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Businessman Abraham Shenkman, a veteran, dies

Abraham Shenkman a longtime Lynbrook resident who fought

Abraham Shenkman a longtime Lynbrook resident who fought in World War II and later in life worked closely with the creator of the 1970s "Kung Fu" television series, died May 6. He was 100. Credit: Handout

Abraham Shenkman, a longtime Lynbrook resident who fought in World War II and later in life worked closely with the creator of the 1970s "Kung Fu" TV series, died May 6. He was 100.

The cause was congestive heart failure, said his daughter, Melanie Keveles, 63, of Superior, Wis.

Shenkman, who also did typist work in the music publishing industry and handled accounting for candy import companies, died at Solvay Hospice House in Duluth, Minn., near his daughter's home.

He lived on Lowell Street in Lynbrook for 59 years and was buried Thursday at Wellwood Cemetery in Pinelawn.

Born to poor immigrant parents, Shenkman was placed in foster care at age 3 and grew up in Manhattan's Hebrew Orphan Asylum. There, he played handball for money against fellow orphans, earning enough to send himself to summer camp upstate, according to Keveles.

"Despite the hard times, he was always a glass-half-full kind of person," she said.

After graduating from the High School of Commerce in Manhattan, Shenkman landed a clerical job with a music copyright company, Jerry Vogel Music, in Manhattan. There, he crossed paths with famed composer Irving Berlin.

"Berlin called Dad 'The Kid' because he could never remember his name," said Keveles, who recently wrote a book about her father. "Dad had so many great stories."

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Shenkman joined the Coast Guard, barely meeting the height requirement.

"He was too short," Keveles said of her 5-foot-5 father. "He had to stand up on his tiptoes to make it."

Serving with Navy fleets in the South Pacific as a gunner and storekeeper, Shenkman participated in at least 11 invasions. He was present at the ceremony in Tokyo Bay when Japan formally surrendered, Keveles said.

After the war, Shenkman married Natalie Gelbman, of Yonkers, and worked another 30 years in the candy import business. In retirement, he reinvented himself as a typist for writers, including Ed Spielman of "Kung Fu" fame.

He took pride in becoming a centenarian, Keveles said, showing off his birth certificate to those who doubted his age.

Even in his final hours, Shenkman managed to light up the room by singing "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" for an Irish hospice nurse.

"He never shriveled up and quit," Keveles said. "He just kept on making new friends and enjoying himself."

Shenkman is also survived by a grandson, Ross Keveles, 30, of St. Paul, Minn. He is predeceased by his wife and two brothers, Harry and Max.

The family asks that donations be sent to Solvay Hospice House, 801 Baylis St., Duluth, MN 55811.

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