Obituary of Harry Wajsgras
Harry Wajsgras, husband to Ghislaine, father to Stephen, David, Michael and Richard, an electrical systems engineer whose decades-long career coincided with NASA’s first forays into outer space and culminated with a key role on the Hubble Space Telescope, died on Thursday, September 22, 2022 of natural causes at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. one day shy of his 92nd birthday.
Born in Berlin on Sept. 23, 1930, Harry, his older brother, Arthur, and their parents, Aron and Regina (née Rosner), escaped to England from Nazi Germany just days before the start of World War II. The following year during the Blitz, Harry and Arthur were evacuated to Wales, where he spent two years with the Preece family in Caerphilly. He often referred to this time as among the happiest days of his childhood.
Harry demonstrated an aptitude for science and technology at an early age by winning a scholarship to Hackney Technical Institute in London. After the family immigrated to New York in 1947, he continued his studies at Brooklyn Technical High School and ultimately earned a degree in physics from City University of New York.
During the Korean War, he enlisted in the Air Force and became an airborne navigational equipment and radar repairman specializing in the SHORAN system. For the remainder of his life, he could recite his Air Force ID by heart. His service took him from Fort Dix in New York to Keesler Field in Mississippi, to Sidi Slimane Air Base in French Morocco, and to Wheelus Field outside Tripoli, Libya.
But his most important posting was to the Laon Air Base in France. That is how he met the love of his life, Ghislaine Cochinaire, in a crowded movie theater on the Champs-Élysées courtesy of Clark Gable in 1953. They were married on July 8, 1954, at the town hall of the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris.
After the war’s conclusion, the couple settled in Brooklyn where Harry took a position with the Control Instrument Division of the Burroughs Corporation as an electronics technician. As the Space Race ratcheted up, so did his career. He subsequently worked for Republic Aviation and Grumman Aerospace, where he took a lead role on the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory. A subsequent promotion led the family to relocate to Maryland. Harry spent the next four decades working at the Goddard Space Center as a lead power systems engineer for satellites on the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory, the Solar Maximum Mission, and, ultimately, the Hubble Space Telescope as a NASA employee.
Harry is survived by his wife of 68 years, Ghislaine, and their four sons, Stephen (Sandy), David (Teena), Michael (Guendolen), and Richard (Kelly). He and Ghislaine were the proud grandparents of Marc, Aaron, Kristyn, Jonathan, Jacob, Zachary, Matthew, Emily, Thomas, and William.
A funeral service led by Rabbi Sholom Deitsch will be held at 2PM on Sept. 29, 2022 at Fairfax Memorial Park in Fairfax, Virginia. In lieu of flowers, donations to The Veterans of Foreign Wars would be appreciated.