Hilbert E. Fuerstman
Hilbert Fuerstman passed away peacefully on Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at the Regency Retirement Village in the devoted care of hospice. Born on May 10, 1921 in Newark, NJ, Hilbert was the son of Joseph and Ella Fuerstman. He grew up in East Orange, NJ where he attended East Orange High School and Seton Hall College. With the Seton Hall fencing team, he won the state championship in epee during his sophomore year. He joined the National Guard in 1940 then served as Army paratrooper in the 17th Airborne, 464th Parachute Field Artillery during WWII, making 24 jumps and rose to the rank of second lieutenant before his discharge in 1946. During his years in the service, he prided himself on being a champion hitchhiker and traversed the country several times. His love of travel continued throughout his life and he traveled to countries from Europe to Russia to China. He married Mildred Miller in 1943 and moved to Charlotte, where they raised five children and were happily married for 39 years until she passed away in 1981. He was extremely proud and devoted to all his children. He lost his beloved son, David to acute leukemia in 1970 at age 25. Calling himself an "inveterate gate crasher," in 1943 Hilbert crashed the Eisenhower inaugural parade and rode in a car in the motorcade with Eisenhower's aunt and uncle. In 1982, he married Kitty Halpert, whom he lovingly cared for until she passed away from Alzheimer's. Hilbert worked as a traveling sales rep selling watches for 50 years, 37 of them as a regional salesman for Bulova Watch Company. He was a member of Temple Beth El from 1947, where he served alternately as board member, chairman of the Adult Education Committee and frequent lecturer on Judaism to various churches in the Charlotte area. He served as director and historian of the Hebrew Cemetery and narrated a video walking tour of the cemetery. Hilbert loved tennis and was called "Charlotte's greatest ambassador of tennis." In 1947, in his early days in Charlotte, he and some friends, mostly Jewish, who found they were excluded from many private clubs, formed a group to play at the public parks. This became known as "The Dilworth Tennis Group" settling at the courts at Dilworth School. He prided himself on inclusion, and his group became arguably the most diverse social club in Charlotte, including players of all nationalities, races, religions, occupations and abilities. He showed up every weekend religiously and told players who to play with and against, the only requirement for membership being paying fifty cents for balls, which he supplied. The county commissioners renamed the courts as "The Hilbert Fuerstman/Dilworth Tennis Courts." He played with and led the group until he was 87, and it has continued to grow and thrive with a membership in the hundreds. Hilbert was quoted as saying of the group "It's an example of what you could do almost anywhere in the world if people were inclined to get along and play with each other." There is a bronze plaque over the stone water fountain which reads "For over 50 years, he has given selflessly of himself to promote and encourage his fellow citizens of Mecklenburg County and beyond to accept all people as equals - both on and off the court." Hilbert was an avid reader with an extensive library of books about Jewish studies, history and philosophers, American History and was a lover of classical music, particularly Beethoven. He passed on his love of music to his children and grandchildren, many of whom became musicians. He was immensely proud of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. He had a jovial, infectious, unmistakable laugh, loved people and bringing them together, and loved telling jokes and making speeches. His positive unflagging energy and attitude of acceptance carried him through many of life's adversities. Perpetually active and energetic, he had an endless curiosity about life and joie de vivre (joy of living), which affected everyone around him. He is survived by four children: daughters, Joan Fuerstman and Lenore Stefanik of New York City; sons, Leland Fuerstman of Charlotte and Carl Fuerstman of St. Petersburg, FL; eight grandchildren: Anya Regelin and David Regelin of New York City, Alisa Wyrick of South Orange, NJ, Nadia Stefanik of Tucson, AZ, Natasha Stefanik of Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Mischa Fuerstman of Charlotte, Joe Firstman of Nashville, TN and Samuel Fuerstman of New York City; eight great-grandchildren: Mila and Leandra Wyrick, Sydney, Nathaniel, Isaac and Linus Fuerstman, Miles Williams, and Pablo Regelin. He is preceded in death by his wives, Mildred and Kitty; his son, David; his brother, Myron; and his sister, Annette. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, October 16th, at Harry & Bryant's "Chapel in the Oaks", 500 Providence Road, Charlotte. Interment will follow at the Hebrew Cemetery. For those wishing to send memorial gifts, please consider the Hebrew Cemetery Jewish Funeral Assistance Fund and the Steinberger Funeral Assistance Fund at 5007 Providence Road, Suite 113, Charlotte, NC 28226. Condolences may be offered at www.HarryandBryantFuneralHome.com .
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