NIH Record - National Institutes of Health

Former Bldg. 1 Assistant Ceja Mourned

Black & white photo of a smiling Bel Ceja, sitting hands clasped at her desk
Belia “Bel” Ceja

Belia “Bel” Ceja, 94, a special assistant to three NIH directors, died July 4 at a hospital in Washington, D.C. The cause was pneumonia and complications from myasthenia gravis, according to a family member.

Ceja retired in September 1985 after more than 29 years of federal service. She had won an NIH Director’s Award in 1977 “for virtuosity in maintaining the smooth and efficient operation of the immediate Office of the Director, a role she performs with exceptional diligence, tact and good judgment.”

She was born Belia Landa in Chicago and moved to the Washington area in the late 1950s. She joined NIH in 1959, serving briefly in the Division of Administrative Services in Bldg. 13 before moving to Bldg. 1 for the rest of her career.

Ceja was special assistant to NIH directors Dr. Robert S. Stone, Dr. Donald S. Fredrickson and Dr. James B. Wyngaarden.

When she retired in 1985, it was to work for Fredrickson at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. But Ceja returned to NIH from 1986 to 1990, serving as special assistant to the director of the National Library of Medicine.

Ceja’s husband of 62 years, the late Salvador Navarro Ceja, died in 2007. She is survived by children Sybil and Paul; grandchildren Nathan, Natalie, Paul David, Lona and Morgan Head, Jason and Hannah Ceja; four great-grandchildren; her brother, Alfred Landa; and her son- and daughter-in-law Larkin Head and Kathryn Ceja. 

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The NIH Record, founded in 1949, is the biweekly newsletter for employees of the National Institutes of Health.

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