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Sol Hirsch

Sol Hirsch
Sol Hirsch (Handout, Baltimore Sun)

Sol Hirsch, a former National Weather Service forecaster whose career spanned three decades and in retirement became active in his community and synagogue, died Oct. 5 at his Pikesville home of complications from heart disease. He was 91.

The son of Jewish immigrants Alex Hirsch, a tailor, and Rose Hirsch, a homemaker, Sol Hirsch was born in New York City and raised in the Bronx.

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Fluent in Yiddish, which was spoken in his home, Mr. Hirsch learned English after he began attending public school. He was a 1941 graduate of James Monroe High School.

Mr. Hirsch was drafted into the Army and because of his mental aptitude was assigned to the Army Air Forces, where he studied meteorology.

When World War II ended, Mr. Hirsch, aided by the GI Bill of Rights, enrolled at the City College of New York, where he earned a bachelor's degree in meteorology in 1949.

Bronx neighbors fixed up Mr. Hirsch on a blind date with an attractive young nursing student, Shirley Moochnek, whom he married in 1948.

The couple moved to Baltimore in 1950, when Mr. Hirsch became a National Weather Service forecaster at what was then Friendship Airport.

After a number of years at what is now Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, Mr. Hirsch went to work as a forecaster at an NWS facility in Suitland near Washington.

"Observing the weather was a 24-hour operation, and so he had to frequently work shifts in the middle of the night," said a son, Alan Hirsch of Owings Mills, who is the co-owner of Donna's restaurants in Charles Village and Cross Keys. "Between the commute to Suitland, for many years before I-95 was constructed, and the shift work, he had a grueling schedule."

In the 1960s, Mr. Hirsch was one of the first forecasters to begin interpreting satellite images to make long-range weather predictions.

"A week before my wedding, he told me it was going to rain, so we moved the ceremony indoors, and it turned out to be a sunny day," his son said, laughing.

Mr. Hirsch once used his weather skills in the courtroom.

In a civil suit in 1982, he provided weather records that contradicted the testimony of one of two women claiming to be the wife of a man they said had been wrongfully shot by Prince George's County police. The woman told a federal jury that she and the man had been foiled in their attempts to find a roadside justice of the peace in West Virginia to marry them because of a severe snowstorm on Nov. 22, 1963. Mr. Hirsch's records showed there was no measurable snowfall on either Nov. 21 or Nov. 22, 1963, in West Virginia or Ohio. The woman later said she must have had the wrong date, according to a Washington Post report.

For a number of years, Mr. Hirsch served as the founding director of the National Weather Association, and when he retired in 1981, the association established a fund in his name to promote the study of meteorology in schools across the country.

In retirement, Mr. Hirsch devoted his time and energy to his synagogue and community.

The Pikesville resident became active with the Cross Country Improvement Association, the Northwest Baltimore Corp. and Friends of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Branch 31.

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"I was so, so sad to hear of his death," said City Councilwoman Rochelle "Rikki" Spector.

"Sol was a great community person for the Cross Country Improvement Association and was its representative to the Northwest Police Council. He did so much good and really was a treasure in the Cross Country community," said Ms. Spector. "Everywhere Sol went, he made a positive impression and did good."

Mr. Hirsch had been an active member of Beth Jacob Congregation, which later merged with Beth Tfiloh Congregation, and was a regular at morning minyan.

He served as president of the Brotherhood, was coordinator for religious services and assigned the weekly Haftorah reading to members of the congregation.

"When no one could be found to chant a Haftorah, he himself assumed the responsibility for the weekly portion," his son said.

Mr. Hirsch worked with both the office and maintenance staff to make sure that the synagogue functioned efficiently.

Funeral services for Mr. Hirsch were held Sunday at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. in Pikeville.

In addition to his son and his wife, Mr. Hirsch is survived by three other sons, Charles Hirsch of Pikesville, Donald Hirsch of Reston, Va., and Steven Hirsch of Nashville, Tenn.; two daughters, Tina Sheller of Pikesville, and Carol Roth of Wilmington, Del.; 13 grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

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