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Arthur Flegel


1917 - 2018 Obituary Condolences Gallery
Arthur Flegel Obituary
Arthur E. Flegel

1917 - 2018

Arthur E. Flegel, longtime resident of Menlo Park and founder of Flegel's Home Furnishings, passed away peacefully in his sleep at home on March 16, 2018, surrounded by friends and family. Arthur was 100 years and 7 months old when he died. Arthur was the devoted husband of the late Cleora (Cleo) Reuscher Flegel, loving father of three sons, Robert, Mark and John, and their wives, grandfather of nine, great-grandfather of fifteen, and great-great grandfather of five children. His strong faith in God, love for his family, high intelligence, beautiful voice, interest in his German-Russian heritage, and strong work ethic and drive produced many successes throughout his life.
Arthur was born on August 6, 1917, in Bentley, North Dakota, to Johan and Julia Flegel, immigrant German-Russians. He was the ninth of ten children of whom six achieved adulthood. All of his siblings predeceased Arthur.
Arthur's earliest years were spent in Kansas and Greeley, Colorado. His father died in 1929 when Arthur was twelve years old, and at a young age he worked to help to support his mother and younger sister during the Great Depression. After graduating from Loveland High School, he worked at the local J.C. Penney Department Store. In March 1937 he was transferred to Stockton, California, where he moved with his mother and younger sister. There he became manager of the shoe department and in 1940 he was promoted to manager of the men's clothing department. From 1942 to 1945 Arthur held management positions at the J.C. Penney stores in Alameda, Napa and Vallejo.
It was while in Stockton that Arthur met and married his wife, Cleo Reuscher, on April 27, 1940. They remained happily married for sixty-nine years until Cleo's death in 2009. Arthur served in the US Army during World War II, and was honorably discharged in 1946. He and Cleo and their first two sons then moved to Burlingame, California, where he joined his brother-in-law, Don Vowel, in Don's furniture business. In 1954 Arthur and his family moved to Menlo Park where he and Cleo opened Flegel's Home Furnishings on Santa Cruz Avenue. The business started small, but with Arthur's hard work, leadership and ability, the store quickly became a great success. The store which is now owned by Mark and managed by Mark's son, Brian, remains one of the major retail businesses in Menlo Park and high-end furniture stores in the Bay Area.
Once in Menlo Park, Arthur and his family joined the Menlo Park Presbyterian Church where he served as an Elder, taught Sunday school, and sang in the church choir. Because of his distinctive baritone voice, he was asked to sing solos during church worship services, weddings and other special occasions. During the 1960s and 1970s under the ministries of the Menlo Park Church and World Council of Churches, Arthur chaired their resettlement committees and assisted more than 200 refugees from China, Korea, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Cuba and Vietnam to settle in the Bay Area. In June 1965 he served as a delegate to the national Presbyterian Church's General Assembly meeting in Columbus, Ohio.
From the very start Arthur was active in the Menlo Park community. In 1962 he became president of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce and in 1979 he served as president of the Menlo Park Rotary Club.
For many years, Arthur enjoyed playing Santa Claus in Menlo Park's annual Christmas parade and many other community events.
In the 1960s researching his family's genealogy became Arthur's life work. In 1968 he was instrumental in the creation of the organization known as the American Historical Society of Germans From Russia (AHSGR), which principally focuses on the emigration of Germans from their villages in Germany to Russia, and their subsequent immigration to the United States. In 1971 he and Cleo assisted in starting the Golden Gate Chapter of the AHSGR organization and for almost fifty years the chapter's monthly board meetings were held in their home. From 1981 to 1984 he served as the Society's fourth international president. In the 1970s Arthur researched, wrote and published the family histories for both his and Cleo's families. He became a Certified Genealogist, and in 2007 he was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor for his genealogical work. In 2005, Arthur finished his last book entitled "Extended Relationships of the Kulm, Leipzig, Tarutino Communities in Bessarabia, Russia," which was published by the North Dakota State University in Fargo. During his research, library studies and extensive travels to Germany and the Soviet Union, Arthur amassed a substantial library of source materials. In 2014 Arthur donated his personal library to the AHSGR headquarters in Lincoln, Nebraska, where it is preserved as the Arthur and Cleora Flegel Library. In 2010, Arthur and Cleo provided major funding for the filming of "It's All Earth and Sky," a Prairie Public Broadcasting documentary about the legacy of the Germans from Russia settling in North Dakota in the 1800s. The documentary is available to be viewed on the internet.
Arthur was laid to rest during a private ceremony on March 19, 2018 at Alta Mesa Cemetery next to Cleo. There will be a Memorial Service in memory of Arthur on May 4, 2018 at 2:30 p.m., at the Menlo Church, 950 Santa Cruz Avenue, Menlo Park. In lieu of flowers, please make donations in memory of Arthur to the Rotary Club of Menlo Park Foundation, or The Arthur E. and Cleora Flegel Living Legacy Fund within the endowment of the International Foundation of the American Historical Society of Germans From Russia.
Published in San Francisco Chronicle from Mar. 25 to Mar. 28, 2018
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