On September 19, 2021, Dr. Robert Sherman Wolff, 74, passed away peacefully, holding the hands of his wife and daughter following a “hero’s journey” through this lifetime.
Robert was born in New York City, New York on July 21, 1947.
He was the only child of May Sherman and Bernard Wolff. His mother always believed in his ability to accomplish great things, and his father inspired him to do so. He was a boy full of mischief and adventure and this child-like curiosity continued to grow as the years passed.
After high school, Robert attended Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, New York, graduating with his Bachelor’s Degree in physics in 1969. He then attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, Massachusetts, earning his Master’s Degree in Physics in 1974. In 1981, he received his Doctoral Degree from Brandeis University in Astrophysics.
Robert was a space physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, where he worked on planetary missions such as Pioneer Venus, Voyager and Galileo. He published and lectured to both technical audiences and the general population on space exploration, computer graphics, and image processing. He later worked for Apple Computer, Inc. as the Project Leader of Advanced Applications where he specialized in developing prototype environments for scientific computing.
In 1979, Robert met Donna at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at a Galileo Science Coordinator meeting when the couple began working together on a project. Donna was on the Mission Design team and Robert was a Science Coordinator for the Plasma Instruments used for the mission. In their first interaction, Robert sat down in the chair next to Donna and quickly moved to another seat because he was too nervous being next to her. Fortunately, the nerves passed and Donna was drawn to his lighthearted sense of humor. They seamlessly fell in love and the couple married in 1981. They purchased a home in La Cañada Flintridge, California, where they raised their children, Tricia and Sam.
Robert was never a man to sit still. He was the author of three science fiction books in his “Falcon Gold Trilogy” and authored “Visualization of Natural Phenomena,” which won the award for “Best Nonfiction Computer Book” from the Computer Press Association in 1993.
He enjoyed mountain bike riding, scuba diving, playing hockey, creating music in his home studio (specifically rock guitar) and spending time with his many friends from all walks of life.
By far, his greatest pleasure was found in the time he spent with his children. His Saturdays were designated “Daddy Daughter Days” and were filled with creative memories made just for the two of them. He would marvel in the wonder of his son and dreamt of all the ways he could replicate the love he had felt for his own father through their experiences together.
In 1993, Robert suffered a life-altering cardiac arrest which severely damaged his brain, yet his soul remained unchanged. He was cared for devotedly at home for 28 years by his wife and his angel-on-earth caregiver Carmen Pineda, and in his later years, Lily Lopez. Although his presence had changed, his strength, bravery, and resiliency never faltered. His smile still emerged at the sight of his family and they will forever cherish his whispered “I love you.”
Robert is survived by his wife and love of his life of 42 years, Donna, their two children Tricia and Sam (and wife Hinako), and two perfect grandchildren Hazel and Kai.
Dr. Robert Wolff will be laid to rest at Live Oak Memorial Park in Monrovia, California. A service will be held in January 2022 to celebrate his life and his journey to the stars.
“There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” -Albert Einstein