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Richard Passman: Aerospace engineer, Cedarhurst native, 'Renaissance man'

Richard Passman died April 1 due to coronavirus-induced

Richard Passman died April 1 due to coronavirus-induced pneumonia, according to his sons. Credit: Bill Passman

Everyone who knew Richard Passman called him a “Renaissance man.”

The aerospace engineer played baseball when he was younger and golf throughout his life, his family said. He took his three sons to hear symphonies when they were younger and went to opera with friends he met in trips abroad years ago. He painted still lifes, played the piano and co-authored a book about the record-breaking X-15 aircraft and its test pilots.

But his real job was in aerospace engineering. He spent 40 years working for Bell Aircraft, General Electric, the U.S. Department of Energy and Grumman Corp., which later merged into Northrop Grumman.

Passman worked on Bell X-1, which became the first airplane to fly faster than the speed of sound, his family said. And the Corona, the spy satellite that provided intelligence on the nuclear capabilities of the Soviet Union and the re-entry systems for intercontinental ballistic missile program.

Passman, who was born on June 30, 1925, and grew up in Cedarhurst, died on April 1 in Silver Spring, Maryland, due to coronavirus-induced pneumonia, according to his sons. He was 94. His wife of 70 years, Minna, 93, showed no symptoms of COVID-19 and lives in an assisted-living facility in Silver Spring that is under lockdown, family members said.

Passman was warm and kind, always asking others about their lives at family gatherings, family members said.

“He would mostly want to talk about them and what they were doing,” said Bill Passman, 62, a computer engineer and the youngest son who lives in Lexington, Massachusetts. “He’d always light up, and he’d be so interested in learning about them.”

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Don Passman, 65, the middle son, said he cries when reading condolence notes from others.

“I have my own memories,” said Don Passman, an architect who lives in Mountainside, New Jersey. “But hearing it from others … is what breaks me up because you see how he touched other people so much, maybe in the smallest way but certainly in an important way to them.”

Despite the sadness, Don Passman said his memories of his father make him smile.

 Like when his father planted cherry trees and flowers in the yard of their new house. And  when his father decided to take up jogging to lower his risk of the heart attacks that killed his own father.

“He would do it every day. He did it for years and years,” Don Passman said. “I think his mindset was I don’t want to die and leave my kids. I want to see my grandkids more than my dad did.”

He also remembered his father’s worldliness and his intelligence. Richard Passman went to the University of Michigan at the age of 15.

“I’m a proud son,” Don Passman said. “We are all proud. He passed on a lot of terrific traits that we carry on every day.”

Passman is also survived by his son, Henry Passman, of Silver Spring.

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