Alvin H. Kirsner

Obituary
  • "Alvin was such a distinguished, kind and gentle man. His ..."
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Alvin H. Kirsner

Des Moines

Alvin Henry Kirsner died at the Jewish Senior Life Center on Wednesday, April 2, 2014, of natural causes at age 95. As he wished, there will be no funeral service, and he will be laid to rest with a private burial ceremony at Jewish Glendale Cemetery next to his wife, Dorothy. Friends are welcome to join the family at Shiva Services to be held 7 p.m. Sunday, April 6 at Temple B'nai Jeshurun, 5101 Grand Avenue, Des Moines.

Alvin was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, one of two children of Morris and Celia Kirsner, and grew up in Annandale, Minnesota where his father operated a general store. Alvin graduated high school and attended the University of Minnesota at age 16. He left the U of M to work for his two rather colorful and successful uncles. His uncles were initially engaged in what can be delicately described as the beverage distribution business during the prohibition years in the Twin Cities. They later established a wholesale distribution company, The Roycraft Company, and were early distributors of Philco, Maytag, Whirlpool, and other home appliances and were distributors for Columbia Records.

After his service in the US Air Force, during which he attained the rank of Captain, Alvin moved his family to Des Moines and soon became a full partner in the Roycraft Iowa Company that was formed to expand the business of the Minneapolis company into Iowa.

Yearning to be his own boss, Alvin, in 1955 with the blessings of his uncles, purchased the Des Moines based metal stamping business, the WP Johnson Company. The metal stamping company's main products were metal trash incinerators and laundry tubs. Over the years, Alvin was adept enough to iterate through numerous products, and the WP Johnson Company eventually became one of the largest manufacturers of home filing cabinets in the country. During the 1970's, Des Moines experienced an influx of immigrants from South East Asia and the WP Johnson Company was an employer of a large number of Hmong Laotian workers who ended up comprising the majority of the company's 450 plus workforce. The company was sold in 1986.

Alvin was a very kind and generous man with a quick wit and wonderful sense of humor. He loved spending time with friends and family and especially adored his grandchildren.

Outside of his business and family life, Alvin was a generous contributor to a variety of civic and Jewish organizations in Des Moines and was a past president of Temple B'nai Jeshurun. He also served on the boards of the Des Moines Symphony and the Jewish Federation Foundation.

Alvin is survived by sons, James (Joan) Kirsner, Richard (Mary Kay) Kirsner, and Lawrence Kirsner (Joan O'Harra Burke); four grandchildren, Julie Kirsner Griffiths (John), Sara Kirsner, Hilarey Leonard (Brian), and Elizabeth Kirsner; great-grandsons, Evan and Owen Griffiths, and sister, Roslyn Jaffee. His parents and his wife of 72 years, Dorothy Kirsner, preceded Alvin in death.

The family is deeply grateful to all who helped care for Alvin including the staff at the Jewish Senior Life Center, Yael Zachopolus, Phillip Freedman and especially Sheryl Benson.

In lieu of flowers, donations in Alvin's name can be made to Temple B'nai Jeshurun, 5101 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312 or the Iowa Jewish Senior Life Center, 900 Polk Blvd., Des Moines, IA 50312.

May his memory always be for a blessing.

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Funeral Home
Iles Funeral Home - Dunn's Chapel
2121 Grand Ave Des Moines, IA 50312
(515) 244-2121
Funeral Home Details
Published in Des Moines Register from Apr. 4 to Apr. 6, 2014
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