October 18, 1921 - January 19, 2014 Ben Starr, 92, beloved father, friend, all-around mensch and veteran comedy writer, passed away peacefully at home in Los Angeles on Sunday, January 19, 2014. He was born in Manhattan on October 18, 1921 and grew up in Brooklyn, an adventurous boy who loved to play street hockey, climb roofs, hang from telephone wires, throw snowballs and the occasional rock at the enemies on the other block. He attended City College in New York and graduated from UCLA, after working at a donut factory in Los Angeles to help out his Russian immigrant parents, William and Sara. After Ben's stint at the factory, he never ate a donut again. Ben was a second lieutenant navigator in WWII, stationed in England, and received the Distinguished Flying Cross for "extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight." It was during the war that Ben exhibited an uncanny ability to make it rain so that his squadron could avoid flying dangerous missions over Germany. He maintained his talent for rainmaking (and rain-stopping) throughout his life. He also had a gift for finding parking spots in impossible locales. Ben enjoyed a wonderful and successful career as a comedy writer, starting in radio, where he wrote for Al Jolson, George Burns, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. He went on to write for television ("Mr. Ed," "Andy Griffith," "All in the Family," "Diff'rent Strokes"), features ("Our Man Flint," "Texas Across the River") and the stage. One of his plays even made it to Broadway. Ben is featured in Donna Kanter's documentary "Lunch," about comedy legends who gather at Factor's Deli to kvetch, tell jokes and eat whatever they shouldn't. Ben was married to his beloved wife Gloria for 50 years, who passed away in 1999. Then he took up with the lovely Paula Sheinwold, his girlfriend of 14 years. An avid reader, movie-goer, news junkie and Laker fan, Ben brought joy and laughter to his family and close friends, including Dan Harrison, his lunch buddy (900 meals, but who's counting) and personal computer guru. Ben's favorite expression was "Life is life." Truer words have never been spoken. He will be deeply missed by his children, Peter Starr, John Starr and Carol Starr Schneider, as well as his son-in-law Howard Schneider, his grandchildren Billy and Scotty Schneider and Ben Starr, and his nephew Andy Kaplan, his wife Allison and their children. No funeral planned but deli will be consumed in Ben Starr's honor.
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Published in the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 21, 2014