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Bernie Shurgan, the fun toy distributor, dies at 88

Bernie Shurgan with his family, from left, son

Bernie Shurgan with his family, from left, son Myron Shurgan, wife Harriet Shurgan, and daughter Sue Kurtz.  Credit: Samantha Dunsten

Bernie Shurgan unloaded happiness wherever he went. The longtime Oceanside resident spent more than 30 years as a toy distributor, driving a truck and stocking stores around Long Island and New York City.

He owned and operated his own company, HMS Toys, out of his Oceanside home, where he lived for over 50 years. The company was named after his three children, Hope, Myron, and Sue.

"He loved his job," said daughter Sue Kurtz, 63, of Virginia. "He loved bringing the toys and the joy. We would be [at the stores] and you’d see the parents and the children picking toys and running to the register."

Shurgan, a former Army medic during the Korean War, died Oct. 29 at Long Beach Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, his family said. He was 88.

As a father and grandfather, Shurgan would reward good behavior and outstanding achievements with a trip to a treasure trove of toys in his basement office. Going down the stairs to get a toy was always a treat, said granddaughter Samantha Dunsten, who still remembers taking home a whoopee cushion.

"I just remember that a lot of his toys had to do with jokes," said Dunsten, 33, of Maryland. "That was one of the toys that, for some reason, stuck with me. It reminds me of my grandpa because that was one of the ones we picked up and would use around the house. Even though he was quiet, he always had a lot of jokes and could make people laugh. I kind of tied the whoopee cushion and some of his toys to his personality."

Born Aug. 11, 1932, in Brooklyn, Shurgan was quiet and reserved but always could cut up a room with a perfectly timed comment.

"He was very funny, but in a very subtle way," said son Myron Shurgan, 57, of Baldwin. "He always had a one-liner that he would just throw out that would just make everybody crack up."

Although he was very proud of his service as a medic in the Korean War, Bernie Shurgan kept most of the details to himself, Kurtz said.

"He didn’t talk about that, because it had to be pretty hard to take care of people that were being shot," Kurtz said. "At times, he was bringing people that were shot into the bases and helping them."

Bernie Shurgan loved to travel. He visited Amsterdam, Israel, Italy, Seattle, and a host of other locations in the United States, basking in the history that surrounded him.

"He was very into the historical portions of things," Myron Shurgan said. "He really liked to read about things like that. He just liked to know about things. He was very knowledgeable … He just knew a little about everything."

Bernie Shurgan was an avid gardener, methodically tending to his rose bushes, vegetables and fruit trees. He also was a "foodie" who loved cooking pancakes in the shape of animals for his grandchildren, Kurtz said.

In retirement, both Bernie Shurgan and his wife of 65 years, Harriet, were extremely active at the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside. Using his business background, he acted as treasurer for some of the center’s programs, including the Retired Executive and Professionals group, Kurtz said.

"It really provided them an amazing community of support and activities," Kurtz said of the center. "He would be there at least two or three days a week."

In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Bernie Shurgan is survived by son-in-law Jeff Kurtz of Virginia and son-in-law Dennis Freed of Massachusetts, five grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter, Hope Freed and daughter-in-law Elyce Shurgan. Bernie Shurgan was buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Kurtz said.

In lieu of gifts, the family is asking for donations to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research or the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center.

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