Skip to content


The Wolf/Hallac and the Viterbi/Smargon families’ friendship goes way back, approximately fifty years. Jack first met Andy during his service in the US Air Force from 1959 to 1963 when Andy requested a grant for his research. He received it. That started the friendship and it continued with Erna, Alan, Audrey, Valerie and all the grandchildren to this day. I do not remember when we first met Erna but it had to be at a meeting of the IEEE Information Theory that we all attended on and off since its inception. Each meeting was held in some unusual place and both families used this time to travel with and without the children every eighteen months. We visited Italy, Israel, England, etc. We lived on the East coast and the Viterbis lived in California so we did not see them very often but when we did we had lots of fun, political discussions and memories. Some of our more humorous times were on these trips.

In Brighton, England, Andy insisted on gambling with a gypsy machine whose award was gumballs. Another was an incident in a luxury hotel on Lake Luzern where they accused Jack of stealing a bathrobe. Erna explained in Italian that he did not and they could look in our luggage if they didn’t believe him. One of our most memorable trips was a meal at a Japanese home with a huge bowl of marinated horsemeat. Erna declined the portion saying she was not hungry but she would like a beer. If you knew her well you know she would never drink any alcohol. Andy declined as well. I said I was a vegetarian (which I am not) and Jack ate an entire portion of the horsemeat. From that day, each time we went to a restaurant Erna would ask Jack if they had horsemeat on the menu. We attended all weddings, bar mitzvàs, and many family affairs.

I visited weekly with Lenka, Erna’s mother and Maria, Andy’s mother. The most memorable trip was to see Andy’s home in Bergamo and the places where Erna lived when the family fled Yugoslavia. We came to San Diego on a sabbatical due to our friendship. We spent a wonderful year there. Jack consulted for Linkabit and did research at UCSD. Our friendship flourished. When the opportunity arose for us to make a permanent move it was to San Diego. Jack taught at UCSD and consulted with Qualcomm where his boss was Andy. They accepted us as family and it has been that way since—through good and bad days—with our children and grandchildren as good friends. Erna was a constant presence in our lives and we all miss her. This tribute to her love for Judaism and tradition is a way for all of us to remember her.

Toby Wolf, San Diego, January 2016

Back To Top