Haskell Askin, D.D.S., a 9/11 World Trade Center first responder, passed away on January 27, 2011 from esophageal cancer. He was 75. Born in Buffalo, NY on January 12, 1936, he moved to New Jersey in 1949. Dr. Askin practiced general dentistry for nearly 40 years in Brick, NJ and was a pioneer in the field of forensic odontology. He served as the chief forensic odontologist for the Philadelphia, PA Medical Examiner’s Office for more than 25 years. His contributions to the profession were featured in numerous newspaper articles, books, textbooks, and television programs.
As a dental identification expert, Dr. Askin assisted many local, state, and federal agencies. His interpretation of forensic evidence confirmed the identities of missing persons and disaster victims, helped living and murdered crime victims by confirming the identities of perpetrators, and aided innocent suspects by clearing them from suspicion. Additionally, Dr. Askin testified often in both criminal and civil courts. His testimony concerning bite mark evidence in the Megan Kanka murder case was instrumental in the conviction of her murderer and, ultimately, the creation of Megan’s Law, requiring the registration of sex offenders.
Dr. Askin served as a tour commander/supervisor for the Office of Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York, facilitating the identification of 9/11 World Trade Center victims and American Airlines Flight 587 victims later that year. As a member of the federal Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT), he was deployed to Mississippi and Louisiana to aid in the identification of Hurricane Katrina’s fatalities in 2005. He identified the Jackson, NJ Six Flags Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire victims in 1984 and the Philadelphia M.O.V.E. disaster fatalities in 1985, as well as victims of numerous small and large plane crashes.
A past president of the American Society of Forensic Odontology, Dr. Askin received the organization’s Service Award in 1992. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences and, in 2007, received its Lester Luntz Award in recognition of service to the field of Odontology. A diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Odontology, he was also past president of the New York Society of Forensic Dentistry.
Dr. Askin was a member of the Vidocq Society, an international forensics organization whose members examine unsolved crimes and provide guidance to law enforcement agencies on a pro bono basis. He received the Society’s Medal of Honor in 2000 and its Service Award in 2009.
In addition, Dr. Askin was an internationally renowned lecturer on the processing and evaluation of dental evidence. He was on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine’s Department of Pathology. Dr. Askin was also a certified instructor for the State of New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice’s Police Training Commission. He served as a forensic odontology consultant to numerous medical examiners’ offices, including the Regional Medical Examiner’s Office in Newark, NJ, and the New Jersey State Police DNA Laboratory in Hamilton, NJ. Furthermore, his work was featured on an episode of the Discovery Channel’s New Detectives series.
Licensed to practice dentistry in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Dr. Askin was a life member of the American Dental Association and the New Jersey Dental Association, as well as a member of the Monmouth-Ocean County Dental Association. He was a member of the Peer Review Council of the New Jersey Dental Association. Dr. Askin received the New York Academy of Dentistry’s Humanitarian Award in 2002. He was elected academician by the Temple University School of Dentistry Oral Surgery Honor Society in 2003.
Always committed to helping others, Dr. Askin participated in blood drives frequently and donated more than 14 gallons of his blood. Dedicated to his local community, Dr. Askin’s New Jersey hospital appointments included the Medical Center of Ocean County (formerly Point Pleasant Hospital), as well as Kimball Medical Center, where he was chief of dentistry-emeritus and served on the Bylaws and Credentials Committees. He was instrumental in the formation of its Dental Clinic, which served the Ocean County community for many years. Dr. Askin was a former trustee and treasurer of Brick Township Hospital, now Ocean Medical Center. Additionally, Dr. Askin was a past president of the Brick Township Chamber of Commerce; efforts during his tenure resulted in the addition of the Brick Township name to the Garden State Parkway’s exit signage. He was also a member and former board member of Temple Beth Or in Brick, NJ.
While living in New Jersey, Dr. Askin graduated from Osbornville Grammar School in 1949 and Point Pleasant Beach High School in 1953. He moved to Michigan to attend the University of Detroit and then relocated to Philadelphia. Graduating from Temple University School of Dentistry in 1959, he earned the Omicron Kappa Upsilon Scholastic Fraternity Award for distinguished scholastic attainment, given to 12% of the graduating class. He received the American Academy of Oral Medicine Award, an award given to the one senior graduating student showing the greatest achievement, proficiency, and promise in the field of oral medicine.
Dr. Askin is survived by his wife of 44 years, Sara Weiner Askin of Brick, NJ; daughter Davina Askin of New York City, NY; son and daughter-in law, Matthew Askin and Miriam Linver, Maplewood, NJ; two grandchildren; sister Saralee Miller of Toms River, NJ; sister and brother-in-law, Miriam and Henry Saruya of Colonia, NJ; and nieces and nephews.
The family invites you to share your memories of Dr. Askin for compilation in a memory album.
His memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, January 30, 2011 at 1 pm at Temple Beth Or, 200 Van Zile Road, Brick, NJ 08724 (phone: 732-458-4700). Burial will follow at Congregation B'nai Israel Memorial Park, near the corner of Old Freehold and Whitty Roads, Toms River, NJ 08753 (phone: 732-349-1244).
To honor his memory and deeds, please consider a contribution to one of the following causes in lieu of sending flowers or food: Brick United Synagogue Youth (c/o Temple Beth Or, 200 Van Zile Road, Brick, NJ 08724) or the blood bank or food bank of your choice.