Eulogy for Harvey Lefkowitz (Mitch Strauss)

June 2, 2016

     When I was asked to say a few words in the memory of my dear friend, Harvey, I realized it should not be the traditional eulogy but the celebration of his life. The good he did, the people he helped and the lives that he enriched... 

     Harvey and I have been good friends for more than 60 years. To say we were good buddies would be an understatement. I met Harvey when we both attended elementary school (PS 192) in Brooklyn. There was a chemistry between us that I recognized immediately and we became very close friends. There are many people who could say the same thing. The major difference is we had a common bond that we both loved very much, the boy scout experience.

     Harvey was active in scouting until his passing. This past weekend the group we call the Brooklyn Arrowhead Oldtimers gathered at Ten Mile River Scout Camp for the 39th consecutive year. Harvey and I were founding members of this group that dates back to September,l964. Each year we gather at TMR Scout Camp for a 3-day retreat where we reminisce about the memories of our youth and camp out as we did as young men many years go. Unfortunately, Harvey’s illness prevented his attending this year. Many members of our group are here today to pay their respects to a man who was so well liked and respected. Each year we receive a memento of the weekend. This year it was a small chip of stone from a place in camp that is very sacred to us: The Indian Cliffs. I have grven Harvey this memento today and I know he would be happy to have it.

     When I lost my mother many years ago, I received a note from a family friend. She wrote: “your mother was a very special person”. Surely, Harvey was a very special person to all who are here today. The note went on to say that when my mother walked into a room with 5 or 6 people, they all felt that they were very important to her. Harvey also had this trait; people felt a warm feeling that he so often generated when you first met him and every time thereafter. All of them felt that they were very important and special to him...He loved people and people loved him.

     He was more than special to me. He was my mentor, my confidant and even surrogate parent. I would never have become an Eagle Scout were not for Harvey. He would come by my house on a Saturday morning, get me out of bed and make me come to Prospect Park to look for birds. Bird identification was the most difficult merit badge to attain for becoming an Eagle Scout. He pushed me to go to the Brooklyn Children ‘s Museum to study for the badge. The museum had models of a large variety of birds. He helped me through college with term  papers, encouraged me to hang in when times were difficult for me. As a side note to our friendship, my mother often said to me that I spent so much time with Harvey, that she thought I would marry him.

     Each year in Florida where I now live full time and Harvey came for the winter months, he helped organize an annual Bird Walk and Dinner for all The Arrow Brothers who live in, or were visiting, Florida. He gave time and money to get it off the ground. He paid for fellows who could not afford the dinner out of his own pocket. Phil Nelson and I who head the Bird Walk Committee have decided to honor Harvey and name the annual event in his memory. The next Bird Walk and Dinner will be held March I, 2003 and will be called The Harvey Lefkowitz Bird Walk and Dinner. I can hear him saying to us how unnecessary this was. He was the embodiment of humbleness.

     Harvey wasn’t perfect. He had a tendency to be somewhat late. It was especially true when we attended Montauk Jr. H. S. He would rush out of the house-and grab any bag that looked like it was his lunch. It was always an adventure when he opened what he thought was his lunch only to find out it was the garbage his mother wanted to take out before he left for school. On a few ocassions it was the meat his mother left out to thaw for dinner that night. 

     Many of you remember the Lefkowitz Mansion on 18th Ave. in Brooklyn. The basement was one of the first community centers in New York City. It was home to Boy Scout meetings, card games, parties, movies and fellows made it their homes for short periods of time. The good times we shared there, I am sure many of you will remember and acknowledge, as a highlight of our youth. 

     The home was unique in another way. It shared a common driveway with a shul. At the back of the shul was a yard that was used during Succas for a Sukka. The back of the Lefkowitz house had a garage. Lenny (Harvey’s older brother, also a Boy Set) was one of the first in our group to drive. It did not take much for us to convince him to take out the car for a ride. One night during Succas, Lenny backed the car out of the garage right into the Succa, knocking it down. He quickly drove the car back into the garage and we all ran away promptly. The next morning Harvey’s dad asked him if he noticed that it was very windy the night before. Harvey said no and asked why. Max told him that at shul that day the people thought the wind knocked down the Succa.  This is a secret never revealed in public before. 

     You can see that my memories of Harvey and our relationship is truly a celebration of our lives together...I am indebted to him for what he did for me and how he enriched my life. He Who Serves His Fellowman, Is Of All His Fellows, The Greatest. His memory wi!l remain in my heart forever...Amen. 

 

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Ten Mile River Scout Museum

1481 County Road 26

Narrowsburg, NY  12764

845-252-2063