Ivar Segalowitz, whose belief in life's "limitless possibilities" was not diminished by the Holocaust, died from cancer June 24 at his Great Neck home. He was 83.
"Absolutely nothing, even the worst catastrophe that could befall anyone, could temper his spirit," said his son, Ralph Segalowitz, of East Setauket. "He believed in the essential goodness of people."
Ivar Segalowitz, born in Lithuania in 1930, was 10 when the Nazis occupied the country. He and his extended family were exiled to the Kovno ghetto. Segalowitz's parents saved their only child from being shot with other Kovno children the Nazis deemed too young by adding two years to his age and getting him trained as a machinist's helper.
His skill was later exploited by the Germans at various concentration camps, including Auschwitz-Birkenau. All but one relative, an aunt who immigrated to the United States before the war, perished in the camps.
After the war, Segalowitz recovered his health at a French orphanage, where he spent two years. Then his aunt, Margot Lepane, found the 17-year-old and brought him to Manhattan to live with her.
During the day, Segalowitz attended Stuyvesant High School; at night, he studied machinery at a vocational school.
He later found work as a machinist, met his wife of 60 years, Bernice, and joined the Army, which put him to work in the Intelligence Corps because he spoke five languages.
After his service, Segalowitz rose through the ranks to run manufacturing operations for Long Island electronic companies, moving to Great Neck in 1966. A graduate of City College of New York with a degree in physics, he holds multiple patents for designs for the direct mail industry, including an apparatus that bands stacks of envelopes. From 2003 to 2011, Segalowitz was the Great Neck Park District commissioner. The elected post combined his love for biking, skating and skiing with his talent for finding affordable ways to upgrade parks.
He also quietly helped struggling Holocaust survivors. "He never asked for anything; he just wanted to contribute," his son said.
Segalowitz never stopped battling European insurers who failed to honor the policies they sold to Holocaust victims. An international reparations commission set up in 1998 paid $300 million to claimants and $190 million of humanitarian aid. That's far less than those polices were worth, according to a 2011 congressional report.
In March 2013, Segalowitz was a member of a delegation of Holocaust survivors who met with Vice President Joe Biden's staff at the White House to ask them to intercede.In addition to his wife and son, Segalowitz is survived by a daughter, Genie Lieberman, of Broward County, Florida; and four grandchildren.
Services were held June 26 at Riverside-Nassau North Chapels in Great Neck. He was buried at Calverton National Cemetery.