Bertram Donald Aaron

Bertram Donald Aaron of Williamsburg died peacefully within spitting distance of 100 years on 31 December 2021 with close family by his side. The Daily Press “Citizen of the Year” at age 97, Bert was a visionary, public citizen, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. It has been said that he was a man of a million ideas and acted on every one of them.
Born in 1922 in Newport News, Bert was the eldest son of Harry and Lillian Aaron. His father was the owner of the famous La Vogue Shoppe and his grandfather the American Fashion Shop. He grew up learning merchandizing and customer service from the dinner conversations between his parents and grandparents. “The Most Priceless Ingredient in Business is a Good Name” hung over the entrance to the La Vogue Shoppe – a motto that ensured Harry’s success and that of his children.
Bert began his own successful business in Los Angeles, then New York, and retired to Williamsburg in 1990. A voracious reader of science fiction, he built his first radio at age 9, attained his Amateur Radio License at 17, and as a Cadet at VPI organized the very first Signal Unit for the Corps of Cadets. He attained the rank of Captain in the US Army in the Pacific theater during World War 2, eventually leading to positions as Aeronautical Research Scientist at NACA (now NASA) and then as an engineer for the US Army Signal Corps where he received the Commanders Medal for his service to national defense. Leaving the Signal Corp he began his career as an entrepreneur in applications sales for devices in electronics, medicine, computing, and optics.
Bert held Professional Engineer certificates from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York, with senior membership in the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers where he served on the Board of the Microwave Theory and Techniques Society as well as chair of the Los Angeles and Long Island NY chapters. He remained very active in professional societies for the electronics industry and national defense, including as President of the Hampton Roads Chapter of the Society for Electronic Defense.
Having lost two wives to breast cancer, Bert organized and chaired the first Virginia Breast Cancer Foundation Symposium on state-of-the-art medicine for breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. He initiated the Kiwanis Polo Cup, and served on the Kiwanis Board.
His passion and support for the performing arts – particularly in Tidewater Virginia – could be seen through his work organizing and helping to maintain the Greater Williamsburg Virginia Symphony Society after the Symphony were about to cease local operations for lack of an audience. In addition to serving 25 years on the Board of the Symphony, he also served as chair of the Williamsburg James City Arts Commission.
When the requirement arose for a tenured Chair of Jewish Studies at Christopher Newport University, Bert gave the lead gift. Endowed programs for the Cleveland Clinic, Virginia Symphony, and Hillel at Virginia Tech bear his name.
A lover of travel, he and family covered every continent except Antarctica. Bert was a member of Rodef Sholem Congregation in Newport News, as well as Temple Beth-El of Williamsburg.
Bert was predeceased by his first wife Marcia Kurke, second wife Judith Heilbraun, and brother Leonard Aaron. He is survived by his loving wife Gladys Aaron, daughters Dr. Cynthia Aaron and Jill Aaron MacPherson (Donald), son Dr. Harry Aaron (Joan), and grandchildren Caleigh, Sarah, and David. Bert is also survived by a cherished extended family including brother Cyril Aaron (Patti), nieces and nephews Hugh Aaron (Laura), Debra Aaron (Bonnie), Rabbi Scott Aaron (Donni), and Jennifer Katz (Larry), as well as step-children Jeffrey Heilbraun, Harris Cohen (Karen), Brad Cohen, Stuart Cohen (Lisa), and their children.
Due to current conditions, a private graveside service was held and a Celebration of Life gathering will be announced at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be given to the Virginia Symphony Society and/or the Bertram & Gladys Aaron Professorship at Christopher Newport University.

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