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Samuel Oschin

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Oschin, Samuel. Husband, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, businessman, philanthropist and adventurer died Monday, July 28, 2003, after a recent illness. Born in Dayton, Ohio, July 18, 1914, Sam began working at the age of ten, cleaning ashes out of fireplaces. This menial task soon turned into his first business. He began adding houses and hired other boys to work with him. This led to other businesses - from his less successful venture in selling women's shoelaces to making, packaging and distributing potato chips. At age 13, he hitchhiked to Texas to search caves for nitrate rich bat guano, which is used to make munitions. Eventually he left high school and began working with his father, a painter. But young Samuel was ambitious and filled with a desire to help his family during the early days of the depression. He took a job at Briggs Manufacturing, a large tool and die company in Detroit. Seeking to better himself, he learned all aspects of the tool and die business. A team player, he even joined the company boxing team. He was soon promoted and was able to hire his two brothers. When World War II broke out, Sam learned that the United States Government was requesting bids for parts to be attached to the wings of planes. He formed his own tool and die factory and presented a bid to do the work. He was up against two other bidders, General Electric and Chrysler Corp. His drive and attitude combined with competitive pricing impressed the general in charge of the project. At age 23, Samuel Oschin, who had a used tool and die machine in a garage, soon had a large government contract and more than 300 employees. Although he never realized his dream of serving on a PT boat, his factory continued to supply badly needed parts and equipment. At one point the factory was manufacturing bombs. When the war ended, Sam turned from making bombs to making furniture. In 1946, he and his family moved to Los Angeles where he started an air conditioning business with his brother. Sensing that there would be a need for housing, he ventured into the building business. He soon created one of the first planned communities in Oxnard. El Rio contained hundreds of homes, a school, a park, roads, and a power and water plant. Hearing of the sale of a troubled Savings and Loan Association in Pacoima, Sam decided to bid on it. This time he faced competition from Mark Taper. But his offer was successful and he was the new owner of The Empire Savings and Loan Association. The one branch in Pacoima soon grew to 27 branches throughout the state. In 1974 it was sold to Sears as part of its Allstate division. Sam Oschin continued to develop decent, safe and sanitary housing specifically designed for low-income families working with the federal agency, Housing and Urban Development. Due to his efforts, thousands of families were able to participate in this important aspect of the American dream. In 1979 he and a partner purchased the 10-acre, 10 story Prudential Square Building at 5757 Wilshire Boulevard in Miracle Mile and began developing office space, apartments and parking structures. Samuel Oschin succeeded in every aspect of business but he still had a hunger for adventure that needed to be satisfied. His adventures included an African safari where he was charged by a Cape buffalo to a journey down the Amazon where he was bitten by a python. He explored the North Pole where he placed an American flag. Perhaps his most amazing adventure took place in 1979 when he boarded an elephant and began a nine-day, 100-mile replication of Hannibal's crossing of the Alps. In a Los Angeles Times feature story, August 14, 1979, Sam was quoted as saying, "Living in the field, getting my own food, fending for myself is how I get to know myself," he said. "Hannibal fascinates me. I've always wanted to retrace his elephant route across the Alps." Sam was also a dedicated family man who rarely missed dinner with his children. He was an honest man of great integrity, with a terrific sense of humor. His philanthropic interests are many and varied. In 1981 he founded the Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Family Foundation. The foundation supports countless programs that are as varied as the life he led. These include scholarships for disabled minority students at Stanford and UCLA, a children's playroom at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a Child Life Program and a pet therapy program at UCLA Medical Center. The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County Hall of African Mammals and a powerful hemispheric telescope at Mount Palomar Observatory are named for the Oschin's. The foundation is also underwriting the new reptile habitat at the Los Angeles Zoo. The Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Oschin Foundation also supports the Anti-Defamation League, The Jewish Home for the Aging as well as countless other organizations including Temple B'nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks, which was named in memory of Mr. Oschin's father. Samuel Oschin is survived by his loving wife Lynda, son Michael Oschin, daughter Barbara Oschin Ellis, brother, Albert Oschin, sister, Ruth Weiss, grandchildren, Sheryl Goodman, Daniel Oschin, Karen Oschin, Katherine Rodriguez and great-grandchildren Zachary and Jacqueline Oschin.
Published in the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 3, 2003
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