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1926 Pauline K. lack 2024

Pauline K. Lack

July 29, 1926 — March 13, 2024


Pauline Lack, age 97, passed away peacefully in her sleep on March 13, 2024. Pauline was born July 29, 1926, in New York City to Sam and Clara (Schechter) Kaplan. Her husband, Leon, and brother, Sidney Kaplan, M.D., also predeceased her.

Pauline’s parents were Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. Each had arrived in this country as a teenager, on their own and without family. They met in New York City. Pauline’s mother Clara later went back to Ukraine for a visit and returned with a sister, Gussie. Clara helped Gussie emigrate to New York. After Pauline's father Sam served in the Canadian Army during World War I, he and Clara married and settled in rural Spring Valley, NY. The country air was recommended for Sam, who had recovered from tuberculosis. Pauline’s parents owned and operated a dry goods store, which got the family through the Great Depression and helped pay for their children’s education. Pauline and her brother Sid recalled an all-American childhood, roller skating, bicycle riding, and visiting relatives in Coney Island. In wintertime, they enjoyed ice skating on the lake in Spring Valley. Pauline was raised in a bilingual home. Though her parents spoke a mix of Yiddish and English at home, Pauline—a first-generation American—generally preferred to speak to them in English.

Pauline graduated from high school at age 16. She earned a Music Diploma in classical piano performance from Juilliard and a bachelor’s degree in music therapy from Michigan State College (now University). There she met Leon, a chemistry graduate student and World War II veteran (U.S. Army). After they married, they moved to the New York area. Leon earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia, and Pauline graduated from Adelphi University with a master’s degree in social work (MSW).

Pauline and Leon moved to Durham, NC, in 1965 with their three children. Leon joined the Department of Pharmacology at Duke University. A few years later, their twin daughters were born. Pauline was a Durham resident until she passed. She and Leon were long-time members of Judea Reform Congregation. Pauline was a full-time social worker for the Durham City Schools and Durham Public Schools, retiring after more than 30 years. She also taught piano lessons part-time for many years.

Pauline was a volunteer at Durham’s Conflict Resolution Center and played piano for the Triangle Jewish Chorale, the Forest at Duke, and elsewhere. She enjoyed reading and the arts. As a social worker, with Durham principal Gertrude Williams, she initiated a special program in creative writing education for elementary school students. Pauline especially enjoyed classical music, theater, ballet, the American Dance Festival, and art museums. In retirement, she took trips to Spain, Israel, and around the U.S., with frequent travel to California to visit family.   She also took her family on an Alaskan cruise in 2018. Her family was her source of joy, and she loved being a grandmother. Pauline is survived by her five children: Eli, Josh (Sylvia), Johanna (Chris), Evonne (Dan), and Adina (Bruce) and eight grandchildren--Russell, Maya, Aaron, Marissa, Kari, Anna, Callum, and William.

Donations in Pauline’s memory may be made to Judea Reform Congregation or the Obama Presidential Center


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