AUBURN — Irving Isaacson, lawyer, soldier, entrepreneur, philanthropist and spy, passed away peacefully at Hospice House in Auburn, Wednesday, March 28. He was born at home in Auburn, Aug. 7, 1915, to Peter A. Isaacson and Dorothy Day Isaacson. He graduated from the brand-new Lewiston High School in 1932, and from Bates College, where he was a proud “townie,” in 1936, and Harvard Law School in 1939.

He practiced law briefly, from 1939 to 1940, but with war looming, he did the “romantic thing” and enlisted, as a private, in the National Guard before the U.S. had a draft. He was swiftly drawn into Officer Candidate School, Class No. 11. Eventually there were 450. He was trained as a communications officer and was posted to England as a replacement officer for projected D-Day casualties. He left the service as a major.

Unexpectedly, he got orders, which he assumed were in error, to report to the English headquarters of the OSS, the wartime predecessor of the CIA. He was commando trained to parachute behind enemy lines, promoted to captain and sent to Holland, where he helped support the Dutch resistance.

After the war’s end, on his own initiative, he moved to East Germany, on the border of the Russian and American zones to organize spying on the Russians. He and his friend, his staff sergeant, roamed Eastern Europe, drinking vodka, toasting friendship and gathering information on Russian troop movements while hobnobbing with Russian officers. As he explains in his book, “Memoirs of an Amateur Spy,” he was, literally, the first Cold War spy. His reports made it to President Truman’s desk, the first indicators of Russian intentions in Europe.

In destroyed Leipzig, he met Jutka Magyar, a survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp and the slave labor camp in Hessich-Lichtenau. She was tall and beautiful. He was short, rugged and cute. They were married in the bombed-out Nuremberg City Hall on Dec. 24, 1945. They were married for 70 years and had three children. When asked how long they were married, he always answered, “Not long enough.” Judith Isaacson predeceased him in November 2015.

After the war, he returned to Lewiston and joined his father in the law firm of Brann and Isaacson. He practiced corporate and commercial law, serving local entrepreneurs, whose work he admired. He was an assistant district attorney for Androscoggin County and the Auburn municipal judge. Early on, he was counsel to the emerging Maine chicken and egg industry. In his case, the chickens came first. He eventually organized the United Egg Producers, the national egg association on whose behalf he traveled the country. L.L. Bean became his client in 1966, early in its growth, and he was counsel to the company for many years. He was a serial entrepreneur and loved the excitement of business and took great pleasure in his own businesses and the businesses of his sons, and was the early inspiration for the Miller-Hydro Group and a founding member in 1980 with his son, Mark.

He wrote steadily and was the author of “Manual for the Arresting Officer,” “Manual for the Conservation Officer,” “Legal Driving” and “Memoirs of an Amateur Spy.”

He practiced law for 65 years, stepping aside in 2010 at the age of 95, when his eyesight failed.

He was a metalworker and blacksmith for most of his adult life, and only stopped at 95 when hammering hot metal, brass and copper grew hazardous. He loved tools and projects. He was never without a project; the more exotic, the better. He rarely owned a canoe or boat he had not built, and welded his children’s jungle gym in his shop.

He held all conventional wisdom in low regard, especially relating to grammatical usage in foreign languages. Nevertheless, he was able to communicate in German, French, Yiddish and Dutch. He courted Jutka in German, French and eventually English.

He was devoted to family, friendship, gardens, crafts and reading — especially history — and loved a good story.

He died of old age, a condition to which he subscribed very briefly.

He is survived by his sister, Shirley Nadel; his children, John Isaacson and his wife, Consuelo Isaacson, Ilona Bell and her husband, Robert Bell, and Mark Isaacson and his wife, Karen Herold; his eight grandchildren, Peter Isaacson and his wife, Kate Burgess, Morgan Faust, Tess Isaacson and her wife, Deirdre Goode, Kaitlin Bell Barnett and her husband, Michael Barnett, Max Isaacson, Amanda Bell and her husband, Leo Goldmakher, Anna Isaacson and her husband, Sam Lasser, and Noah Isaacson and his partner, Hania Flaten; and two great-grandchildren, Nora Barnett and Jack Faust.

Condolences and directions to the service may be found online at

Irving D. Isaacson

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