Arnold Spielberg, the father of Steven Spielberg, has died at 103.
Spielberg died Tuesday of natural causes, his son’s production company, Amblin, said. In a statement, his children told The Hollywood Reporter and Variety that their father “taught them to “love to research, expand their mind, keep their feet on the ground, but reach for the stars [and] look up.”
The director was with his father when he died and told him, “You are our hearth. You are our home,” according to Variety.
The engineer is credited with a number of breakthroughs, including early guidance systems, computer circuit designs, and the first business computer for GE. He also encouraged his son’s filmmaking aspirations from the very beginning and gave Steven his first movie camera when he was 13 years old. He later helped finance and create special effects for Steven’s first independent film, Firelight, which the teenager created for $500. It played in one movie theater for one night in Phoenix in 1964 and was a forerunner to the director’s 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind. In fact, the filmmaker’s interest in extraterrestrial life came from his father, a science fiction fan.
Born in Cincinnati in Feb. 6, 1917, Spielberg later enlisted in the U.S. Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and his experience went on to inspire his son’s 1998 film Saving Private Ryan.
The engineer and his family relocated to Phoenix so he could set up GE’s Industrial Computer Department, which he said Steven once toured.
“Steven came to visit once, and I showed him the factory and the engineering floor,” Arnold recalled. “I tried to get him interested in engineering, but his heart was in movies. At first, I was disappointed, but then I saw how good he was in moviemaking.”
In the mid-1990s, Spielberg came up with a system that allowed the USC Shoah Foundation Institute — founded by his son to collect the testimonies of Holocaust survivors — to catalog around 52,000 interviews and 105,000 hours of visual history.
Spielberg is survived by his four children, four stepchildren, 11 grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.