Obituary: Myra White
Supportive friend, logophile, librarian, activist
Born Myra Goldstein on June 17, 1926 in Brooklyn, New York, Myra White died peacefully on August 13 at age 97 at her home in Claremont surrounded by family.
Myra’s father died when she was 8, leaving her, her older brother and her mother on their own in the midst of the Great Depression. The experience, though deeply traumatic, provided strength for later achievement. She ultimately went to Utrecht High School in the gifted program, where she met her future husband, Alvin White.
She earned a B.A. in French at Brooklyn College, choosing that major when she realized it was the only subject in which she had adequate credits. This outcome, however, was consistent with her lifelong love of language and languages.
In addition to French, she could speak Yiddish and credible Russian. Even later in life she challenged herself to learn Hebrew and Mandarin, among other languages. She regularly sought to engage friends, acquaintances and even doctors by greeting them in their native tongue or learning a useful phrase. Well into her 90s she would greet (or attempt to greet) her ophthalmologist in Farsi. She was also a gifted joke teller (usually in English but occasionally in Yiddish), and enjoyed puns and humor of all kinds.
In 1946, while the couple were attending their respective undergraduate institutions in New York, they married at city hall in the midst of final exams, by a judge apparently on his lunch break. They then splurged on a turkey leg for their wedding dinner, a tradition they would continue every year for their anniversary. The marriage lasted more than 62 years, until Alvin’s passing in 2009.
After moving from New York to California, the couple lived in the Bay Area for a number of years and had two sons before settling in Claremont in 1962, when Mr. White accepted a teaching position at Harvey Mudd College. She lived in Claremont for the rest of her life.
A few years after arriving in Claremont, she decided to become a professional librarian, obtaining a M.S. in library science from USC. She worked at Honnold Library for many years and eventually became the west coast representative for OCLC, a then-emerging nationwide, computerized library cataloguing system, offering support, training, and expertise to libraries throughout the western U.S. She ended her career as the assistant director of the Cal Poly, Pomona library.
The couple enjoyed traveling throughout the country and the world both for their work and for pleasure. International travel included Hong Kong, the Soviet Union, Europe, Cuba, Australia, and Israel. She also enjoyed domestic travel, including visiting relatives in New York and throughout the country.
She was a member of numerous book groups throughout her life. She also enjoyed (and passed on) her love of theater and music, taking the train into LA to attend plays and concerts. Myra was also involved throughout her life in politics and causes for social justice.
She was widely appreciated for the support and encouragement she offered many with whom she socialized and interacted. This notably included friends and colleagues, her book groups, the tight-knit group at the physical therapy pool at Casa Colina she attended for several decades, and the Claremont and Temple Beth Israel libraries. She also spent many years helping Russian family members escape oppression and immigrate to the U.S. during the tumultuous 1990s.
She is survived by her sons, Louis White of Claremont, and Michael (“Sharu”) White near Tucson, Arizona; grandchildren Cordelia Millerwhite, Phoebe Millerwhite and Andrian White; and her daughter-in-law, Susan Miller.