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Joseph Kushner

Joseph Kushner

Friday, December 25th, 1925 - Wednesday, August 14th, 2019
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Obituary

Joseph Kushner left this world on August 14, 2019 at age 93. He was born December 25, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois, the son of Esther Rosenberg Kushner and Harry Kushner. He is survived by his wife of 69 years, Frances ("Puppins") Mazzagatti Kushner...also by daughter Beth, son David (wife Carolyn), sister Freda, brother Norman, granddaughters Stacy and Sherry, & numerous nieces and nephews. Caregivers Helen Williams, Claudette Alexander & Donovan Christy provided loving support when Joe was fading, as did close friends Drew Eisen, Charles Giglio, & Rocky Edwards. Joe was laid to rest in a graveside service with military honors at Waldheim Cemetery in Chicago.

Joe was a WWII veteran, joining the US Navy at age16. He was a gunner in the Armed Guard, sailing treacherous, U-boat-riddled waters in perilous times. He settled in Beaumont after he "met a girl". He obtained a BBA from Lamar University, then a Masters Degree in History from University of Houston, after which he dedicated his professional life to teaching at James Bowie Jr High, Beaumont High, & Kelly High schools. Dozens of former students state that "Mr Kushner changed my life" or "was the best teacher I ever had". Joe served as President of the Beaumont Classroom Teachers Ass'n & on Jefferson County grand juries. After retiring, Joe enjoyed substitute-teaching until he was 89 & remained active in the Naval Reserve until his 80s.

Joe was a proud & active elder at Temple Emanuel, where he taught Hebrew & relished Saturday Torah study. He raised blueberries, enjoyed woodworking & yardwork, & often completed the Sunday NYT crossword puzzle in 2 hours---he was the go-to for crossword stumpers. Joe was meticulous, whether it was trimming his beard, bed-making, creating lesson plans, or measuring wood for a project. He loved animals (especially dachshunds) & babies ("little toochies").

Joe had a strong & determined heart. He maintained 4am gym workouts until nearly 91, when he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, an injury few survive. Nine months later, he was back on the treadmill at 4am, enjoying post-workout coffee & schmoozing with his gym family. With a large degree of success, he battled subsequent strokes, Bell's Palsy, pancreatitis, & a pancreatic mass before falling irretrievably ill in May 2019.

Joe was witty, generous, compassionate, tolerant of differences, & stoic (even in very difficult circumstances). He was an uncommonly honorable man, but his defining trait may have been humbleness: He could not grasp why former students regarded him with such respect...or why he was loved by so many people.

As a 6-year-old in a Depression-era, single-parent home, Joe sold ice to help his mother supplement meager income. He was well-acquainted with hunger (& later recognized it had made him unable to learn). Elderly Joe shared a fond memory of his Penn Elementary 4th-grade teacher who gave him half her modest lunch because she knew. For this reason, he supported groups & causes that provide food & sustenance.

In lieu of flowers, please consider donating to a food bank, animal shelter, or similar entity. Joe would love that.

A memorial gathering to honor him & share stories is planned for Sunday, October 20th 2-4 pm, at Temple Emanuel's Swerdlow Hall in Beaumont Texas.
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Service Details

  • Memorial Service

    Location
    Temple Emanuel
    Address
    1120 Broadway
    Beaumont, TX 77701
    Get Directions: View Map | Text | Email
    Memorial Service Sunday October 20th, 2019 2pm-4pm

Affiliations

  • US Navy

Condolences

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Karen Chapman

Posted at 02:33pm
Your dad was very special to me. I was the only Christian among the Jews in the Saturday morning Torah studies, being married to Bobby Chapman. Joe always made me feel welcome and loved, like I was the only person in the room. I miss him.
B

Beth

Posted at 06:42pm
9/27/19: Dad's memorial gathering has been rescheduled for Sunday, 10/20/19, 2-4pm, at Temple Emanuel in Beaumont, Tx. Thank you deeply for your heartfelt letters and condolences. We will share Dad stories when we gather in October. Sure would be good if 'memorials' happened before a person dies so he or she could understand how meaningful their life has been, how fruitful have been their efforts, & how beloved they are. Beth
B

Beth

Posted at 09:33am
9/19/19, 8:30am: We must reschedule Dad's Sunday. 9/22/19 memorial at Temple Emanuel. Beaumont & Houston are experiencing unexpected flooding (and the upheaval that goes with it). Will update you on a new memorial date asap. Hope y'all are safe. Beth Kushner
KM

K M

Posted at 12:12pm
I had Mr Kushner for World History and took Sociology just so I could have him for a teacher again. Our class made the yearbook. He taught us as if we were college students. Lecture and take notes. Loved his classes and him. I remember that his birthday was December 25th. I left him a card as we left for the Christmas Holidays to the effect that.... It is customary to send cards of good wishes to someone on their birthday. That these are often accompanied by gifts...... Inside: However, not always. :D I thought it was in keeping with his rather dry sense of humor. Never got to see his reaction. Rest in peace dear teacher.
B

Beth

Posted at 09:44am
I wrote Dad's tribute with the intention of publishing it in the Bmt Enterprise. This required some (attempt at) brevity. When I opted not to publish in that newspaper but to, instead, circulate the obituary online and here at Mitzvah, I forgot to first revise it. What I want to say here is how deeply grateful I am to Dad's nephew (my cousin) Phil Mushlin, a Boston physician and Harvard researcher without whose intervention Dad would not have recovered after the 2016 aneurysm rupture. Phil acted as both loving family member and insightful medical professional. He got involved and, literally, saved Dad from the decline in care/interest that evolved at Memorial Hermann after Dad's surgery to coil the rupture. "Brilliant" is a word I use infrequently, but it describes Phil. He is forever one of my heroes.
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