Ilan Levi

Obituary of Ilan Levi

Ilan Levi lived life to the fullest despite his long-term struggle with Parkinson’s Disease. He passed away peacefully at home on June 22, 2023.

Born in Israel on July 17, 1943, as the son of German immigrants, Ilan grew up in farming community. In 1956, he emigrated with his parents and brother to New York City, where the ever-resilient Ilan adapted quickly to his new language and urban environment. He graduated in 1961 from The Cooper Union, where he pursued his lifelong love of engineering. Then it was off to graduate school in Aeronautical Engineering at Stanford University to earn a PhD in 1969. While at Stanford, he fell in love with California and especially Yosemite National Park, where he was to backpack throughout his life. He also fell in love with a fellow grad student, Barbara, with whom he shared the rest of his life.

Ilan spent his 27-year career at Bell Labs developing numerous telephone products. He was most proud of his leadership of the Merlin phones, which provided small businesses with multiple lines and access to many features previously only available to large businesses. He relished spotting “his” Merlin phones at a restaurant or on the set of a TV show. Ilan was an effective and respected leader, becoming a Lab Director at Bell Labs.

When Ilan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1991, he had a remarkably positive attitude from the start: He wasn’t going to fret over things he couldn’t change but instead would try to live the fullest life possible. He loved playing tennis, biking, hiking and camping. He and Barbara traveled extensively to places of scenic beauty.  

In 1994, Ilan took early retirement so that he and Barbara could move to Santa Barbara, where Ilan promptly became active in the Newcomers Club, the UCSB Community Affiliates and SCORE. He helped lead the Parkinson Association of Santa Barbara and started their early-stage Parkinson’s support group. Friends and family loved Ilan for his kind, warm and gentle disposition and admired him for his perseverance in the face of physical challenges. 

Ilan was an avid photographer. He loved to capture the beautiful scenery wherever he went. And he took great pleasure in documenting special events for friends and family. 

Ilan was a devoted husband, father and grandfather, cherishing every moment with his loved ones. Family trips included rafting through the Grand Canyon, skiing in Colorado, house boating on Lake Powell, hiking in Sun Valley and revisiting his childhood haunts in Israel. Even after 26 years with PD, Ilan was zip-lining and white-water rafting in Yellowstone National Park.

Ilan is survived by his wife Barbara of 57 years; his son and daughter-in-law, Daniel and Jennifer Levi; his daughter and son-in-law, Sharon and Jason Hughes; his four grandchildren Jack and Tyler Hughes and Adelle and Braun Levi; and his brother and sister-in-law, Ron and Carol Levi. The family is grateful to Ilan’s wonderful caregivers Dan, Javier and Luis. 

In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Parkinson Association of Santa Barbara, the Yosemite Conservancy or Direct Relief.

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A Memorial Tree was planted for Ilan
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at McDermott-Crockett & Associates Mortuary
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