Irving "Jim" Shulman
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PITTSFIELD Former Pittsfield resident and founder of Jim's House of Shoes, Irving "Jim" Shulman, passed away Friday evening, April 12, 2013, at his home in Gulfport, Fla. Born in Dorchester, Irving was the son of Louis and Abigail Shulman. He attained the rank of Eagle Boy Scout at age 13 and was a graduate of Boston English High School.
In 1941, he earned a five-year mechanical engineering degree from Northeastern University in Boston (where he was a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity) and worked in the Boston Naval Shipyards. Irving married Helen Ruth Lenhoff in 1942 and they were happily married 62 years when Helen passed away in 2005.
Irving entered World War II in 1943 as an Ensign, attained the rank of Lieutenant and served on the USS Nestor that provided repairs to damaged ships in the Pacific Theater.
Upon completion of service, he and Helen wanted to move to the Berkshires where Helen's family's roots went back to the 1890s and the couple felt Pittsfield would be a great place to raise a family.
Although as a skilled mechanical engineer and veteran, Irv had great offers and opportunities for a career with the General Electric Company, he realized that the opportunities could result in transfer or relocation from the Berkshires.
In 1946, he chose to open a military surplus and workingman's clothing store at 99 Woodlawn Ave., near the main gate of the GE. He named the store Jim's Workingman's Store in honor of his infant son, Jim. Customers called Irv by the name of Jim that soon became his nickname.
In 1952, Helen's sister, Cecily and her husband, Murray Levine, became partners in the family business that moved nearby to Tyler Street where it became Jim's Department Store. In 1967 the two families moved the business to North Street as Jim's House of Shoes where it has remained as one of the City's oldest retail businesses. Jim's is now owned by Irving's nephew, Marc Abecassis.
The two couples retired to Town Shores in Gulfport in the early 1990s.
Irving leaves three children, Dr. Jim (James) Shulman (wife, Jackie) of Galena, Ohio, Marjorie Shulman (husband, Frank Bonnevie) of Lee, and Nancy Shulman (partner, Monte Wasch) of Pittsfield. Survivors also include grandchildren, Dr. David Finkelstein (fiancee, Dr. Valerie Sugiyama), Jamie Lacroix, (husband, Matt), Scott Bloomberg (wife, Amber), Michael Bloomberg, Jesse Shulman, Frank Bonnevie III and Erika Bonnevie (husband, Juan Pablo Cueva). He is also is survived by his dear friend, LaRayne Birk, his devoted sister-in-law Cecily Levine, and two sisters: Ruth Levine and Jean Rudin (husband, Bernard). Irving also leaves several nieces, nephews, grandnieces, grandnephews, great-grandnephews and great-grandnieces.
He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Helen, in 2005, and by nieces Joyce Levine Abecassis and Marsha Levine Koepke.
Irving was an avid reader and into his 90s would read as many as three books a week. He enjoyed crossword puzzles, coin collecting, tropical fish, fishing and spoiling his grandchildren. In his lifetime, Irving donated over 30 gallons of blood to the American Red Cross. He enjoyed his daily swim, loved the sea and traveled on 99 cruises.
He was a member of Congregation Beth Shalom in Gulfport, and was a 33-degree Scottish Rite Mason (Mystic Lodge AF and AM). He had been a member of Bnai Brith, Jewish War Veterans and the VFW.
Irving was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and very generous to his family and friends. He will be dearly missed by all his family and friends.
FUNERAL NOTICE: A private service and burial was held in Largo, Fla., on Monday, April 15, 2013.
Contributions in memory of Irving Shulman may be made to the Berkshire Carousel, P.O. Box 194, Lanesborough, MA 01237.
Published in The Berkshire Eagle on Apr. 18, 2013