March 12, 2019

Obituaries 3/13/19

William Paul Jacobs

After a long decline, William Paul Jacobs of Princeton, NJ, died peacefully at home in his sleep on Sunday, March 3 at the age of 99. He is survived by his beloved wife of nearly 70 years, Jane Shaw Jacobs; two children, Mark Jacobs of Phoenix, AZ, and Anne Jacobs of West Windsor, NJ; as well as his sister, Mary Jacobs Brown of Worcester, MA; five treasured grandchildren, Jeffrey Jacobs, Robinson Jacobs, Patrick S. Jacobs, Phoebe Brown, and Madeleine J. Jacobs; and six great-grandchildren.

Bill was born in Boston, MA, on May 25, 1919 to Elizabeth G. Kennedy Jacobs and Vincent Henry Jacobs. He grew up in West Roxbury, MA, attended Boys English High School in Boston, and was graduated magna cum laude in 1942 from Harvard University, where he later received a Ph.D. in biology. He served stateside in the U.S. Army during World War II.

While doing graduate work at The California Institute of Technology, Bill traveled for a weekend ski trip to Yosemite National Park in February 1946. He found the slopes icy, so he took what he thought was a safe trail through a woods. This strategy led to his losing his way in the mountains, surviving a blizzard and 5 degree temperatures on his first night out, spending eleven days lost in the snow, eating lichen and snowmelt, and finally being rescued only after his parents and the Yosemite ski patrol had conceded his death. 

Within two years of this misadventure, Bill met and married Jane Shaw and joined the faculty of biology at Princeton University, where he remained until his retirement in 1989. He studied the hormonal control of plant development and was an early proponent of quantitative techniques in that field. “What Makes Leaves Fall,” one of his early papers published in 1955 in Scientific American, describes how a decrease in the plant hormone auxin coming from the leaf blade creates a specialized layer of self-destructing cells, the abscission layer, which weaken a leaf’s attachment to a plant, allowing a breeze to blow the leaf away.

Bill also studied a unique alga, Caulerpa, which consists of only a single cell, yet grows to lengths of three feet and differentiates into roots, stems, and leaves. In a paper published again in Scientific American in 1994, he referred to this anomaly as “a gauntlet flung in the face of biological convention” and described the work done in his lab discovering the conditions that allow Caulerpa to develop without interior cell walls.

The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1967, Bill also received the Charles Reid Barnes Life Membership Award from the American Society of Plant Biologists in 1998. He published 165 papers, including seven after his retirement. His book, Plant Hormones and Plant Development, was published in 1979.

One of Bill’s regrets when he was lost in Yosemite was that he had not danced enough.  This was in spite of having often snuck out of his second story boyhood bedroom in West Roxbury to dance at the Roseland-State Ballroom in Boston. Bill compensated during his remaining 73 years, throwing and attending dance parties, joining Jane on the dance floor at the first trigger of a good song, and playing many Fred Astaire, John Travolta, and Gene Kelly movies for captive grandchildren.

In his last years, Bill was cared for with truly amazing grace and loving kindness by his aides and nurses from HomeWatch Care Givers and from Princeton Hospice.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests a donation to HomeFront in Lawrence Township.

A memorial service will be held at The Mountain Lakes House, 57 Mountain Avenue, Princeton at noon on April 6.


Mary Cullens Murdoch

January 3, 1933 – February 27, 2019

Mary Cullens Murdoch, a 50-year resident of Princeton, died peacefully of complications from Alzheimer’s disease on February 27, 2019 in her home at Princeton Windrows. Born in Newtown, CT, Mary was the only child of Reverend Paul Archibald Cullens and Agnes Robinson Cullens, and the wife for over 60 years of William F. Murdoch, Jr. who predeceased her in 2018.

She is a graduate of the Dana Hall School and Wheaton College in Massachusetts, where she was recognized in 2006 with an Alumni Board award.  A standout student-athlete on Wheaton’s varsity basketball team, Mary also sang in the a cappella group Wheaton Whims. She met Bill Murdoch in Boston while teaching third grade at the Tower School in Marblehead, MA. They married in 1958. They lived together in Pittsburgh, PA, Fairfield, CT, and Baltimore, MD, before relocating to Princeton in 1968.

A former President of the Princeton Day School Parents Association and head of the local Wheaton College alumni group, Mary also served on the board of the Princeton University McCosh Health Center and more recently chaired the Windrows Welcome Committee. She volunteered for decades to host parties for Princeton alumni and co-chaired several major Princeton reunions.  She was recognized as an honorary member of Princeton’s Class of 1952. Mary spent 70 summers at her family’s wilderness retreat on the French River in Northern Ontario. She and Bill welcomed family members and guests to the beauty and tranquility of island life where they were surrounded by fresh water and Canadian wildlife.

Mary is survived by four children and their spouses, Mary (Molly) Murdoch Finnell and Samuel C. Finnell, III (Skillman); Elizabeth Murdoch Maguire and Henry C. Maguire, III (Lewisburg, PA); Timothy R. Murdoch and Pascale Lemaire (Montreal); and Kate Murdoch Kern and John W. Kern IV (Bethesda, MD).  She had nine grandchildren: Julia and Eliza Kern (San Francisco); Liliane and Maxime Murdoch (Montreal); Henry Maguire (Calgary) and Alexandra Maguire (New York City); Maggie Finnell (Princeton), Sam Finnell and Morgan Bunting Finnell (Boston), Louise Finnell Trapasso and Jon Trapasso, plus two great-grandsons, Frederick and William Trapasso (Metuchen).

The family is planning a private burial service in Wakefield, RI. In lieu of flowers, people are encouraged to donate to the Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation, Inc: or to a charity of choice.


Leonard J. La Placa

Leonard J. La Placa, 95, of Princeton died Sunday, March 10, 2019 surrounded by his loving family. Born in Jamesburg, NJ, he resided most of his life in Princeton. Leonard was the co-owner, along with his late wife Laurel, of Nassau Interiors, Princeton for over 60 years. Leonard was a devoted Husband, Father, Grandfather, and an energetic member of the Princeton Community. Mr. La Placa’s charming and warm personality touched all that knew him.

Son of the late Giuseppe and Mary (LaMar) La Placa, wife of the late Laurel (Smith) La Placa, he is survived three daughters and three sons-in-law, Laurie and James Holladay, Claudia and Michael George, and Trinna and Rachid BenMoussa; a sister, Josephine La Placa; and four grandchildren, Clayton George, Jawed BenMoussa, Noor BenMoussa, and James Holladay.

The Funeral Service will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at the Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton. Burial will follow in the Princeton Cemetery. Friends may call on Friday, March 15, 2019 from 4–7 p.m. at the Funeral Home.

Memorial Contributions may be made in Leonard’s memory to his favorite charity: Princeton Nursery School, 78 Leigh Avenue, Princeton, NJ 08542.


Maureen Stevens

Maureen Stevens (Cahill) passed away at her home in Princeton, New Jersey, on Sunday, February 24, 2019. 

She was a lifelong Princeton resident and an active St. Paul’s Catholic Church parishioner. Maureen had a varied career as she was a nurse, a real estate agent, and an interior designer. However, most of her working career was spent at Telequest as an office manager — a job she loved. She considered her co-workers at Telequest as family. Maureen was proud to have a large family and numerous loyal friends.

She was predeceased by her loving husband, Michael Stevens; beloved friend David Dilts; and older brother, Daniel Cahill. She is survived by her sister, Ann Caton, and seven brothers: Thomas Cahill, Jr., Peter Lappan (wife Glenda), Richard Lappan, Charles Lappan (wife Corrie), William Lappan (wife Kelly), Robert Lappan, Gerald Lappan (wife Lorraine); as well as several nephews and nieces that she loved dearly.  Maureen was known for her contagious sense of humor and love of having a wonderful time.

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 10 a.m. at St. Paul’s Church, 216 Nassau St. Princeton, NJ 08542.

Arrangements are under the direction of Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, Princeton.


Frank L. Tamasi

Frank L. Tamasi, 87, of Princeton died Sunday, March 10, 2019 at Princeton Care Center. 

Born in Pettoranello, Italy, he resided in Princeton for 60 years. He was a member of St. Paul’s Church. He served in the Italian Army. He was a supervisor at Princeton University and also was employed by ETS.

Son of the late Sebastiano and Elpidia (Paolino) Tamasi, husband of the late Liliana (Palumbo) Tamasi, he is survived by his daughter and son-in-law Debbra and Mark Sullivan; his sisters and brother-in-law Ersilia Nini, Esterina Toto, and Clarice and Antonino Cifelli; a sister-in-law Maria Palumbo; two grandchildren Christine Trump and her husband Ian and Kathleen Sullivan; one great-granddaughter Ellanore Mae; and several nieces and nephews.

Calling hours will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, March 14, 2019 at The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue, Princeton.

The Funeral will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, March 15, 2019 at the funeral home.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 9:30 a.m. on Friday at St. Paul’s Church, 216 Nassau Street, Princeton.

Burial will follow in Princeton Cemetery.