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Arnold Spielberg, father of Steven Spielberg, dies at 103

Steven was with his father on the night of his death, according to a statement, telling him, "You are our hearth. You are our home."
"The Land Before Time" Los Angeles Premiere
Director Steven Spielberg and father Arnold Spielberg attend "The Land Before Time" Los Angeles Premiere on November 12, 1988.Ron Galella, Ltd. / Getty Images

Arnold Spielberg, the father of filmmaker Steven Spielberg, died on Tuesday of natural causes, Variety has learned. He was 103.

Steven was with his father on the night of his death, according to a statement, telling him, "You are our hearth. You are our home." He also said of his father, who was an engineer at General Electric, "When I see a PlayStation, when I look at a cell phone -- from the smallest calculator to an iPad -- I look at my dad and I say, 'My dad and a team of geniuses started that.'"

In addition to Steven, he had three daughters, Anne, Nancy and Sue. In a joint statement, Spielberg's children said their father taught them to "love to research, expand their mind, keep their feet on the ground, but reach for the stars [and] look up."

"Thank you for my life. I love you, Dad, Daddy, Daddelah. And then so then, and then so then, what happens next..." they told him at his bedside.

Spielberg was born on Feb. 6, 1917, in Cincinnati, Ohio, and soon developed a passion for learning and innovation. At age 6, he turned his family's attic into a makeshift lab and crafted inventions, inviting his friends over to hold onto the electrodes of a shock machine he made out of wiring batteries together. At age 12, he got his first ham radio, which opened the door to a lifetime of sharing stories with strangers over the airwaves.

The love of storytelling was something he passed on to his children. "He made friends over the radio. He heard from people he never knew existed. He connected with strangers and this affability is something he carried over into real life, often befriending another person in line at Starbucks or the table next to him," his daughter Sue said.

In December of 1941, Spielberg enlisted as a sergeant in the Army, going on to work as a radio operator and chief communications man for the 490th Bomb Squadron, also known as the "Burma Bridge Busters."

When Spielberg returned from the war in 1945, he married Leah Posner, who was a talented concert pianist, and Steven was born the following year. Their children grew up in an environment that encouraged both logical reasoning and marching to the beat of their own drums. Spielberg returned to school and received a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cincinnati.

Upon graduating in 1949, he got a job at RCA in Camden, New Jersey. He worked on RCA's first commercial and business computer, the RCA BIZMAC, in the early days of computing. In 1956, he joined General Electric and helped design the GE-200 series of mainframe computers.

Spielberg's career in electronics also brought him to Electronic Arrays, SDS, Burroughs and IBM, taking him all around the world. He also won the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer's Computer Pioneer Award.

In 2012, Spielberg was recognized by the Shoah Foundation Institute of the University of Southern California for his promotion of humanity through technology, his years of mentorship and his cataloguing and organizing of Holocaust testimonials.

Until his final days, Spielberg would take online classes in everything from thermodynamics to history to astronomy. With his children, he would watch movies, listen to classical music and spend time on his patio overlooking the Pacific Palisades.

Spielberg is preceded in death by his brother, Irvin "Buddy" Spielberg, his wife, Bernice Colner Spielberg, and his first wife, Leah Spielberg Adler. He is survived by his children, film director Steven Spielberg (wife, Kate Capshaw); screenwriter Anne Spielberg (husband, Danny Opatoshu); marketing executive Sue Spielberg (husband Jerry Pasternak); and producer Nancy Spielberg (husband Shimon Katz). He is also survived by 4 stepchildren, 11 grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren, and countless adoring cousins, nieces, and nephews.

Due to the circumstances and safety precautions around the ongoing pandemic, a celebration of life will be held at a later date, tentatively set for fall of 2021 and aligned with the Jewish tradition of unveiling the headstone. The Spielberg family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans or the Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America.