In Remembrance: Gilbert Freitag ’68PhD Died on June 15 2023

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Gil Freitag passed away peacefully in his sleep at his home in Vista, California, on the morning of June 15, 2023, after a very short battle with undetected metastatic melanoma. He lived an otherwise healthy and active life to the age of 82. Gil will be remembered as a kind, thoughtful, and compassionate human who dedicated his personal and professional life to helping others, especially children with special needs. 

Freitag was a clinical psychologist who received his diploma from Compton High School and then graduated magna cum laude in psychology from the University California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1962 where he coauthored seminal work on “applied behavior analysis (ABA) for childhood schizophrenia” under the mentorship of Dr. O. Ivar Lovaas. He then earned his PhD in psychology from Yale University in 1968 where he authored “an experimental study of the social responsiveness of children with autistic behaviors.” Freitag returned to Los Angeles to become an associate professor at UCLA, and concurrently joined the staff of the Fernald Child Care Center where he was the director for ten years. He then became the executive director of the Dubnoff Center for Child Development for 20 years, where he advanced their curriculum and expanded their services. He spearheaded individualized educational programs (IEPs) and in-classroom support from early childhood through adulthood, including sponsoring several residential group homes that empowered adults with special needs to maintain employment and live independently, with supervision. 

Dr. Freitag served on numerous special education committees for the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and as board president for the California Association of Private Special Education Schools (CAPSES) whose mission is to promote the delivery of quality special-education instruction and services in both private and public education sectors. He continued to sponsor graduate students in clinical psychology at UCLA and then UCSD, even past retirement. Throughout his career, Freitag maintained a private clinical practice supporting families with special-needs children, focusing primarily on an underserved population with limited financial means, accepting Medicaid/Medicare, and never turning away any patient, even if they couldn’t pay for his services.

Gil was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on March 30, 1941, to his mother Helen Witzenfeld and father Howard Freitag, and is survived by his older brother, Craig. Gil leaves behind the love of his life, Marilyn Freitag, with whom he shared more than 64 years, and their dog Ruby. Gil and Marilyn raised their family in Woodland Hills, California, and retired to Vista. Gil is survived by his son Eric and his wife Jil Sue Weinstock; his son Darin and his wife Lisa; and his daughter Susan Jennifer Freitag and her partner, Cyrani Ackerman; and by his three grandchildren: Eloise Weinstock Freitag, Ryder Weinstock Freitag, and Oscar Freitag. 

Gil loved the outdoors, hiking and backpacking throughout the Los Angeles foothills and Sierra Nevadas. He was an avid gardener, amateur botanist, and active member of the Vista Garden Club, where he was a blue-ribbon winner in several categories, including his wisteria, amaryllis, and several varieties of flowering succulents. He was an active participant in his local community, perhaps as another way to nurture and take care of others. 

Dr. Gil Freitag was the epitome of a mensch, a particularly good person, a person of integrity, morality, dignity, with a sense of what is right and responsible, someone to admire and emulate, someone honorable and having strength of character. Gil will always be remembered as a gentle, considerate, and loving husband, father, brother, uncle, colleague, and friend. May he rest in peace knowing that he was loved and respected by so many people with whom he sat with, listened to, walked with, and talked to.

—Submitted by the family.

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