Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 15
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
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Norman J. Sollenberger

Florante Bocobo

Antonio Sferra

Anne M. Dielhenn

Norman J. Sollenberger

Norman J. Sollenberger

Norman J. Sollenberger, Professor of Civil Engineering Emeritus at Princeton University, died of heart failure April 8 at the University Medical Center at Princeton.

He was born in Chapman, Kansas, to Harry E. and Anna (Sheets) Sollenberger. Along with the parents of Dwight D. Eisenhower, his grandparents had homesteaded to Kansas from Pennsylvania in the late 1880s.

In 1930 Mr. Sollenberger entered the engineering school at Kansas State University, taking a year off to work as an assistant engineer in Wabaunsee County to supervise the building of three steel bridges. He completed a bachelor’s degree in 1935 and a master’s degree in civil engineering a year later, then began teaching at Kansas State. In 1937 he accepted a teaching position at Iowa State University, where he met Martha MacGoey, whom he married in 1939. From 1941 he was on the faculty at Princeton, leaving in 1945 to work for six years in the Roebling Company of Trenton. During this time he designed an innovative five-span cable truss bridge in El Salvador, where he lived for two years supervising its construction.

In 1952 the Dean of Engineering at Princeton asked the chairman of the Civil Engineering Department to invite Mr. Sollenberger to return to the faculty, where he remained until his retirement in 1980. From 1961 to 1971, as chairman of the department, he strengthened civil engineering at Princeton and gave it a new direction. During his tenure as chairman, the department grew from graduating an average of six undergraduates per year to 18, and saw a fivefold increase in Ph.D. graduates and a similar growth in research funding. He devoted long hours to ensure that a young civil engineering student from Hong Kong, a rarity in the 1950s, would successfully graduate. When that engineer, Gordon Y. S. Wu, returned to Princeton years later to announce a record-breaking $100 million pledge to the University, the first person he asked to visit was Norman Sollenberger, who mentored many other students, never claiming the credit that was his due. In his teaching he supervised student projects that included the building and testing of small-scale concrete models of buildings and bridges that are still on display in the engineering building after nearly 40 years.

During his chairmanship, Mr. Sollenberger continued to design structures and consult on others. His steel design for the New Jersey Pavilion at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair won the 1965 Architectural Award for Excellence given by the American Institute of Steel Construction, and his work on prestressed concrete structures led to a highly respected 1967 book that he co-authored, Modern Prestressed Concrete. In 1969 he was named the New Jersey Engineer of the Year by the New Jersey section of the American Society of Civil Engineers, and in 1978 he was elected president of the section. He also did pioneering research for wind loads on high cooling towers for power plants. After his retirement in 1980, he continued to do consulting and design for such large structures.

Upon his retirement, a group of faculty whom Prof. Sollenberger had brought into the department wrote scholarly papers dedicated to him and collected them in a book, Norman J. Sollenberger, An Educator’s Educator. Each of the six professors expressed the debt they owed to him for redirecting their careers, thanking him for his leadership and for his personal friendship.

He was predeceased in 2001 by his wife, Martha. He then married Eleanor Dohrn in 2006. She survives him, as do eight nieces and nephews.

The family requests that memorial contributions be directed to the Meadow Lakes Scholarship Fund, Meadow Lakes, 300 Etra Road, Hightstown, N.J. 08520.

A memorial service will be announced later. Arrangements are under the direction of the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home.

Florante Bocobo

Dr. Florante Bocobo, MD, 91, of Plainsboro, died March 27 at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Hamilton, after a short illness.

Born in Manila, Philippines to the late Jorge and Feliza Bocobo, he received his medical degree from the University of the Philippines in 1940 and completed his internship and residency at the Manila General Hospital during World War II.

In 1946, he immigrated to the U.S. and completed medical fellowships at Duke University, Columbia University, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Michigan. In 1950 he joined the faculty of the University of Michigan Medical School where he served as professor of medicine until 1969. He then spent several years working for the Food and Drug Administration, reviewing new drug applications before continuing his work with the World Health Organization as a field researcher in Asia. In 1974, he joined E.R. Squibb and Sons, where he was involved in clinical research and development until his retirement in 1993.

During a career that spanned over 53 years, Dr. Bocobo was the author of numerous research papers, instrumental in the development of many drugs, and influential in the advancement of medical mycology.

In addition to his passion for medical research, he was an avid collector of memorabilia and a gifted photographer.

He was predeceased by a son, Danny; two sisters, Elvira and Celia; and a brother, Israel. He is survived by his wife, Jewel; a daughter, Cristina; two sons, George and David; a brother, Ariel; two sisters, Dalisay and Malaya; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.

A memorial service was held April 4 at the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, followed by the interment of his ashes at Princeton Cemetery.

Antonio Sferra

Antonio “Tony the Barber” Sferra, of Princeton, died April 12 in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

Born in Pettoranello, Italy, he came to Princeton in 1953. He worked for the Pat Corvino Barber Shop on Chambers Street in Princeton, then co-founded the Continental Barber Shop on Witherspoon Street with his brother Bert, retiring in 2001 after 42 years.

He was a member of the Italian Sportsman Club of Princeton and Roma Eterna of Princeton. He was an avid gardener who took great pride in his flower garden and vegetable garden.

Son of the late Domenico and Angelina (Toto) Sferra, he is survived by his wife of 56 years Clara (Lise) Sferra; a son, Dominick A. Sferra of Ewing; two daughters, Angelina Foldes of Victor, N.Y. and Patricia Alizio of Ewing; a sister, Assunta Sferra of Princeton; four brothers, John Sferra of Princeton, Umberto Sferra of Princeton, Joseph Sferra of Pennington, and Florindo Sferra of Ewing; and six grandchildren.

The funeral will be Thursday, April 16 at 8:30 a.m. at The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue, followed by a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 a.m. at St. Paul’s Church, 214 Nassau Street. Burial will follow in Princeton Cemetery.

Calling hours will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. today, Wednesday, April 15 at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be sent to St. Paul’s Church, 214 Nassau Street, Princeton 08542

Anne M. Dielhenn

Longtime Princeton resident Anne Mitchell Dielhenn, 97, of Haverford, Pa., died on April 10. Born in East Orange, N.J., she lived here for almost 50 years before moving to Columbia, Md. She had lived at The Quadrangle in Haverford since 1993.

She is survived by a son, Arthur Bruner Dielhenn of Los Angeles, Calif.; a daughter, Jane Dielhenn Otis (Elliott) of Northbrook, Ill.; a sister, Elizabeth Mitchell Beatty of Bryn Mawr, Pa.; four grandchildren, and four great grandchildren. A son, Henry Mitchell Dielhenn, and two sisters, Jane Mitchell and Katherine Mitchell Osborne, pre-deceased her.

She had a love of music and after studying piano, both here and abroad, she taught for a number of years. She also created a unique artificial fruit and flower business, which she called Aprillia Designs. Her artistic arrangements were sold in fine stores throughout the country.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, April 17, at the Church of the Redeemer Pennswood and Nea Gulph Road, Bryn Mawr, Pa. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be to the above church.

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