Kurt Fuchel worked for 35 years as a computer scientist at Brookhaven National Laboratory before retiring. His keen intelligence was such that he was a onetime member of Mensa, the high-IQ society. But he was perhaps best known for appearing in an Academy Award-winning documentary in 2000 called "Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport," which told the story of Jewish children, like Fuchel, whose parents sent them to England in 1938 and 1939 to escape the Nazi campaign of terror against Jews.
Fuchel, of Rocky Point, died Monday from complications of Alzheimer's disease at the Gurwin Jewish Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Commack, where he had resided for more than a year. He was 79.
"I'm very lucky," Fuchel said in a 2005 article written by Rabbi Alan Abraham Kay in the newsletter for Temple Beth Emeth in Mount Sinai. "I realize this: Whereas most of the kinder never saw their parents again, I not only had mine back, but another set of parents as well. What more could one ask for?"
His parents, Rudolf and Olga, who escaped Austria and found refuge in France, would die in the United States years later.
His wife, Connie, recalled a visit the couple made to France six years ago where they met the families of the people who had hidden Fuchel's parents. "It was electric. People were so thrilled because he looked exactly like his father. They called him Rudolf."
Kay, now rabbi emeritus of the temple, called Fuchel a "very unassuming, very humble, very dignified man." Nevertheless, he said Fuchel's personal story resonated powerfully. "There was a certain aura he brought into the sanctuary because of his history."
Fuchel often spoke about the kindertransport to various groups "so that history would be kept alive," his wife said.
Fuchel was a founding member and former president of the Kindertransport Association.
Fuchel, whose original surname was Füchsl, was born in Vienna, Austria, in 1931. He lived with his foster family in England, Mariam and Percy Cohen, and their 5-year-old son, John, from age 7 until he was 16, when he was reunited with his parents in France.
After serving in the French army, Fuchel came to the United States in 1956, his family said. He earned two master's degrees from Adelphi University, his wife said, and worked as a computer scientist and head of the mathematics department at Brookhaven, retiring in 1995. He also taught at Stony Brook University and Suffolk County Community College.
The Fuchels married in 1978, the second marriage for both, and "blended two families of girls," Connie Fuchel said.
In addition to his wife, who resides in Rocky Point, Fuchel's survivors include daughters Rachel Dahill-Fuchel of Manhattan and Jennifer Fuchel of Cambridge, Mass.; stepdaughters Annette Merkel of Rocky Point, Lauretta Kastelic of Palm City, Fla., and Tina Yilmaz of Coram; nine grandchildren; and his foster mother, Mariam Cohen, 99, of Norwich, England.
Visiting is scheduled Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Bryant Funeral Home in East Setauket. A funeral service is set for 10 a.m. Friday at Bryant Funeral Home with burial at Washington Memorial Park in Mount Sinai.