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Leonard Wurzel, 95, former mayor of Sands Point, dies

Leonard Wurzel died at 95 after a brief

Leonard Wurzel died at 95 after a brief struggle with lung cancer. Credit: handout

When Leonard Wurzel was contemplating retirement as mayor of Sands Point in 2011, the longtime mayor had a request for his future successor.

"My one wish is that I be named special assistant, that I be able to continue doing what I do here in village hall," said Wurzel, according to current Mayor Ed Adler.

Since retiring that year, Wurzel remained a fixture at village hall, clocking in long days as an unpaid volunteer, tying up loose ends from his 22-year administration and tackling new tasks. Wurzel died Saturday at age 95 after a brief struggle with lung cancer.

Wurzel, who was mayor from 1989 until 2011, is perhaps best remembered for a project begun early in his administration, the village's purchase of the IBM Country Club and Conference Center on a 208-acre estate that later became a crown jewel of Sands Point.

Wurzel championed the 1994 purchase of the center, which was converted into The Village Club of Sands Point, with amenities such as a golf course and tennis courts for residents and outsiders. The sale of the business complex and former estate of Isaac Guggenheim, at $12.7 million, was viewed as a bargain for the village, well below an initial asking price of $20 million.

"As new residents came into the village, he realized there was a need to make people understand they had the village," Adler said. "He had developed this strong feeling -- this was Shangri-La -- this is the best you could get."

Wurzel and his wife, Elaine Cohen, were married in 1949 and moved to Sands Point in 1953 with sons Mark of Brookville and Larry of Asharoken.

Wurzel was born in Philadelphia in 1918. He graduated from Washington & Jefferson College in Washington, Pa., in 1939.

He received a master's in business administration from Harvard University in 1941.

In September of that year, Wurzel was drafted into the Army as a private. He rose to the rank of captain.

After completing military service, Wurzel became a titan of the candy industry, serving as president of Loft Candy Corp., the manufacturing retailer with a factory in Long Island City, Queens, and several hundred stores. He founded Calico Cottage Candies in 1964, which sells equipment and ingredients to retailers to make fudge. It is now based in Amityville and run by his sons.

He later entered Sands Point politics, serving as zoning board chairman and trustee before becoming mayor. Those who worked for him said he inspired a generation of leaders to serve.

"Sometimes when people are given the opportunity to serve the community, they almost feel like they're doing you a favor," said Jean-Marie Posner, a former village treasurer. "People would have jumped at the opportunity to serve with him."

In recent years, those close to him recall, he kept his rituals. He sent amusing Jewish personal ads to a widower friend and delivered news clippings to former colleagues through fax or the mail.

Adler said, "He never really retired."

In addition to his sons and wife, Wurzel is survived by three grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A funeral service was held Tuesday at The Community Synagogue in Sands Point. He was buried Tuesday at Beth Moses Cemetery in Pinelawn.

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