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Martin Topf dies; veteran and inventor from East Meadow was 83

Martin Topf in 2011.

Martin Topf in 2011. Credit: Stephanie Topf-Masheb

Martin Topf, of East Meadow, was a father of five, a Korean War veteran, an inventor and an engineer with a “brilliant” mind and a salt-of-the-earth personality.

He died from congestive heart failure at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center in Manhattan on Nov. 18.  He was 83.

Topf spent his career working mostly in the defense and medical fields in New York City and on Long Island. 

“He loved the impact engineering could make on medicine, space and defense,” said his youngest daughter, Stephanie Topf-Masheb, 48, of Jericho. “He was larger than life because of his brilliance, but he was so humble about it.”

Born in Brooklyn on Jan. 14, 1935, to Pauline and Michael Topf, he graduated from Samuel J. Tilden High School in East Flatbush and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, Topf-Masheb said.

After his service, he returned to New York, where he attended the City College of New York through the GI Bill, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in engineering. It was there he met his wife, Judith Levine, an economics student. By the time the couple graduated in 1959, they were already married and expecting a child. They  raised their five children in Canarsie, Brooklyn.

Topf worked at the Bronx-based NASA subcontractor Farrand Optical Co., which did work for the Apollo program, Topf-Masheb said. 

He was a lead engineer for Bohemia-based Serosonic Laboratories Inc. In that role, he appeared in a December 1969 Newsday photo accompanying an article on the company’s blood analyzer, which he helped design.

“By combining certain electronic elements with chemical reagents the Serosonic system enables physicians or technicians to perform up to 36 vital blood chemistries with what is reportedly a considerably lower error factor than other such systems,” wrote Francis Wood, then Newsday's national business editor.

He spent many years at Westchester-based Technicon before finishing his career at Bohemia-based Andrea Electronics Corp., which at that time was in Long Island City, Queens.

Andrea CEO and president Douglas Andrea recalled Topf, who held six patents with the company, as a “pivotal engineer” who helped the firm transition to computer-based equipment in the early 1990s. The company supplied millions of microphones to IBM that were equipped with voice dictation and noise canceling technology that Topf created, Andrea said. Topf retired in 1997.

“He was a rough, real New Yorker type of guy, but he was much smarter than he came across,” said Andrea, whose grandfather Frank A.D. Andrea Sr. founded the company 84 years ago. “He was vociferous, but brilliant.”

Topf-Masheb recalled her father as a patriot and proud Jew who never displayed envy or jealousy and loved his family and work.

He suffered a major heart attack at the age of 46, but soon adopted a modified diet, walked several miles every day and kept a vigilant watch over his heart condition, managing it over the next four decades until his death.

Topf watched World War II documentaries and solved calculus problems through an app on his phone until earlier this year, Topf-Masheb said.

In addition to his wife, Judith Topf, 80, of East Meadow, and daughter Topf-Masheb, Topf is survived by his children Paul Topf, 59, of upstate Pittsford, Andrew Topf, 57, of Montclair, New Jersey, Mia Smith, 53, of Syosset and Allyson Chazen, 51, of Wayne, New Jersey, and 11 grandchildren.

A funeral was held Nov. 20 at Gutterman’s Funeral Home in Woodbury and he was buried at New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.

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