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Irving Shapiro

Irving Shapiro Remembered
As a Man with Vision

By Fred Stabert IIII
LIBERTY — His deep voice and firm handshake were trademark Irving Shapiro — as was his astute business acumen and tailored suits.
He was known throughout the region for his generous spirit and spirited involvement in many organizations which touched the lives of people in the entire region — and around the world.
Whatever his interest, Shapiro felt a sense of duty to work as strenuously for his civic obligations as he did for his business, thus building bridges to Sullivan County which will last for many years to come.
From his involvement in the formation of Community General Hospital to co-chairing the annual Anti-Defamation League dinners, Shapiro’s faith and compassion for all mankind stood out.
On Sunday, January 21, Irving Shapiro died at New York University Medical Center, succumbing to a long battle against cancer. He left behind his loving wife, Dorothy of Liberty, and two daughters, two stepdaughters and one brother, Sidney, of Middletown, whom Irving partnered with for more than 50 years in building Sullivan’s Dept. Store.
“We were both World War II veterans,” Sidney said from his home yesterday. “I was in the Navy and Irving the Army.
“After the war I lived in Washington, D.C. and would buy government surplus,” Sidney remembered. “I would fly all over the country, buying the right way.”
The Shapiros built an Army-Navy Surplus store in Liberty, at the present location of Albert’s Liberty House Restaurant. Years later, the Shapiros would build Sullivan’s Dept. Store, which was a benchmark by which other stores would be judged.
“We shipped all over the world,” Sidney recalled of the Army-Navy store. “We would advertise on the back page of the Sports section of the New York Times. Every major business in the country would read it and then call us.”
Sidney even remembers a large order for water purification units which had to be shipped to Libya.
In the late 1960s, the Shapiro brothers built Sullivan’s Dept. Store on Sullivan Ave., Liberty and in the early 1970s they expanded to Middletown by purchasing an anchor location in the Orange Plaza.
The dynamic business duo would eventually employ upwards of 300, by making sure “our employees treated our employees right,” Sidney Shapiro said. “We had many loyal employees who loved to work with us…we were a family.”
Fondly Remembered
Irving Shapiro left his mark on many organizations and many people remembered his charitable efforts.
“Those of us who knew Irving Shapiro as a friend and colleague join with his family to grieve the passing of a great man who touched the lives of many and literally changed the face of his community,” Alan Gerry, Cablevision’s founder, said. “All of Liberty and Sullivan County will mourn this devoted father, loving husband and dear friend. Irving served his country with distinction in WWII, rising to the highest enlisted rank and ultimately receiving a battlefield commission. Together with his brother, Irving created Sullivan’s Department Store — for decades the pre-eminent shopping experience here and in Orange County. Through his involvement with the Industrial Development Agency, he remained an important force in the business world until his death.
“Whether on the local, national or international level, Irving was active in religious and civic organizations that worked to benefit humanity,” Gerry said. “He was a tireless advocate of the Anti-Defamation League, and in his capacity as the organization’s National Secretary, was one of its most influential members.
“We are all better off from having known Irving Shapiro,” Gerry said. “Wherever he went, whatever he did, whomever he met, he made a difference. His passing will leave an irreplaceable void in my life. He will be sorely missed.”
Monticello attorney Walter Garigliano remembered laying bricks for his father when he was building Sullivan’s Department Store in Liberty.
“My father ‘Pro’ was the general contractor for both the Liberty and Middletown stores,” Garigliano remembered. “I will remember Irving for his insight into issues, which were always on the money.”
Garigliano, the attorney for the Industrial Development Agency on which Shapiro served, said, “He really reminded me of the E.F. Hutton ads on TV — whenever he talked, people listened. It was an honor to work with him.”
Joyce Salimeno, president of the Community General Hospital Board of Directors, remembered Shapiro as an active board member who was “so dedicated and so insightful. He was pretty special. Even though things have changed, Irving had the ability to put things in the right perspective for today. He will leave a void at the hospital.”
Liberty Supervisor Dick Martinkovic remembers his daughter Jill working down at Sullivan’s Dept. Store, something which hundreds of Liberty residents did over the years.
“We lost a big part of Liberty,” Martinkovic said. “He not only did a lot for our community but the IDA, the chamber and the hospital. His idea of economic development was to keep an eye open for opportunity and always keep an open mind, don’t be closed.”
Irwin Gitlin, a Liberty CPA who served as Sullivan’s accountant for several decades, said, “Another one of these legends has passed from our midst. Irving was a busy man who got things done. If he was here, he never missed a meeting.
“It is said when you leave this earth you only leave one thing — your good name,” Gitlin said. “And Irving Shapiro certainly left that.”

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