Remembering Steve Laner, World War II veteran and industrial psychologist with a sharp sense of humor

Stephen (Steve) Laner died peacefully in his home in Berkeley on Dec. 20. He was 99.

Steve was born in 1920 in Znojmo, Czechoslovakia to Anna and Emil Laner. He is survived by his son, James Robert (Devra) Laner, his daughter Katherine Frances Laner, his grandchildren Jonathan Laner, Arielle Laner, Maya Laner, Daniel Laner, and Lily Bocker, his nephew, Tom (Wendy) Korner, his niece, Ann (Sidney) Altman, and several grand-nieces and -nephews.  He was preceded in death by his beloved wife, Margaret (Peggie) Laner, and his son, Michael Ross Laner.

Steve fled his native Czechoslovakia for England at the age of 19 in the face of the Nazi invasion and occupation. He lost his entire family, with the exception of his sister and a few cousins, in the Holocaust. Steve served with a Czech contingent of the British Army during World War II.  He met his wife Peggie while posted in her native town of Lowestoft, in Suffolk. The pair were married in England on Aug. 10, 1945. After the war, Steve and Peggie moved to Prague, where Steve studied at Charles University and worked as a journalist, but they returned to England after the Communist coup.

Steve received his PhD in psychology from the University of Reading, England in 1956. He and Peggie moved to Berkeley in 1965 with their two younger children, and he taught industrial psychology for several years at the College of Engineering at U.C. Berkeley.  He subsequently worked in the management sciences division at the U.S. Forest Service office in Berkeley until his retirement.

Steve was a unique and endearing man, with a fierce intellect and a sharp sense of humor.  He spoke Czech, English, and German fluently, and was proficient in French.  In his 90s, he took up the study of Spanish. Steve could often be found quietly reading in his chair (with pipe in hand, before Peggie prevailed upon him to quit). Steve and Peggie enjoyed backpacking in the Sierra Nevada mountains together and walking by the bay in Berkeley’s Aquatic Park. Steve also enjoyed mortifying his daughter as a teen by loudly singing Czech folk songs while ice skating with her and her friends. Steve was generous and always looked out for others less fortunate than himself.  He adored Peggie and cared for her at home until her death from Alzheimer’s in 2009.

Steve requested that there not be any public service, but donations may be made in his memory to Planned Parenthood, the Alzheimer’s Association, or a charity of your choice.