto camp in the Ukraine, Mogilev-Podolsk. After the war, Fred and his mother walked much of the way to France to be reunited with his father. Fred was able to go to high school in France and emigrated to the U.S. in 1949 to study engineering at City College of New York. After graduation he was hired by Lockheed in California and was offered a scholarship to get a Master’s degree in electrical engineering at Stanford University. His career with Lockheed, IBM, Ampex, and back to Lockheed was filled with the challenges of staying up to date with the changes in electronic engineering, from vacuum tubes to space exploration. He and his family moved back to New York for a number of years to be closer to family, but found the draw of the West Coast irresistible and returned in 1964.
Fred’s devotion to family was strong throughout his life, taking his sons hiking, boating, and camping in California, New York, Europe and Israel. He taught college courses at night to provide the funds so his sons could pursue doctorate degrees without debt. He was the catalyst for reunions of the Hoenigsbergs, his mother’s family, scattered across the planet by Hitler’s Germany.
Upon retirement from Lockheed, Fred and Eleanor realized their dream of living in southern France for a year giving their many guests the gift of Fred’s language skills, French, German, and English. Retirement also brought them to Fairfield Bay, Arkansas in 2004, where they built their dream home on Greers Ferry Lake with pontoon boat, canoe, and kayaks. He was always an avid outdoorsman. Having children, grandchildren, and many other family and friends to visit them in the summers gave them the opportunity to share the beautiful lake.
Fred became a Rotarian in Fairfield Bay and was often asked to share his wartime memories with groups throughout the state. He was a wonderful speaker with a soft, but effective voice and even in an auditorium, with 600 middle school kids, every ear in the room was focused on his story. His ability not to show resentment for persecution of Jews by Hitler’s Germany, which evolved in his later years, came through in his public speaking. In spite of the adversity of his early life, he pursued his dream of electrical engineering and persuasively advocated young people to find their calling. “Find your passion, early, and pursue it, even if adversity comes your way.” We may never know how many lives he influenced, but for many, including his children and grandchildren, his effect will be long lasting.
A memorial service will be Saturday, March 30, 2019 at Fairfield Bay Conference Center at 3:30 p.m.