Many retirees take up golf or gardening when they stop working. Sol Goldstein wanted to do something more. So he pooled some money, recruited volunteers and started a Long Island chapter of a national nonprofit that helps repair the homes of people in need.
"He wasn't the kind of guy to sit and watch TV," said longtime friend Joe Botkin, who helped start the chapter with Goldstein. "He was a do-gooder in the best sense of the word."
Goldstein, of Massapequa, died May 2 of congestive heart failure. He was 83.
Born in Brooklyn, Goldstein was drafted into the Marines during the Korean War and stationed stateside. After completing his service, he worked as an electrical technician. In 1966 he took a job as a videotape operations manager at ABC television, where he remained for 25 years.
At age 50 and still at ABC, Goldstein returned to school and earned a bachelor's in economics from Fordham University. He went on to get a master's in labor relations and arbitration from New York Institute of Technology.
Goldstein and his wife, Elaine, whom he met on a blind date at age 19, had two children and moved to Queens, where Goldstein helped form an ambulance corps, his wife said. When the family moved to Massapequa in 1971, Goldstein took advanced EMT training courses and volunteered in a hospital emergency room, she said.
Goldstein retired in 1991 and learned of a volunteer group called Christmas in April; he and four friends raised $1,000 to incorporate their own Long Island chapter of the group.
When he stopped working "he tried to play golf but he found it a bit boring, and he wanted to do more," said his wife of nearly 60 years.
Goldstein told Newsday in 1995 that he wanted to work with his hands.
"I've been very fortunate in life, and my wife and I decided it's time to give something back," he said.
Now called Rebuilding Together, the nonprofit's volunteers make repairs on the homes of low-income residents, veterans, seniors, people with disabilities and those recovering from natural disasters.
"He felt he needed to give back to the community," Botkin said.
The group now has more than 200 volunteers and has helped more than 2,000 families, he said. Goldstein served as president and was also a key fundraiser, a role in which he was very effective, Botkin said.
For the past decade Goldstein battled chronic leukemia. But Goldstein, whom Botkin called lovable and charming, wouldn't let illness stop him. "Even when he was in the hospital he was recruiting the person in the next bed," he said.
Goldstein served on the board of Habitat for Humanity for 10 years. He was a member of the Knights of Pythias and an active member and volunteer at Temple B'nai Torah in Wantagh. He received numerous honors over the years, including the Long Island Volunteer Hall of Fame's lifetime achievement award in 2006.
"He enjoyed every minute of it," his wife said of Goldstein's volunteer work. "He just loved giving back."
In addition to his wife, Goldstein is survived by a son, Louis Goldstein of Islip; a daughter, Ellen Slone of Rockville Centre; a sister, Zelda Zuckerman of Massapequa; and five grandchildren.
Goldstein was buried in New Montefiore Cemetery in West Babylon.