Harriet Shurgan of Oceanside died Jan. 4 at age 88.

Harriet Shurgan of Oceanside died Jan. 4 at age 88. Credit: Sue Kurtz

Family and community were two major tenets of Harriet Shurgan’s life. She loved these two ideals, and wanted to make sure others did, too. It’s why the mother of three constantly reminded her children and grandchildren to call each other, keeping their bond strong. It’s also why, as an active member of the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside, she worked to make sure that local seniors felt the warm embrace of their surroundings.

As a leader of the REAP (Retired, Experienced and Proud) program, which brings entertainment and informational speakers to the community center weekly, Shurgan worked to get local seniors out of their homes to socialize with other members of the community, greatly enhancing their lives. 

“She was so passionate about not having people feel isolated and alone as a senior, even before COVID,” said daughter Sue Kurtz, 65, of Virginia. “She was so empathetic to losing a spouse, or being shut in with a spouse all the time, and not having other people to talk to. … She built a community for so many people.”

Her grandson Ryan Freed, 32, of New Paltz, said: “She got along with all different sorts of people really well and was able to bring people together. … People were naturally attracted to her.”

Shurgan, a resident of Oceanside for nearly 60 years, died Jan. 4 at Mercy Hospital in Rockville Centre, her family said. She was 88.

Although her position in the REAP program was volunteer, Shurgan treated it like a job, and one she loved. She was constantly looking for speakers and entertainers that would fit her audience. 

“She took a lot of pride in her work,” said Lisa Charschan, director of adult services at the Jewish center. “People felt confident in her and what she was bringing to the table, and they wanted to come. . . . People liked her a lot.”

Through her vast network of friends, and her constant presence in the community, Shurgan would recommend that people come to the programs, and they often did.

“There were people that came because of Harriet,” said Judy Perlman of Lynbrook, who partnered with Shurgan to run the REAP sessions. “She was very invested in the program. It was like her baby and she wanted it to be a success.”

Said Shurgan’s son, Myron Shurgan, 59, of Baldwin: “She had a sweet way of being persuasive.”

Born Jan. 7, 1934, in Brooklyn, Harriet Shurgan went to Brooklyn College, where she earned a secretarial degree. She moved to Long Island with her husband, Bernie and two daughters, in 1964. Shurgan worked as an administrative assistant for nearly 20 years at LI Neurology Consultants in multiple locations around Long Island, including Long Beach and Lynbrook.

As a mother and grandmother, Shurgan was a sounding board for problems, a suggestion for a solution never far away.

“Her personality of being soft-spoken and always having a smile on her face made her inviting,” said her son. “People would talk to her and their problems, and she seemed to always have an answer or a suggestion.”

Said granddaughter Sammy Dunsten, 35, of Maryland: “Anytime anyone in our family was sick, she would continuously call and check in on us. … She always had the best advice. When I was in college, she would tell me things and it would probably go in one ear and out the other, until I got older and I realized what she was saying, how much she knew, and how much the things she was telling me really had a positive impact on myself and my family.”

In addition to her children, Harriet Shurgan is survived by sons-in-law Jeff Kurtz of Virginia and Dennis Freed of Massachusetts; five grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. She was predeceased by Bernie Shurgan, her husband of 65-years; her daughter, Hope Freed; and her daughter-in-law Elyce Shurgan.

Harriet Shurgan was buried at Mount Hebron Cemetery in Flushing, Kurtz said.

In lieu of gifts, the family is asking for donations in Shurgan's memory to the Barry and Florence Friedberg Jewish Community Center in Oceanside.      

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