¡David Wald, Presente!
David in Havana wearing the Medalla de la Amistad
David Wald began his travels at the age of 17, as a mess hall worker in the merchant marine, after graduating from Brooklyn Technical High School in 1945. He sailed to ports in Europe, Africa and South America over the next several years, eventually becoming a second assistant engineer.
His studies of mechanical engineering (B.S.) took him to Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, and aeronautical engineering (M.S.) to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Stanford University. A reluctant draftee, he spent 22 months testing tanks for the U.S. Army, and later worked for United Aircraft's Pratt and Whitney Division in Connecticut, before moving to California in 1959, for a position at NASA-Ames Research Center in Mountain View.
From 1963 until last year he ran his one-person firm out of his garage; he manufactured flow nozzles and differential temperature devices, and supplied them to universities and research laboratories around the world.
David's political awareness started in early childhood, strongly influenced by the socialist views of his father, Philip Wald, an immigrant from Poland who died when David was 9. Only after his death did Esther, David's mother, learn that her husband had trained as a rabbi. Like the neighbors who sought him out to settle disputes, she had known him as an atheist with a talent for conflict resolution.
As a union steward in the National Maritime Union (CIO), David took part in labor struggles while in the merchant marine. Later, in Santa Clara County, he served on the California Democratic Council and became CDC director in the old Ninth Congressional District, but switched to the Peace and Freedom Party in 1970. With his help, the signature drive for the 1972 San Jose Peace Initiative put the measure on the ballot and it passed overwhelmingly, making San Jose one of three U.S. cities to officially oppose the Vietnam War.
He was P&F candidate for U.S. Senate in 1976, 1980 and 1982, and in 1978 won more than 270,000 votes when he ran for California Secretary of State. In 1992 he challenged Anna Eshoo for U.S. Congress. For two years, David served in the Community Alert Patrol, a citizens group that monitored police activity in the east San Jose community. Most recently, through radiation and chemotherapy, he continued to work with the South Bay peace and justice groups, especially Healthcare for All-California (promoting the bill for universal, single-payer health care to cover all residents of California).
More than once, during his political campaigns, he was asked, Are you a serious candidate or are you just running on the issues? The only serious answer was both the issues included, over the years, end U.S. intervention in other countries (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Grenada, Vietnam, to mention a few), transfer funds from the military to the creation of socially useful jobs at union wages, pass the Equal Rights Amendment (make 24-childcare available free), nationalize the energy industry (develop renewable energy sources),.defend all peoples right of sexual identity.
In December 1982, David and his new wife, Joan Bazar (he had been married before, to Renee Krieger Wald, with whom he had two sons, Philip and Keith) went on a Caribbean honeymoonto Nicaragua and Cuba. He returned to Nicaragua many times over the next few years, with generators to install in 14 hospitals, gifts of the Bay Area's Nicaragua Hospital Emergency Generator Project.
In 1994, on a Global Exchange trip challenging the ban on travel to Cuba, he met Contra Costa County epidemiologist Dr. Juan Reardon, and the two of them, returning to Cuba the following year, met with Dr. Oramas Ojito and Pedro Urra. They learned of a new project underway on the island, to give doctors Internet access to the latest scientific information. But there was a shortage of terminals for the hospitals and medical schools, the Cubans said.
With this news, Juan and David returned to California, and as USA-Cuba InfoMed, began gathering old computers, and volunteers to repair them, and people who would donate workspaces. The project drew worldwide attention when an early shipment of refurbished old computers, on a caravan organized by Pastors for Peace, was intercepted. U.S. officials confiscated the computers in a standoff at the U.S.-Mexico border, finally releasing them after a 90-day hunger strike by five members of Pastors for Peace. The computers and activists boarded a Cubana plane in Tijuana, and received a warm welcome in Havana. By 2005, the Bay Area group had shipped several thousand computer systems to Infomed in Havana.
A double-whammy, of USA-Cuba InfoMed losing its warehouse space at the Port of Oakland, and the U.S. imposing new obstacles in the group's way, meant that in 2006 a large number of refurbished computers were being evicted from Oakland, but could not travel to Cuba. This led to what David came to call the best shipment evera huge shipment of computers to La Paz, for use in Bolivia's medical system. Cuban medical personnel were already involved in Bolivia, assisting the newly elected president, Evo Morales, in his efforts to give the poor access to education and health care.
With all of the USA-Cuba InfoMed volunteers, David felt grateful to have played some small part in the success of Cubas Infomed. Spreading information technology throughout the island and helping other countries to get started in similar projects, led to Cuba's Infomed being honored with the prestigious Stockholm Award in 2002.
In June 2006, while David was hospitalized for pancreatic cancer surgery, he was heartened to receive a photo showing Pedro Urra and the Cuban Infomed staff sending him good wishes. He had been to Cuba more than two dozen times since his first visit in 1978. In December 2007 he and Joan made a farewell visit to Havana, where Infomed celebrated its 15th anniversary with a week of events during which David was presented with a plaque and a medal from the Cuban Ministry of Public Health for being an essential part of Infomed and for being an eternal friend and brother of the Cuban Revolution. Typically, he paid tribute to the other volunteers of the Bay Area support group and especially to the Cuban informatics project which gave him the opportunity to do something useful for others.
David with Joan in Watsonville, California
Born 2-19-1928 in Brooklyn NY (parents were immigrants from Poland)
Died 5-18-2008 in Santa Clara (at home, from pancreatic cancer, diagnosed in 2006)
Resident of Santa Clara County since 1959
Survived by wife, Joan Bazar; sons Philip Wald of Pleasanton, Keith Wald of Santa Clara; grandson, Jacob Wald of Pleasanton; stepdaughters, Annelise Bazar of Santa Clara, Julia Bazar of Berkeley
Celebration of life: 2 p.m. Sunday, July 13, in International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 332 Hall, 2125 Canoas Garden Road, San Jose. Doors open 1:30 p.m.
Memorial donations may be made to San Jose Peace and Justice Center, 48 S. 7th St., #101, San Jose CA 95112 or to Healthcare for All, with the notation 'Restricted to Santa Clara County Chapter Media Fund' in the memo line and mailed to Berget Jelane, at 523 Winterberry Way, San Jose 95129. Call 408-243-4359 for information.