Community Invited To Hear Panel Of Los Alamos Residents Who Witnessed WWII At Lecture Sept. 8


The Los Alamos Historical Society announces its 2015-2016 lecture series, “70 Years Since World War II.”

We are honored to have a panel of Los Alamos residents who witnessed World War II in quite different ways. Young Mary Zemach was hiking with her botanist father in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was bombed. Mia McLeod was not yet a teenager in Holland when the Nazis occupied her country.

As an 18-year-old, Joe Bergstein survived the Bataan Death March and spent the next four years as a prisoner-of-war in the Philippines and Japan. Joe’s brother Ivan (Chick) Bergstein entered Europe through Normandy in December 1944 and was engaged in the infamous Battle of the Bulge.

Moderator Ellen Bradbury Reid grew up in Los Alamos where her father worked on the Manhattan Project. She is the founder and director of Recursos de Santa Fe, dedicated to the exploration of the cultures and environments of the Southwest.

“World War II Witness Panel”

  • Mary Zemach;
  • Mia McLeod;
  • Joe Bergstein; and
  • Ivan (Chick) Bergstein.

Ellen Bradbury Reid will moderate the panel at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 8 with a reception at 6:30 p.m. at Fuller Lodge in Los Alamos.


Joe Bergstein was born in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, the 12th of 14 kids. He enlisted in the Army Signal Corp in February, 1941, went to the Philippine Islands in July, and was captured on Bataan on April 9, 1942. He endured various prison-of-war camps and was liberated September 1945. After the war, he earned a BS in physics and math from Washington & Lee University and an MS in physics from Vanderbilt University.  He worked at Los Alamos Scientific/National Laboratory from 1953 until 1987, when he retired. He resides in Los Alamos with his lovely wife Fran; they have four children.

Mia McLeod was born in the Netherlands in 1930. Her father was a school principal, and her mother was a teacher. Mia, her parents, and her brother and sister had a happy life until 1940 when the Germans invaded Netherlands. Her father was a political prisoner for a year and almost died. The family barely survived. After the war, Mia was offered a scholarship to NE Missouri State. In 1954, she graduated from the University of Missouri with honors in pre-med and Physical Education, studying PT at the Cleveland Clinic and passing her boards. She married John McLeod in 1954, and they moved to Los Alamos in 1960. Mia received her MS in Physiology at the University of New Mexico in 1982. She worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory on GenBank, first retiring in 1992 and then again in 1998.

Mary Zemach was born in Honolulu. Her father, Harold St. John, was chairman of the University of Hawaii’s botany department. On one Sunday each month, her father would lead students and interested family members on a field trip in the mountains of of Oahu. Two days after her 11th birthday, on her father’s field trip Dec. 7, 1941, they observed the Pearl Harbor attack from the Waianae Mountains a few miles away. Mary graduated from Radcliffe College with a degree in biology, and worked in medical research laboratories in Boston, Philadelphia, and Berkeley, California, where her husband Charles Zemach was a physics professor. They had their three children while at Berkeley. They moved to Washington, D.C., in 1970, where Mary led cub scouts and girl scouts and Charles served in the State Department working on the SALT negotiations with the Soviet Union. They moved to Los Alamos in 1976, where Mary, now a “Living Treasure,” founded the Jemez House Thrift Shop in White Rock and distributed food to food banks. Mary converted her garden into a “permaculture demonstration site,” which has been featured in several garden books and has had about 1,700 visitors. Mary and Charles are retired and are enjoying traveling and living happily ever after.

Ivan (Chick) Bergstein is now 91 years old. In 1941, he dropped out of high school and joined the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). He joined the Army in March 1942 and entered the European theater of WWII as part of the 6th Armored Division. He left the Army in 1945 and finished high school in 1948. He went to Washington & Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, and then, in 1953, he joined the accounting staff at what is now Los Alamos National Laboratory, serving as Payroll group leader the last 17 years of his career. In Los Alamos, Ivan met and married Charlotte, who had two children. He earned his name “Chick” by being the youngest member in his Army outfit.

Visit for a listing and schedule of all lectures and events. The lectures typically are at the Fuller Lodge at 7:30 p.m. on the second Tuesday of the month.

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