December 10, 2009


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Benjamin Labaree, engineer

Benjamin Labaree, 100, of Mt. Airy, an engineer known as “Mr. Summit” for his long involvement in Summit Presbyterian Church in Mt Airy, died Nov. 9 of pneumonia at Chestnut Hill Hospital.

Mr. Labaree worked for 37 years at the Budd Co. in Philadelphia, where he was chief engineer of the railway division and a member of the team that helped to develop San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system.

When he retired from the Budd Co. in 1970, Mr. Labaree became treasurer and building administrator for Summit Presbyterian Church, which he did full-time until well into his 90s. In this position, he dealt with the needs of the many Mt. Airy community groups who used Summit as their base or meeting place, using his engineering skills to maintain the slowly aging physical plant and serving as de facto greeter of all with needs related to the church and its facilities.

Mr. Labaree and his wife, Jean, were involved in the West Mt. Airy community after settling there in 1940. Both were active in the Home and School Association at Henry School, but their greatest contributions of time and energy were to Summit Church, where both taught Sunday School classes through their 80s and served as Elders, Deacons, choir members, Presbytery delegates and unofficial office coordinators.

He was born in Urumia, in what is now Iran, of missionary parents who were serving there. At the outbreak of World War I, his mother took the couple’s three children back to the United States by way of Russia and England to avoid the combat zone. After the war his father became a professor at Lincoln University, where the children were raised.

Mr. Labaree graduated from Princeton University with a degree in German, then received two additional bachelor’s degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering from the University of Michigan.

Offered a job by the Budd Co. at the height of the Depression in 1933, he pushed back the starting date for three months so that he could spend the summer collecting botanical specimens in Alaska, an experience that he turned into a book.

Active in the civil rights movements, he took part in the 1963 march on Washington.

He was an avid pilot of gliders and engine-driven airplanes, a cellist and photographer.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by sons Benjamin Jr., of Huntsville, Ala., Robert of Boston, David of California and four grandchildren.

A memorial service on Nov. 21 was attended by more than 100 family and friends.

Dr. Wayne Diamond, physician

Dr. Wayne Diamond, 64, a naturopathic physician and psychotherapist who practiced in Chestnut Hill for more than 27 years, died Nov. 30 of end stage myelofibrosis at his home in Ambler.

Dr. Diamond, who combined psychotherapy with natural medicine, appeared frequently on television, lectured and published articles on all aspects of preventative natural medicine and physiological and psychological healing.

He had been selected by Philadelphia’s family court system as half of a team to start a revolutionary form of mediation for child custody and support that would cut court time and costs as well as heal families undergoing breakup.

He also had worked as a teaching consultant in the Department of Psychology at Princeton University and with several members of the Philadelphia Eagles football team.

Using his expertise in naturopathy, Dr. Diamond developed his own vitamin formulations, and in 1990 started Diamond Herpanacine Associates, a vitamin company that markets these formulations.

Dr. Diamond was a graduate of Central High School and held degrees from Temple University, Bernadene University and the University of London

He is survived by his wife, the former Leslie A. Goldberg; a son, Jay S. Jacobs, of Jenkintown; a daughter, Deborah Wagner, of  Abington; sisters Patty Bush, Linda Leon and Randi Wellner, and two grandchildren.

A memorial gathering was held Dec. 5 at Abington Friends Meetinghouse in Jenkintown.

Memorial donations may be made to Philabundance, 3616 S. Galloway St., Philadelphia, PA 19148 (

– WF 


Rev. Dr. John A. Kaufmann, registrar

The Rev. Dr. John Augustus Kaufmann, 89, of Mt. Airy, who served for 44 years as registrar at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, died Dec. 5 of kidney failure at the Hospice of Philadelphia Inpatient Center in East Falls.

Although his official title was “registrar,” Dr. Kauffman for many years carried out a variety of duties at the Mt. Airy institution, among them overseeing food service, managing buildings and grounds maintenance, serving as treasurer and handling public relations.

He also held the post of bursar, was liaison to the president from the faculty, was alumni secretary and handled admissions.

Dr. Kaufmann retired as registrar in 1990, but until slowed down recently by illness, he still could be found most days in his office on the seminary campus, carrying out special assignments for seminary president Philip D. W. Krey.

After retirement, he continued to live on the seminary campus, where he also worked with the seminary’s board of trustees and was involved with the construction of the Wiedemann Center and the Brossman Center.

Dr. Kaufmann graduated summa cum laude from Lehigh University and from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. After ordination, while awaiting a call from a small congregation, he was invited to be seminary registrar and treasurer.

Dr. Kaufmann’s wife, Doris, and one of his two sons, Alan, died in1993. He is survived by a son, Bruce, of Philadelphia.

A memorial service will be scheduled at the Chapel of the Lutheran Theological Seminary. Memorial donations may be made to John A. Kaufmann Enrollment Services Center at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, 7301 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19119, or online at             – WF


William L. Mobraaten, executive

William L. Mobraaten, 80, formerly of Chestnut Hill, a retired telephone company executive, died Nov. 25 from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in Santa Barbara, Calif., where he had been living for the past 12 years.

When he retired in 1987, Mr. Mobraaten was vice chairman of Bell Atlantic. Earlier he had been president of Bell of Pennsylvania and treasurer of AT&T. In these positions he worked to break the business barriers for women and minorities.

He had been active in the Boy Scouts of America and had received the organization’s Silver Beaver Award for his dedication. He had also served on the board of directors of the Milton Hershey School, a privately endowed foundation for the education of orphaned children.

Mr. Mobraaten graduated from Harvard University with a degree in engineering and served in the Marines for two years.

He is survived by his wife, Cynthia; sons David and Robert; brothers Richard and Larry, and five grandchildren.

Memorial services were held Dec. 1 at the Montecito Covenant Church. Memorial donations may be made to Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Santa Barbara, 222 East Canon Perdido St., Santa Barbara, CA 93101-2283 (, to the Milton Hershey School, P.O. Box 830, Hershey PA 17033-0830 (, or to the Boy Scouts of America (             —WF



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