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Shirley Katz of Brooklyn: Longtime resident with love of faith, family

Shirley Katz, 95, of West Babylon died on

Shirley Katz, 95, of West Babylon died on April 8. Credit: Ken Behar

Growing up, Sunday was Ken Behar’s favorite day of the week. That was the day he got to see his grandmother, Shirley Katz.

"It didn’t matter the weather, [Katz and Behar's grandfather] would drive in from Brooklyn to our house in Massapequa," he said. "That was the best day because they were coming. It made everything better by their being there."

Katz was known by her family for being kind, generous and intelligent. She could finish a book within hours and loved beating her grandchildren at Scrabble.

A Brooklyn resident for most of her life, she moved to an assisted living facility in West Babylon two years ago to be closer to family. She died April 8 of the coronavirus, just one week after her 95th birthday.

She was predeceased by her husband Max, with whom she shared nearly 44 years of marriage, travels around the world, and a strong commitment to their Jewish faith. They attended temple regularly, passing their traditions onto their children and grandchildren.

"She always would be sure to observe the Sabbath and Passover was huge with her," said Ken Behar. "You live the religion every day, even if you don’t happen to get to shul that week. That’s something she and my grandfather instilled in everybody."

Not only did the Jewish holidays hold religious significance, but they also provided Katz an opportunity to do the thing she loved most: spend time with her family.

"Her family was her life," said Katz’s daughter Amy Wachtler of Lindenhurst. "She loved having everyone over, especially at the holidays. She enjoyed cooking for everyone and being with all of us."

Katz played the role of her grandchildren’s biggest cheerleader, always encouraging them to do their best and pursue their goals.

"She was the matriarch. She was always very positive and inspired us to do well and become educated," said her grandson Ed Behar of Dix Hills. "She was always kind to everyone. Nobody could say a bad word about her."

Along with Wachtler, Katz is survived by daughter, Ronni Behar; nine grandchildren; and 12 great-grandchildren.

A funeral and shiva were held and the family plans to hold a larger memorial service in the future.

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