March 4, 2020

Obituaries 3/4/20

Rachel “Phyllis” Soffen

Rachel “Phyllis” Soffen died at age 88 on Saturday, February 29, 2020. She lived in Princeton, NJ, for many years, raising a family of five children with her husband of 50 years, Marvin Soffen. After she retired, and after Marvin passed in 2003, Phyllis also lived in Durham, NH, Portsmouth, NH, and Potomac, MD.

Phyllis was born in Washington, DC, on September 14, 1931. Her childhood was spent in Red Bank, NJ, where she attended elementary school in a one-room schoolhouse. Later, the family moved to Washington Crossing, PA.

Phyllis graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1952, with a BA in Education, and then earned a MA in Child Psychology. While in college, she met Marvin Soffen on a blind date, but dismissed him quickly because he kept agreeing with everything she said. Later, while still in college, she fell ill with the mumps and returned home to Washington Crossing to convalesce. Bored, she started writing letters. Marvin responded, writing eagerly and repeatedly. She gave her besotted suitor a second chance and had the love affair of a lifetime.

Phyllis was an avid member of the League of Women Voters in Princeton, NJ, where she and Marvin made their life. She was a supporter of the Planned Parenthood organization and a member of the Princeton Jewish Center. She volunteered her time at Recording for the Blind.

When the youngest of her five children was in grade school, Phyllis started a career teaching three-year-olds at Rocky Hill Cooperative Nursery School. Her retirement party included children of children, and two generations of students. She enjoyed telling the story of always having a father of one of the children in her class play Santa Claus during the holidays. Typically, it seemed, it was always the child whose father was in costume who, terrified, tearfully refused to sit on Santa’s lap.

She instilled the love of reading in her children by taking the time to read to each of her five children separately (Laura Ingalls Wilder, the Hardy boys, Pippi Longstocking, and the Boxcar Children). Family April Fool’s Day breakfasts consisted of green colored milk and a soft-boiled egg — when you cracked it open, there was chocolate ice cream inside!

Her children’s friends also experienced her love of fun when they would come after school and get the standard “cookies and juice.” This consisted of Phyllis insisting each child give her the “hole” of the striped shortbread cookie in order to receive a fourth cookie. All would nibble that cookie down to a delectable but impossible hole, and offer it back, but no, she wanted “no cookie at all, just the hole.” This hole invariably disappeared as soon as the cookie’s rim was too tiny, and there went the chance of a fourth cookie. She was always appropriately shocked and dismayed.

She followed in her parents’ tradition of taking each of her grandchildren on a first trip to Europe when they turned 10 (so that they might remember it). She also loved trips to the family home at the Jersey shore, where she would ask the children to dig a hole in the sand to China and treat them to the Asbury Park boardwalk and amusement park rides.

Phyllis always looked on the bright side of every situation. Even when Marvin, the love of her life for 50+ years died, in the first 24 hours, through her tears, she insisted “this too will pass.” In addition to her husband Marvin, Phyllis was predeceased by her mother Mina (Greene) Ostrolenk, her father Samuel Ostrolenk, as well as her brother, David Ostrolenk.

She is survived by her children, Cindy Soffen Cooper and her husband David, Steve Soffen and his wife Margaret, Shari Soffen Donnermeyer and her husband Dennis, Sybil Soffen Miller and her husband Derek, and Scott Soffen and his wife Pat, along with 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

The family will hold a private memorial service. We share grief in her passing and joy in the memories she left us.


The Rt. Rev. G. P. Mellick Belshaw

The Rt. Rev. George Phelps Mellick Belshaw, the ninth Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey from 1983 to 1994, died on Saturday, February 29th peacefully in an apartment he had recently moved into on Mercer Street in Princeton. He was 91 years of age, born July 14, 1928 in Plainfield, NJ, the only child of Edith Mellick of Plainfield and New York and the Rev. Harold Belshaw, who immigrated to America from Wigan, England when a teen.

Known as Mellick, he spent his early youth in Paris, France, where his father was on the church staff of the American cathedral, before moving to Manhattan and soon thereafter to New Haven, CT. Mellick attended St. Paul’s School, Concord, NH, graduating with the class of 1947, the University of the South, Sewanee, TN, completing his studies in three years and graduating with the class of 1951, and the General Theological Seminary in New York, graduating in 1954. In June of that year he married Elizabeth Wheeler of Providence, RI, and was ordained a deacon in the Episcopal Church a week later at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Boston, MA. He was ordained a priest at St. Christopher’s Church, Kailua, Oahu, Hawaii that December and spent three years as vicar of St. Matthew’s Church in Waimanalo, Oahu, during which he helped construct the new church building out of the vicarage garage.

He returned to General Seminary in 1957, earning a S.T.M. degree, working as a seminary tutor. From 1959 to 1965, Mellick was the Rector of Christ Church, Dover, DE, and from 1965 to 1975 was Rector of St. George’s-by-the-River, Rumson, NJ. He was elected Suffragen Bishop of New Jersey, duly consecrated in February of 1975,  before being elected on the first ballot to be the Diocesan bishop in 1983.

Mellick was active in a number of educational and advocacy ministries, including The Anglican Theological Review where he wrote book reviews and articles and served as a member of the corporation, the Coalition of Religious Leaders of New Jersey, visiting lecturer in ascetical theology at General Seminary, Fellow of the College of Preachers in Washington D.C., longtime active member of the American Teilhard de Chardin Association, and served the national Episcopal Church on the Economic Justice Implementation Committee, the Joint Commission on Peace, and as president of the Episcopal Urban Caucus.

He edited two books on Lenten meditations based on the writings of Evelyn Underhill and Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple, and wrote articles and essays for various publications including the Living Church and St. Luke’s Journal. He was awarded Doctor of Divinity degrees from General Seminary, The University of the South, and Hamilton College in Clinton, NY.

Mellick faithfully served General Theological Seminary as trustee from 1975 to 2006, including as Chairman of the Board for eight years in the 1990s. He retired as the longest serving trustee in the seminary’s history. He served a year as acting Dean there during the school year of 1997-1998. He also served as the summer chaplain at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Prout’s Neck, Maine, for 36 years in August.

Mellick is survived by his three children: the Rev. Richard Belshaw of Durham, NH; Elizabeth (Lisa) Belshaw Ham, who is the Development Director of Princeton’s Public Library here in Princeton; and George P.M. Belshaw, Jr. of Greenwich, CT. He was very fond of his two daughters-in-law Julia Slater Gittes and Dorothy Murray, his son-in-law Peter Ham, and his seven grandchildren: M Slater, Daniel Belshaw, Elizabeth Ham, Alexandra Ham, Martha Belshaw, Alice Belshaw, and George P.M. Belshaw III.

Mellick was a longtime fixture at many Princeton gatherings such as the Old Guard and Princeton Symphony concerts, an active tennis player at the Pretty Brook Club, a frequent dinner guest at the Nassau Club, and maintained innumerable friendships with many local residents. He was a lifelong sailor in summers in Maine, owning and caring for an old wooden Leuder-16.

Funeral services will be held on Friday, March 6 at 11 a.m. at Trinity Church, Princeton, NJ. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the G.P. Mellick Belshaw Educational & Theological Fund at the Diocese of New Jersey, Trenton, or Trinity Church, Princeton.


Betty Compton Selberg

On February 26, 2020 Betty Compton Selberg, formerly of Princeton, NJ, and Mountain View, CA, passed away at the age of 90 in Virginia Beach, VA.

Betty was born November 24, 1929 in Muses Mills, KY, to Virginia Nell Compton and Harold Compton. Betty was the eldest of six children. A graduate of Deer Park High School in Cincinnati, OH, she received her undergraduate degree in journalism from the University of Kentucky. She was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, an editor for the UK paper, and modeled for department stores Shillito’s of Cincinnati, OH, and Purcell’s of Lexington, KY. She later worked as a journalist for the Thoroughbred Record and the Lafayette Journal and Courier.

Married to the late Carl Faith, Professor Emeritus of mathematics at Rutgers University, she lived in Princeton, NJ, with their daughters, Heidi and Cindy. She taught English as a second language, and studied ballet and dance while she attended the University of Pennsylvania where she received her master’s degree and pursued a Ph.D. in Linguistics.

Betty developed technical documentation at Applied Data Research (ADR) in Princeton before relocating to Mountain View, CA, to join IBM’s Santa Theresa Lab as a senior technical writer. She was president of her local IEEE chapter. She loved California’s weather, taking great joy in growing her roses and fruit trees.

In 1995 Betty returned to Princeton to marry her soulmate Atle Selberg, Professor Emeritus in the School of Mathematics at the Institute for Advanced Study. Atle died in 2007.

Betty had a lifelong love of languages; she studied Latin, Ancient Greek, French, and Italian. She was intellectually curious about different cultures and the scientific world. She was an expert cook, world traveler, and ardent photographer. A talented seamstress, she made coordinated outfits for her daughters — at the age when they cooperated — and herself. Betty also had a passion for early 20th century kitchenware, cookbooks, pottery, classic clothing, and haute couture which she collected over many years. As she often observed, “they don’t make things the way they used to!”

Betty’s laughter was contagious, her smile like a sunbeam. She could find common ground or a shared story with everyone she met. Her warm, generous, and gracious spirit brought joy to all who knew and loved her.

Betty is survived by her daughters Heidi and Cindy; her grandson, Michael Mandelkorn; and her five siblings, Robert Compton, Bonnie Hanson, Paula Schneider, Reecie Compton, and Judy Scott.

In accordance with Betty’s wishes she will be privately cremated. In lieu of flowers, please consider supporting journalism covering the causes that you care about.


Freeman J. Dyson

Professor Freeman J. Dyson died after a brief hospitalization in Princeton, NJ, on Friday, February 28 at the age of 96.

Freeman is survived by his beloved wife Imme Jung Dyson; his six children Esther Dyson, George Dyson, Dorothy Dyson, Emily Dyson Scott, Mia Dyson, and Rebecca Dyson; a step-daughter Katrina; their spouses; and 16 grandchildren. He is preceded in death by his parents Sir George Dyson and Lady Mildred Lucy Dyson, and his sister Alice Mildred Dyson, all of Winchester, England.

Freeman was born on December 15, 1923 in Crowthorne, Berkshire, England. He graduated from Cambridge with a B.A. in mathematics. Freeman worked as a civilian scientist for the Royal Air Force in World War II. Following the war, Freeman began his graduate studies in physics at Cornell University, where he worked with Hans Bethe and Richard Feynman. His most useful contribution to science was the unification of the three versions of quantum electrodynamics invented by Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga. He subsequently worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics, and biology, looking for problems where elegant mathematics could be usefully applied.

He has written a number of books about science for the general public. Freeman is a fellow of the American Philosophical Society, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 2000 he was awarded the Templeton Prize for progress in Religion, and in 2012 he was awarded the Henri Poincaré Prize at the August meeting of the International Mathematical Physics Congress.

Freeman and Imme were married in 1958 in San Diego, CA. They settled in Princeton where he continued as Professor of Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study. Over the next eight years, Freeman and Imme added four children to their family, which included two children from Freeman’s first marriage.

Freeman loved to read aloud to his children, often racing Imme out of the kitchen after supper to scoop up the chapter book du jour and settle in for a good read. Freeman was also a devoted music teacher, helping the children every afternoon with their daily practicing. On clear nights, Freeman would set up his telescope and gather his pajama-clad children around to star gaze and speculate on the mysteries of the universe.

Freeman would also happily cheer his children on as they swam their hearts out at Nassau Swim Club swim meets, and at horse shows at the Chestnut Ridge Riding Club. Nothing gave Freeman more pleasure than celebrating the dreams and aspirations of his children. Once the children had grown and gone, Freeman was a familiar site at the finish line of many a road race, clutching Imme’s pocketbook and cheering her on to win yet another race.

A memorial service will be held at Trinity Episcopal Church, on Saturday April 18 with a reception to follow at the Institute for Advanced Study. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Peace Action Education Fund,


Ann Lee Saunders Brown

Ann Lee Saunders Brown, 101, died peacefully at her family’s Tuckahoe Point Farm in Richmond, Va., on February 22, 2020. She was the daughter of Edmund Archer and Jane Quinn Saunders, and the sister of Jane Q. Saunders. Her son, Charles A. Brown, lives in Hawaii. Her grandson, Alexander Brown, lives on the family farm with his wife, Natalie, and their children, Ainsley, Harrison, and Savannah.

Born in Richmond and raised on the farm, Ann Lee graduated from Collegiate School, where she received the Rosemary Award – then and now, the highest award for academics, athletics, citizenship, and leadership. Collegiate named their upper school library, Saunders Family Library, for her.

In 1959, Ann Lee married Charles L. Brown at the family farm, and together they moved 19 times as his career elevated him to Chairman and CEO of AT&T. Ann Lee was a strong and caring support to Charlie and all those affected by the breakup of the Bell System. They returned to Virginia to live, but Ann Lee maintained her home in Princeton, New Jersey, and her support of the Institute for Advanced Study.

In Virginia, she enjoyed many years of involvement with Colonial Williamsburg, celebrated her father at Virginia Military Institute, and proudly supported the Charles L. Brown Science and Engineering Library and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Virginia. No doubt, these institutions and others including the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and The Tuckahoe Garden Club greatly enriched Ann Lee’s life.

Let the remembrance of her smile express her deep gratitude to all family, to all faithful supporters on the farm, to many exceptionally loyal friends, all colleagues of the many institutions she enjoyed, every caretaker, and certainly her beloved dog, Nikki Beau!

A celebration of Ann Lee’s life was held on February 29 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory may be made to Goochland Cares, Sheltering Arms, or any of the above-mentioned institutions.