Pleasanton Weekly

Community Pulse - February 12, 2010


Cengiz (James) Gulek

Cengiz (James) Gulek died Jan. 17 in Long Beach with his younger sister Gulay by his side after losing his brief battle with cancer. He was 41.

Mr. Gulek was born Feb. 1, 1968 in the town of Meric, Turkey. He attended Bosporus University for his undergraduate and master's degrees. He came to the United States of America in 1994 on scholarship and attended Boston College where he received his Educational Doctorate degree. He pursued his passion for teaching at St. Mary's College, where he helped other students along the path to earning their Educational Doctorate degrees.

While working at the Pleasanton Unified School District as the director of assessment, he proudly became a U.S. citizen. Mr. Gulek shared his love of dancing by organizing a Turkish folk dancing group made up of students from UC Berkeley and Stanford University. He organized an international dance festival in Pleasanton at the Amador Theater and then took his dancers to the International Dance Festival in San Francisco where they received top honors. Mr. Gulek was a very special and unique person with a zest for life; he made friends wherever he went. He was most recently working in Long Beach as the assistant superintendent of assessment and evaluation.

He is survived by his mother and many beloved family members in Turkey and Germany; he will truly be missed by friends, co-workers and family from all corners of the world. Services will be held in Turkey.

Beatrice J. Backer

Beatrice J. Backer, a longtime resident of Pleasanton and Livermore, died Feb. 1 at the age of 94.

Mrs. Backer was born Sept 16, 1915 and is survived by two daughters, five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren,

She will be missed greatly.

Max William Biggs

Max William Biggs died Jan. 14 with his family by his side at the age of 89.

Dr. Biggs was born Aug. 4, 1920 in Cleveland, Ohio. He grew up near Akron, Ohio and graduated from Stowe High School. He graduated from Depauw University, where he majored in chemistry and exhibited his superb athletic skills, playing collegiate football, basketball and baseball. In his junior year, he was named All-State-Indiana in basketball.

He attended Harvard Medical School earning his M.D. in 1945. He was in the U.S. Navy at the time, and during his internship at the University of Chicago, he met the soon-to-be Mrs. Biggs, Joanne, to whom he was married for 62 years. After his naval service, he and Joanne moved to San Francisco, where he was a resident at Stanford University. He furthered his education, acquiring a Ph.D. in medical physics from UC Berkeley in 1954. Dr. Biggs was a medical director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1955-1980. His passion was medical research and he continued his research on melanoma at UCSF long after his retirement.

He lived in Pleasanton for the past 54 years. A member of the Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, he strongly supported music and arts in the schools.

Dr. Biggs was an accomplished sailor and crewed on numerous transpacific and Mexican yacht races. He sailed his own boat, the Hibiscus, a Lapworth 36 from San Francisco to Tahiti via the Marquesas islands and back through the Hawaiian islands. He was never happier than when he was sailing on San Francisco Bay wearing his foul weather gear, keeling over in the wind and cold, salt water splashing his face. He will be missed for his intelligent approach to life and acute sense of humor.

He is survived by his wife, Joanne; children, Paula, Blake and Will; four grandchildren, Alison and Barry Biggs and Carmen and Robert Tebbe.

Donations in his memory may be made to PCAC, Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council, P.O. Box 1298, Pleasanton, CA 94566.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

I don't know that many in this community would have met or known Cengiz Gulek, so proud to have become an American citizen that he changed his name to James; yet an avid Turkish dancer, his heritage. He worked as the assessment and evaluation person in PUSD before moving to Long Beach. Hands down, he was one of the nicest people I ever met.

Posted by PUSD employee, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 15, 2010 at 6:20 pm

I agree with Kathleen, Cengiz was a kind, gentle man. In my dealings with him I found he always listened to teachers, My condolences to his family.

Posted by Nancy Finney, a resident of another community
on Jul 6, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Dr. Gulek assisted me with obtaining my master's degree in educational leadership.

He was a wonderful man and will be deeply missed.

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