Live Stream Information
We will be live-streaming John Levine’s service on Friday January 1st, 2021 at 1:00pm Eastern Standard Time from Riverside Memorial Chapel in Manhattan.
Please come back to this page at 1:00pm.
If you have any questions, contact Mikey Colon 917-703-0346.
If it’s during the service please text.
John Levine passed peacefully on December 1, 2020.
The elder child of Bella (who herself lived to 92) and Joseph Levine, immigrants from Eastern Europe, John was born in Bensonhurst speaking Yiddish as his first language. His younger sister Shirley, who predeceased him, was a beauty and melodic singer of Jewish songs. John’s first wife Frances (Fran), the mother of his children, passed away in 1991. His second marriage ended in divorce. He is survived by his daughter, Leah Haseley, M.D., of Seattle; his son, Jonathan Levine, Ph.D., of Park Slope; and 5 grandsons.
At the time of his passing, John was Emeritus Professor in the Physiology and Cellular Biophysics Department of Columbia University, part of its medical school, the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S). In his sixty-two years on the fac-ulty, he trained many future academic students and postdocs in his laboratory, and published a volume of original human biological research–including on the kidney, liver, pancreas, and red blood cell.
He had notable sabbaticals at MIT and the Weizmann Institute of Science, and forged international collaborations. John di-rected P&S’s prestigious M.D-Ph.D. program in the 1970s and 1980s. For the promise he showed early in his research career, he was awarded a Guggenheim Award in 1966. John grew up in Pelham Parkway, attending public school, and heading to the 92nd St Y on Sundays to play basketball with a self-organized club of friends. With World War II on, he completed a combined B.A. and M.D. at NYU, favoring aca-demic research over practicing medicine. Although the war ended too soon for John to be called up, he was drafted into the Air Force as a Captain during the Ko-rean Conflict. John was stationed at the School of Aviation Medicine at Randolph Air Force Base in San Antonio. His father and Fran’s were both powerful executives at the Pelham Parkway Jewish Center.
These men knew each other even if their children did not – as yet. While John was serving in Texas, Fran had completed a Ph.D. in psychology at the Uni-versity of Rochester and begun a postdoc at Stanford. They were fixed up by Fran’s older sister, Norma, at Yom Kippur services in the fall of 1956. Both, yet single, had come home to visit the Bronx to be with their parents on the High Holi-days. John drove Fran to the airport after the break-fast for her flight ack to Cali-fornia, and they were both smitten. At Mardi Gras several months later, John would borrow the base commander’s car, and drive more than 500 miles to New Orleans.
He flew Fran out from San Francisco to meet him there. They married after his discharge in 1957. By this time, John had secured a re-search position, as though he was a postdoctoral fellow with a Ph.D.,at P&S. He worked under John Taggart, a lifelong mentor, and the couple lived on Haven Ave-nue in Washington Heights. By 1962, they had a young son, and in 1964 a daugh-ter. In an apartment a floor above, they made friends with James (Jim, an M.D.) and Pauline Magidson, R.N., with whom and with whose children they kept ties. The Magidsons would in a few years move to Stonybrook in Suffolk County, and John’s family to an old stone home in the landmarked Fieldston district in Riverdale (in 1968) But John and Fran had a natural affinity for vacationing on the East End. In the late summer of 1964, when they were expecting Leah, they had summered on Shel-ter Island.
John had earlier learned to fish from a colleague, Jim Manis, now Emeritus from Brown Medical School. John knew Fran was due in late Septem-ber/early October, and so John was comforted that he knew an OB-GYN on the Is-land should there be a need for one. Ultimately, Leah was born October 1st (exact-ly 4 weeks before her father) at CUMC, after they had returned to the City. But in the 1980s, as their kids approached the end of college, John and Fran renewed their love, and recalled their wonderful summer times in Long Island when younger.
Although they considered purchasing on Shelter Island, the very thing that makes it quiet and peaceful (access only by ferry and private boat) makes it inconvenient. So they bought in North Sea, a peaceful bayfront enclave of Southampton (dating from 1640). The Shelter Island south ferry was a mere ten-minute drive. North Sea Farms was already legendary as the birthplace of Tate’s Cookies. In many ways, the community of Southampton Shores was like the Catskills of their youth. The beach, though on salt water, lay on Peconic Bay, with a pavilion, a swim area, and a raft.
The water was a lot warmer than the ocean, and the tides and currents were slight. It was like a fresh water lake and Borscht Belt getaway in upstate New York. There were shuffle board courts, basketball, and tennis. John had a boat slip in the marina with a Boston Whaler for fishing and cruising. Although there was no community house, Southampton Shores had group activities in the warmer months. People still remember John and Fran playing tennis, and walking on the beach at sunset. Sadly, Fran would pass away after only 5 summers of use of the Southampton house.
But John continued to use it for about 25 more years. He encouraged his children and grandchildren to use it. In his early 80s, he drove himself there for one or two nights of peace on the weekend. In his middle 80’s, he asked his son to drive him. And while it was clear he was slowing down, he enjoyed walking on the beach, birding, and cooking – especially fresh fish accompanied by local corn. And lots of talking, debating, and politicking.
John always approached fishing–and science also–with the Socratic attitude of a captivated student. What could be learned? He felt fishing taught patience, quiet thinking, and, if lucky, gave a great catch. Persistence is everything. As Hemingway’s character Santiago says: Do you believe the great DiMaggio would stay with a fish as long as I will stay with this one?’ … I am sure he would and more since he is young and strong.