Irving (Itchy) Sonenshine (1921-2013)
Here is the graveside eulogy that Stanley delivered for his dad, who died April 29:
On behalf of the family I want to thank everyone for coming to pay their
respects to dad.
It has been difficult watching dad's health fail him the past several years. At least we didn't have to stop him from driving. One day he just couldn't. But here we are at the end of a life well-lived.
Irving "Itchy" Sonenshine certainly exemplified what has become commonly known as the "Greatest Generation". Born to poor immigrant parents he started work at an early age (I think 5) to help support the family. He sold newspapers. He grew up during the Depression. He was a Navigator-Bombardier on a B-29 in the Pacific Theatre where he flew 43 missions. He received a Presidential citation, Air Medal with 5 clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross and a Purple Heart for injuries incurred in a plane crash in the Pacific.
After the war he started a radio repair business with Arthur Kahn which he grew into Wholesale Industrial Electronics which still exists today.
In 1946 he married Mom which he would tell you was the best thing that ever happened to him.
He was an avid fisherman then an avid golfer (he had 2 holes in one) (Great Golf story) But what made Dad so special?
First and foremost was his love of family. He loved Mom more than anything else in the world. He loved his sons and would do anything for us but I think his real joy was with his grandchildren. Fortunately he was able to see the birth of 7 great grandchildren. Also for Dad family included aunts, uncles, cousins, mahatenan(sp), and anybody remotely related. Our family gatherings were always large and he loved every minute.
Dad was the most selfless person I have ever known. Mom always said that if she had one chop left at dinner and asked Dad if he wanted it, he would give it to us. If his friends or family needed, help he would help. If one of his employees needed help he would help. If a stranger needed help he would help. It was just his nature.
Dad loved his business and was loyal to the people that worked for him. They were like family to him. After Dad bought out Arthur Kahn, John Sanders became his partner and worked with Dad for 40 years before his untimely death a few years ago. Today his son and other family members still play key roles in its operation. Several other employees have been with Dad since I was in high school. I think that mutual respect and admiration is one reason the business thrives today.
Dad was comfortable with and loved his Judaism and instilled that in us. He loved going to Israel and went on several trips with Martin Leffler to work on a military base. One time they were on a base in the Negev in winter when it was real cold and they had no heat. Dad said it was the coldest he had ever been and things like that didn't bother him. He wanted to go one more time in his seventies and they told him he was over the age limit. Mom said he if he went again she was going to divorce him.
Dad had unbelievable faith and always felt that G-d was watching over him. He considered himself to be very lucky in his personal and business life. He said Mom had many suitors from more well to do families but she chose him. If she hadn't he said he would have re-enlisted in the service. He said one suitor was so distraught he jumped into the Ashley River and started swimming. Must be true I heard it many times told the same way. He survived the crash in the Pacific and another incident where he miraculously escaped the plane during an aborted takeoff during liquor run no less. He tells the story about buying a batch of tubes in 1950 that he didn't really need just so a salesman could make a quota then shortly thereafter the Korean War started and the tubes were in short supply but he had them. His business has survived for 67 years while many of his competitors have fallen by the wayside.
Although his health failed at the end, outside of minor procedures Dad never spent a day in the hospital. He had great long term friends- Sonny Goldberg, Danny Hirsch, Nisky Garfinkle, Jack Brickman,Max Kirshtein to name a few- and they were the source of much joy and many funny stories.
He enjoyed his poker games but he said he was never very good at it and never had much luck playing.
Dad had unbelievable will power. You might say he was stubborn (although he always said it was the Breibarts who were stubborn and he prided himself on his open mind) .Sometime he got things in his head and you couldn't convince him otherwise. (Lincoln, tubes, senior tee stories) Once he made up his mind about something you had 2 choices-Hop on board or get out of the way.
He was funny and told many of the same stories over and over, but we listened, we laughed, and he laughed because they were great memories for him.
What I have just said sums up Dad's life, but it doesn't begin to describe the zest, love, and compassion for everything he did. I think he would have liked to have had a professional career, but otherwise he had no regrets.
The greatest gift you can leave your family is a wonderful legacy and a life to be emulated. Dad-you did that for us and your grandchildren and we love you for it.
Thank Mary Hazel for 4 years of loving and devoted service taking care of Dad, and more recently to Martha Goss, Jeanette Cromedy, and Lana Nix whose care enabled Mom to keep him at home as his health declined and to everyone at the store who was so devoted to him.
Finally I will do for Dad what he is not here to do. Thank Mom! For being the love of his life, putting up with him, raising his family, and taking care of him when he needed it most. I think his love for her was so strong it literally kept him alive. We always said if something happened to her we wouldn't leave town because she was his main reason for living.