• Arnold E. Reif

  • July 15, 1924 - June 14, 2018



In Loving Memory of Arnold E. Reif

Arnold E. Reif died peacefully on June 14, 2018, at the age of 93, in Newton, MA. Arnold was a self-described “doer, not a looker”, who was active throughout his life as a cancer scientist, divinity scholar, piano player, skier, kayaker, squash player, dad, granddad, enthusiastic friend, and neighbor. He encouraged others to be doers as well – and instilled a healthy sense of competition in his children and grandchildren.
Arnold was born in Vienna, Austria in 1924, the youngest of three children. His was a lively household, filled with music and culture, and accessible to outdoor activities of all kinds, including skiing in the Alps. He had a happy childhood as part of a secular Jewish family who put up a lovely Christmas tree each year at the holidays. His father was strict but fair and kind; often he would play chess with Arnold when he came home for lunch. He rewarded him with a chocolate treat if he made a particularly good move. Arnold adored his mother, who played the piano beautifully.
 When Arnold was 10, his idyllic childhood was shattered by the sudden death of his mother, from side effects of a medicine she was taking. Soon afterward as the Nazi threat loomed when he was 12, his adored older sisters moved away - one to South America and one to London. Arnold was sent to Giggleswick, a boarding school in England with strict discipline, but excellent academics. He stood out as being different because he was Jewish and German-speaking - initially he didn’t speak English. It was a challenging transition, but he eventually found acceptance by participating enthusiastically in many sports, including soccer, squash, and tennis.

He went on to receive a B.S. from Clare College at Cambridge University, where he converted to Christianity. He then moved to the US, where he got a Ph.D. in Organic Chemistry from Carnegie Technical Institute in Pittsburgh, PA. There he married his first wife, Jane Chess, and they had their first son, Bertrand.

 He had intended to do research work in topics impacting the coal industry, but after his father died of smoking-caused cancer, he changed his field to the biochemistry and immunology of cancer. He did post-doctoral work in these areas at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, where his sons John and Joseph were born. Later he moved with Jane and the boys to Albuquerque, NM, where he was a research scientist at the Lovelace Foundation. There he planted a rose garden and built a play structure for his three little boys. He developed a parenting style like that of his father’s – he was strict and competitive but also fun.

In 1956 he and his family moved for a final time, to Wellesley, MA. He joined the Faculty of the Department of Surgery at Tufts Medical School in Boston. In 1973, he became a Research Professor of Pathology at the Boston University School of Medicine.

His most important scientific contributions were the discovery of the first marker to distinguish T-cells from other white cells and providing experimental evidence that mammals have natural cells that guard against cancer. He was President of the Boston Cancer Research Association for a number of years and founding chairman of the Boston Section of the American Association for Cancer Research. He co-founded an annual Conference on Immunity to Cancer.
Arnold was an early leader in publicizing the dangers of smoking; he started an organization called Volunteers for Health Awareness, composed of physicians and professors who presented free assemblies at schools in the Greater Boston area on the dangers of smoking. On the radio, he debated the dangers of tobacco with representatives of the tobacco industry.

In all of the places where he lived, Arnold worked hard as a scientist but also threw himself into the extra-curricular activities in the area.
One of his passions was skiing. He began at age 10, at Kitzbühel, Austria. In Albuquerque, New Mexico, he joined the local ski team, competing with other teams all over the southern Rockies. In New England, he taught his sons to ski and eventually led them down the challenging slopes of Tuckerman’s Ravine on Mt Washington. He was an active member of the Boston Chapter of the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC). From 1972-74, he was chairman of the Ski Committee of the Boston Chapter of the AMC. He cofounded the AMC Mountains and Music Committee, combining his love of music and of skiing.

In the summers he bicycled, hiked in the local woods and the White Mountains, and also canoed and kayaked in the white water of local rivers and in the surf at Cape Cod. He was also a very competitive squash, chess and pool player year-round.
In 1979 Arnold remarried, to Katherine Hume, then a school psychologist in Newton. He and Kathy bought a house in a sweet setting on Morse’s Pond in Wellesley, which they enjoyed for many years, in all the seasons. He and Kathy could launch their kayaks from their own backyard. They learned the habits of the local swans and geese. Kathy made lovely salmon dinners, often inviting friends and family to join them. Arnold led paddling expeditions to eradicate the beautiful but invasive lilies and water chestnuts that threatened to clog the pond. They enjoyed friendships with their neighbors.
Arnold also loved to play the piano and the organ and participated in several amateur chamber music ensembles. John and his family fondly recall relaxing at his home in the evenings, as he played music by Bach and other classical composers; his granddaughters Katie and Emily often fell asleep to Arnold’s beautiful music.

After 33 years in his laboratory at Boston City Hospital, Arnold retired in 1989. Following his lifelong interest in religion, he went on to get a Master’s degree at Harvard Divinity School. He found joy as a volunteer chaplain at Walden Rehabilitation Home in Concord and organized an interfaith study group that met monthly in the members’ homes.
Although a strict disciplinarian to his boys in their younger years, he was very supportive to his sons and loved all of his sons dearly. He aided in many ways his sons Bertrand and Joseph, who in their adult lives struggled with substantial challenges that ultimately foreshortened their lives. He inspired his son John’s love of the pursuit of knowledge as well as a love of skiing and other sports. He also loved dearly his granddaughters Katie and Emily. When they came for visit, Arnold planned games and activities, special meals and even topics for conversation. He told Katie and Emily he was most proud of his scientific research, his sons and his granddaughters. They were, he said, his link to the future.
Even as arthritis made it difficult for him to play the piano and to get in and out of his kayaks, Arnold continued to live life with gusto. In his later years, he wrote two books, one about the dangers of smoking and one about immigration from Austria, both published when he was 92. He spent many hours at his computer in the room that looked out over the pond, working on his books and corresponding with friends and family. He continued to enjoy a good discussion - about politics, religion, science – or anything, for that matter – and was never short of advice about a wide range of subjects.
It was a difficult decision to leave 39 College Rd in 2016 and move to The Falls, but even as his health declined, Arnold enjoyed the company of others in his new home. The family is grateful to the staff at The Falls and the hospice teams at Good Shepherd and Compassionate Care for their excellent care of Arnold – and also to “The Peters” (Fortini and Murphy) for their companionship and help.
Arnold leaves his beloved wife of 38 years, Katherine E.; his son John H. and his wife Jane E. Anderson, of Durham, NC; his granddaughters, Katie L. Reif of Seattle, WA and Emily R. Reif of Cambridge, MA; his nieces Lili and Margarita of Montevideo, Uruguay, and his nephew Mark Featherstone-Witty of Liverpool, UK.
A Memorial Service in loving memory of Arnold will be held on Monday, July 16th, at 2:00 pm, at The Falls at Cordingly Dam in Newton, MA.