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LI theater veteran Bob Wildfeuer dies at 86

Judy and Bob Wildfeuer at their wedding on

Judy and Bob Wildfeuer at their wedding on Aug. 28, 1956. Credit: Wildfeuer Family

Theater was Bob Wildfeuer's passion for nearly four decades. In that time, the Plainview man of a thousand hats performed just about every on- and offstage role imaginable — singer, dancer, set designer, producer, director, playwright. On one occasion, he even performed in drag.

"He was kind of roped into dressing up for 'La Cage aux Folles.' He was one of the ugliest women you've ever seen," joked his daughter Jill Rubenfeld of Melville.

It also shows how Wildfeuer, who was 86 when he died Tuesday of renal failure at Hospice Inn in Melville, was never afraid to tackle any theatrical challenge. Rubenfeld said he became involved in theater after his wife of 64 years, Judy, started performing with the Patio Players at the Plainview Jewish Center. For the past 31 years, the couple was active with Star Playhouse at the Suffolk Y Jewish Community Center in Commack, where they served also served as committee members.

Wildfeuer, a retired mechanical engineer who spent the bulk of his career at JT Falk and Co. in Manhattan, was also known for the elaborate sets he built for Star's productions including "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Drowsy Chaperone."

"He brought to us a superhuman effort well into his mid-80s," said Larry Katz, co-chairperson of Star Playhouse. "He was still climbing ladders and designing our sets and really put us in a position to go on stage with a professional look."

In a tribute posted on Facebook, Katz also said noted Wildfeuer's generosity. "He saw to it that his company donated the truck that was used to transport lumber, set pieces and other Y materials, and he and Judy participated in advertising and other fundraising ventures," wrote Katz.

Another of Wildfeueur's talents was a writer. For Star, he created several musical revues including "Garland," a tribute to Judy Garland, the Roaring Twenties tunefest "Speakeasy" and the World War II-era "Swingtime Rosie."

His gift as a writer is quite an achievement considering that he didn't speak English when he and his mother settled in Astoria, Queens, after arriving from Czechoslavakia shortly before the start of World War II.

Wildfeuer attended City College of New York where he graduated with a doctorate in engineering. His design skills and handicraft weren't limited to his job and the stage. "He built furniture in our house. He was the fix-it guy," Rubenfeld said. "My daughter called him a Renaissance man."

In addition to his wife and daughter, Wildfeuer is also survived by another daughter, Wendy O'Connell of Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, and four grandchildren. A memorial service was held Wednesday followed by a burial service at Mount Lebanon Cemetery in Glendale, Queens.

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