Donald Brainin Hirsch, 81, a retired market researcher who worked for the U.S. Department of Commerce, died May 18 at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring of a subdural hematoma resulting from an auto accident. He was a longtime Silver Spring resident and moved in 2000 to Riderwood Village, a Silver Spring retirement community.
Mr. Hirsch, who was born in Scarsdale, N.Y., was a Japanese translator while in the Army during World War II.
At the University of Michigan, he received a bachelor's degree in East Asiatic area studies and Japanese in 1946 and a master's degree in international economics and business in 1948.
He taught in France for a year before joining Westinghouse International. He also worked for Armstrong Cork, Monsanto Europe and Dow Chemical Co. He joined the Commerce Department in 1976 as an international market researcher and economist. He retired in 1987.
Fluent in five languages (French, German, Italian, Spanish and English) and familiar with Japanese, Russian, Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese, Mr. Hirsch volunteered in retirement for more than 20 years with the Senior Volunteer Corps. He helped foreign-born graduate students at the University of Maryland with their English-language skills and dissertations.
He maintained friendships worldwide with former students who returned to their home countries in Asia, South America and the Middle East. He also traveled abroad several times a year, visiting every continent and more than 30 countries.
Mr. Hirsch was a Behind-the-Scenes volunteer at the Smithsonian Institution, where he translated French, German, Italian and Spanish research and curatorial materials for the National Zoo, the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, the National Museum of American History and the National Museum of the American Indian. He was a member of the Society of Federal Linguists.
In 1986, Mr. Hirsch's wife, Elaine Hirsch, was killed while crossing Connecticut Avenue in the District. Working with a D.C. Council member after his wife's death, he embarked on an effort to strengthen crosswalk protections for pedestrians.
He also became a founding member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, where his wife was training to be a docent, and he donated an art piece in her name to the National Museum of African Art.
At the University of Maryland, he established a scholarship fund for foreign-language students who plan to apply their skills to a field other than teaching language or literature.
Mr. Hirsch was an active member of River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda and a supporter of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
Survivors include two daughters, Nicole Hirsch of Germantown and Andrea Glaser of Olney; and two grandsons.