Shmuel “Mookie” Sternberg, world class chemical engineer, Israeli military veteran, and former semi-professional soccer player, passed away on February 19, 2022 at the age of 83, of heart failure, in Wellington, Florida.

Mookie was born in Haifa in 1938 — in the land that he personally saw become Israel a decade later — to Jewish pioneers from Europe. He attended the prestigious and difficult Hebrew Reali School of Haifa and always credited his experience at Reali for his later academic and intellectual success. After receiving a soccer ball as a Bar Mitzvah gift (“it’s my ball, I play”), Mookie played for the youth soccer team who won the Israeli National Championship in 1955, and then became a star player for Maccabi Haifa. Shortly after his service in the ferocious Golani Brigade during the 1956 Sinai Campaign, Mookie captained an IDF soccer team that won the championship tournament for the Northern Command, for which then-commanding-officer Yitzhak Rabin personally presented Mookie the gold medal.

After his military service, Mookie began his engineering studies at the Technion in Haifa. Two years later, in 1960, cousins from the Patz family in Elberton, Georgia, invited him to come to the U.S. to finish his degree at Georgia Tech. He did question this decision initially, upon hearing a southern accent for the first time and thinking it must be a foreign language, but always looked back fondly on his days in Atlanta. Mookie received his bachelor’s degree from Georgia Tech – where he was the best player on the mens’ club soccer team – and then earned his master’s from Carnegie Tech and his PhD from Case Western Reserve. During breaks in his schooling in the 1960s, he worked in Baltimore, Maryland, living with Patz cousins in Pikesville.

Mookie first saw American football at a 1960 game between Georgia Tech and Georgia and afterward mentioned to classmate — and football captain — Gerald Burch that he could easily have made all of the short range field goals that Tech’s place kicker kept missing with toe kicks. Burch went to get a football and said “show me.” Mookie did not miss a kick, and shortly thereafter found himself in front of legendary coach Bobby Dodd, who made Mookie a kicker for the team — but only in practices, because kicking soccer style, or “sidewinder,” was far too unconventional at that time . . . until Pete Gogolak did it for Cornell the following year.

Mookie’s long career as a chemical engineer resulted in more than 40 patents under his name. He lived in Lexington, Massachusetts, working for Millipore and several other companies in the area from 1970 until 1990, while also playing a lot of tennis and continuing with recreational soccer into his 50s. For his work in the 1970s, Millipore regards him as “the father of Durapore.” In 1990, he moved to Chicago to work for Baxter Healthcare, and in 1994 became only the second-ever Baxter Distinguished Scientist, with expertise in membrane technology, including its use in separation and purification. His scientific leadership over 22 years at Baxter included work in partnership with the Mayo Clinic on the development of fiber-encapsulated cells to be used for treatment of diabetes, many inventions related to filtration of blood, water, and other biological fluids, and countless other life-saving medical technologies. He was considered the “go-to guy” at Baxter to solve material biocompatibility issues on all types of membranes, including for hemodialysis. Mookie set the foundations of this accomplished career while also raising two children alone, after his first wife, Frani, passed away in 1985.

Mookie retired from Baxter in 2012 and moved to Florida with his wife Susan, to whom he was married for almost 24 years. He greatly enjoyed his retirement years in the Bellagio community in Lake Worth – or, as he called it, the “kibbutz” – playing bridge and tennis, bicycling and tricycling, cooking sophisticated meals, studying biochemistry for fun, and honing his digital photography skills. He also loved visiting with his grandchildren, and tutoring granddaughter Foster in science and grandson Zevi in soccer. Pre-pandemic, Mookie and Sue traveled extensively and enjoyed a lot of good theater and fine dining, and they especially loved sitting on their lanai in the evenings and watching the wildlife out on the water behind their house. They had many years of love, laughter, and stories; all who knew him could tell you that Mookie was an incredible storyteller, always finding the perfect tale to fit any subject or situation and telling it with precisely the right details and lesson.

In addition to his wife Susan, Mookie is survived by his daughter Jordana Sternberg, her husband Brett Berlin, and their children, Foster and Zevi; by his son Jacob Sternberg; by his stepchildren Ryan Dorko, Michael Orson (Sonia), and Melissa Dorko; by step grandchildren Kyle, Katelyn, Alissa, Emily, Dylan, Briella, Sofia, and Beckett; by his beloved brother Aharon (“Ronnie”) Sternberg; and by many cousins in Israel, Baltimore, and elsewhere.

Service Information

Service : Friday, February 25th at 12:15 pm
Service Location: Shalom Chapel Service -Shalom Memorial Funeral Home

Shalom Memorial Park
1700 W. Rand Road Arlington Heights

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