Chapel Hill: Obituaries

Berton Harris Kaplan, Ph.D.

Berton H. Kaplan, 86, died Friday May 5 at Carol Woods Retirement Community in Chapel Hill.Bert was born in Strasburg, Virginia to Reuben and Jennie Roseman Kaplan, immigrants with little formal education who instilled a passion for learning. He played high school football, achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, and recalled being reprimanded for asking too many questions in school, which foreshadowed his career. Bert graduated from Virginia Tech with a commission in the US Air Force, where he served as an administrative officer at Cape Canaveral. Following his military service he moved to Chapel Hill to attend graduate school at UNC, where he met Ellen Evelyn Brauer and they married on campus in 1959. He completed his doctorate in sociology in 1962. After a post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University, Bert returned to UNC and never again left Chapel Hill for more than a few months at a time. He served on the faculty of the UNC School of Public Health from 1963 until his retirement as Professor of Epidemiology in 1999. His research at the intersection of social science, medicine and humanities resulted in numerous publications including authoring or editing three books, but his greatest professional passion was teaching, for which he received the School of Public Health’s McGavran Award for Excellence. His scholarship and teaching across departments and disciplines was recognized with the Faculty Service Award for Outstanding Service to the University. His legacy includes the many students and colleagues whose lives and careers he touched. Two of his former students have gone on to serve as university presidents.Above all his professional achievements, he was a devoted, loving and wise son, brother, husband, father and grandfather, who approached life with a profound sense of awe and gratitude. He was predeceased by his parents, his brothers Julius and Albert, and his in-laws Alfred and Hilde Brauer. Left to treasure his wisdom and his memory are his wife Ellen of Chapel Hill, his sons and their families: Daniel Kaplan, Marian Abernathy, Celie and Alex of Durham and Ron Kaplan, Barbara Hipp, Anna and Harris of Bainbridge Island, Washington.A funeral service will be held Tuesday May 9 at 3:00 pm at Judea Reform Congregation, 1933 W. Cornwallis Rd, Durham.The family are deeply grateful to the kind and caring staff of the Carol Woods Health Center.Memorial contributions may be made to Judea Reform Congregation, the Lerner Jewish Community Day School, or the charity of your choice.