School 14

David Michaels

April 20, 1936 ~ May 26, 2021 (age 85)


David Michaels, 85, of Storrs, CT, passed away peacefully at home with his wife Gerda by his side on May 26, 2021.  He was born on April 20, 1936 to the late Leon and Anna (Cheskes).


David was raised by his parents on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, he went to Queens College at the age of 16, and graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in English Literature.


In 1961, David was in the first Peace Corps group to go to Thailand.  Before leaving for the two-year assignment, he married his first wife, fellow volunteer Marianne Spalding.  They taught English in Thailand, and there, David developed a lifelong love of cooking.


Upon returning to the U.S., David earned his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Michigan. In 1968 he joined the linguistics faculty at the University of Connecticut, where he was a dedicated and beloved professor for more than 30 years.  During that time, he mentored many graduate students who went on to do important work in the field and who stayed in touch with David for decades.  He was chairman of the department for an extraordinary 16 years, building it into a program that was respected around the country.


David is survived by his wife of 36 years, Gerda Walz-Michaels of Storrs, CT; his sister, Carol Foresta of the Bronx, NY; sister-in-law, Katharine Michaels of Berkeley, CA; children, Rebekah Michaels (Eric) of Boston, MA; Susannah Michaels (Ben) of Madison, WI; Oliver Walz (Kitti) of Berlin, Germany; Vanessa Walz (Uli) of Hamburg Germany; and Daisy Schilling (Felix) of Frankfurt, Germany.  He delighted in his grandchildren, Elena and Theo, both in Germany.


David is remembered as a passionate linguist and teacher, a consummate bread baker, an early adopter of technology, and a generous friend, husband, dad and brother.  He was an avid reader, especially of the classics.  In his later years he wrote stories of his own that were deeply humorous.


David and Gerda loved to travel, listen to classical music, and enjoy their close community in Storrs and their warm winters in Florida.


David’s life will be celebrated at a gathering at the family home in Storrs on Saturday, June 19, 2021.

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