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.