Remembering Harold Wilensky 
(
December 3, 1942, to June 24, 2011)

  

By Howie Levy

  

"His courage and optimism should and
will be an inspiration to all of us."
                                                                                     
— Ray Martinis
  

    

After a courageous, 15-month battle with brain cancer, during which he never gave up hope, we sadly lost our dear friend, Hal Wilensky, on June 24, 2011. Hal was one of the most universally liked members of our remarkable class. We knew him best for his athletic excellence and his gentlemanly ways. Captain of our varsity baseball and member of our varsity football teams in our senior year, Hal also played basketball at OHS. He was especially loved and respected by all his teammates and was viewed as a team player 100% Sailor in all that he did with us.

   

According to Coach Angie Plaia, as he was quoted in the March 31, 1960, edition of the Oceanside Beacon, "In left, Captain Harold Wilensky is the choice. He's a good hitter, good speed and a strong leader."

   

"The football trio" of running backs, 1959,  (from left) the late Tom Turner,
Rudy Santoli and Hal

Captain Hal, 1960

   


Age 9 mos., 1943

Hal was born Harold Seymour Wilensky in the Bronx, New York, and raised in our little town. After OHS, Hal was recruited to the University of Vermont to play football, but an injury soon refocused his energies on a business degree. After college, Hal worked briefly for American Airlines at JFK International Airport. According to a long-time friend, Eric Downward, whom he met in 1965 while working there, Hal "was not at all serious about his airline career and used it merely as a means to travel" and to meet girls. It was there that he met his wife of 42 years, Arlene, who was a flight attendant. Together, they raised two beautiful and loving daughters, Brie (whom many of us met at our 50-year Grand Reunion Weekend in 2010) and the younger Brooke.

   

After leaving American Airlines, Hal embarked on his lifetime career in the international watch business. According to daughter, Brie, "[w]ith great passion and success," Hal worked in that field for over 40 years where he was "a respected leader, mentor, and colleague." Also, according to Brie, "He lived life to the fullest, and shared his love for travel and adventure with family and friends." In his final days, no one fought more valiantly and with higher spirits than Hal. He should now rest in peace.

 

The next several photos (and the baby picture, above) were provided to us by Hal's daughters, Brie and Brooke:

  

               

                                                                In his early college days, 1961                           With daughters, Brooke (left) and Brie, 1980
    

             

From Brie's wedding in 2000: Hal and Arlene,                                                                                   and the proud Dad with Brooke and Brie (the bride)

  

         

               With Brie, 1994                                                                                                         With Brooke, 2006
    

      

        With sister, Laura, 2009                                                                             With some business colleagues, 2011
   

Hal loved to come to our fabulous class reunions, so much so that he called me with incredible optimism and resolve in April 2010 only one week after what turned out to be his first of two brain surgeries in his brave and valiant effort to beat the cancer to assure me he fully expected to be at our reunion in June. And he was there. Below are some selected photos of Hal enjoying that reunion and a couple of our earlier ones:

2010 (50 years after OHS):

                                                          The Friday night mixer, with Dave Schwarz (left) and Marty Goldberg (center)

   

   Our Saturday night gala, surrounded by all his grade schoolmates (from Oak School No. 3) in attendance

  

             

            

Our Saturday night gala, with Audrey               
        Schneiderman
(left) and Carole  Cohen
             

       and with Lynne Oliver
  

                                       Our Sunday brunch, with Max Abbott (left) Susan and Rudy Hrubala (right) and his wife, Susan,
                                           and Hal's daughter, Brie

 

2005 (45 years after OHS):

Friday afternoon at Nathan's Famous, with (from left) the now late Chris Knorr, Jeff Tilford and Tom Nasca

  

             

          Friday night , with (from left) Dan Dawson, Steph Droboty and Howie Levy                       and with Marta Watts, Howie Levy and Bob Rubin                

  

      

The Saturday night "sea cruise," with the Hassett twins,
Cathy (left) and Carole,                                                                                    and with (from left) Max Abbott, Terry Brennan and Ray Martinis

   

2000 (40 years after OHS):

Friday afternoon at Nathan's Famous, with
Bill Badalucca and Carole Cohen

Friday night, with Rudy Santoli (left) and Denis Block

Friday afternoon, with the gang at the Little Red Store

   
                                  

         The Saturday night main event, with (from left) Audrey
         Schneiderman, Carole Cohen and Dave Schwarz,                                        and dancing with Ginny Matthews

  

    

Sunday at the beach, (from left) Jack and Nancy Koller Beaulieu, Ray Martinis                     and with Carol Johnson, Jack Beaulieu, Margie Schiff and
and the now late Dave Adest,                                                                                                         Nancy Koller Beaulieu,

   

and finally, (also from left) Rudy Hrubala, Ginny Matthews, Susan Hrubala,           
    Nancy Koller Beaulieu, Ray Martinis, Joan and Dave Adest, Jack Beaulieu,             
                                                        Hal
,  Penny White and Kathy Cullen
                                                                                                 

    

Below are expressions of fond remembrance received from some of our classmates upon learning of Hal's untimely passing:

 

 

We are so sorry for our loss of OHS dear friend, Hal. Hal fought the good fight and lived a purposeful, loving life. We can all be inspired by his example in the living and also in the courage he showed in the face of death. ─ Gerda Balding and Joe Kunkel
  

Very, very sad to lose Hal. I played little league baseball with him, so we go back a very long time. He was a great teammate, and a  fabulous athlete. I considered him to be one of the nicest human beings I've had the pleasure to know in my lifetime. He was always respectful, quiet and calm, intelligent and warm-hearted, a lot of fun and so easy to be with. We spent a good deal of time together at reunions because we didn't see each other in between. He will be sorely missed. Jay Katz
  

 

I’M SOOOOOOO DAMN SAD!!!  I’m sitting here crying!!!  I really thought that he’d somehow pull through.  Thank God we got to see him last year.  Seeing him last year and then chatting back and forth via e-mail made me feel close to him.  Our list just keeps getting longer and longer makes me so upset.  As this weekend passes, I just keep thinking about how happy we all were this time last year.  Nancy Keegan
   

It was with great sadness that I learned of Hal’s passing. I had spoken to him frequently over the past year and was awed by his uncompromising optimism in the face of a devastating disease. He never failed to look on the bright side, a trait I recall him having while we were friends at OHS. I am sure this unflagging optimism prolonged his survival as well. He also maintained many of his faculties until close to the end and enjoyed the support he received from his family, friends and alumni from the OHS class of 1960. He will be sorely missed by his friends and devoted family. He was devoted to our class, always looked forward to the reunions, and kept in contact with class members over the years. Hal will always hold a place in our hearts and memory. His courage and optimism should and will be an inspiration to all of us. Ray Martinis
   

Hal was a great friend and teammate. We were good friends during the early sixties. Memories that come to mind: Hal as the starting shortstop against Hicksville at Hofstra (when we won the Nassau County Championship in 1959), senior prom, faded red swimming trunks, Yankee games, playing golf on the Bethpage Black in the afternoon (no wait), the old Plymouth, Towne's, the hibachi on the balcony at  his and Arlene's Freeport apartment, Mr. Socol's math class, but most of all, Hal's sense of humor. We had a lot of laughs! Good memories! Rest in peace, my friend and teammate Bill Jackson
    

Hal and I went back to Oceanside Stallions Midget League football when we were both 10 and always enjoyed talking about those days and the fun we had with so many others who went to Oceanside. I realized how much respect his colleagues had for him six months ago when he was at a conference in New York when so many of them stopped by at breakfast to ask how he was doing. He'll be missed by me and so many others. Terry Brennan  
    

I am so glad I got a chance to see Hal last year at the reunion and a had a chance to talk with him and meet his very lovely daughter. I spent 3 years with Hal in homeroom at OHS, and I got to know him. Many, many laughs with him and [the late] Tommy Turner. Another loss for all of us. ─ Marta Watts
   

I remember Hal most during our senior year of football when Hal, [the late] Tom Turner and I would alternate at the running back positions [see photo, above of "the football trio"]. I got to know Hal better during the past several years.  We would get together for lunch when he would be in Albany on business. Hal had a dry sense of humor, and we had many laughs reminiscing about high school. I will miss our luncheons and the stories of the past. Rudy Santoli
  

We will always remember Hal as a talented athlete and an enthusiastic OHS classmate.  His happiness at being at the 50th reunion was obvious to all. He demonstrated remarkable courage until the end.  Nancy Koller and Jack Beaulieu
  

In addition to being  high school classmates, Hal and I were also college classmates terrible news! ─ Myles Tashman
 
  

My relationship with Hal started on the football field. Aside from being a better then average player, I remember Hal for his positive outlook on life, his great sense of humor, and his contagious smile. I also admired Hal because I never heard him utter an unkind word about anyone; it takes a special person, like Hal, to see the good in all. I wish I could say that about myself. What stands out most for me about Hal, however, is how strong he was during his ordeal; no "pity party" for him. Throughout each of our lives, many people pass, but only a very special few like Hal make a difference in how we live our lives. I will always remember him with fondness. Rudy Hrubala
   

So very saddened and dismayed by Hal Wilensky’s untimely passing. He represented the best of what our remarkable class has had to offer society. A great teammate who played hurt when few others could. He was an inspiration to us on the playing fields as he was later on in life rising to the highest levels of the international business world. He leaves a wonderful, loving family all too early. Don’t think of him as gone away, his journey has just begun. Gene Gelling
  

It is with great sadness that I lost my school friend, Hal. Hal and I go back to grade school. Both having gone through cancer and chemo, we had a lot in common. We started e-mailing each other, and he had a million questions. I hope that I eased his mind a little. I am saddened that he lost his battle, but I  am left with a memory of a kind and gentle man. Doreen Silverstein
   

I was terribly saddened to learn of Hal Wilensky's death. He and I lived near one another up near the Silver Lake area, off Fortescue. I had planned to visit with him when I went to visit my family in Massachusetts during the 2010 Christmas season, but he never responded to my e-mail about it, and now I know why. We almost got together last September, but he had to go to France on a business trip for Baume et Mercier, the watch company he worked for. Now I am heading to Massachusetts again and, sadly, the hoped for visit will never occur. ─ Lynn Oliver
  

  

Hal's family suggests that donations to the Glioblastoma Research Fund at the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center would be a great way to remember our old friend and "a wonderful tribute to honor Hal's fighting spirit." Go to https://give.massgeneral.org/SSLPage.aspx?pid=346, select the designation, "Other," and enter "Cancer Center, Glioblastoma Research Fund."

  

Come back to this special memorial page now and then when you are thinking of Hal or to see if anything has been added. And if you would like to add anything about Hal, please write me.

Classmates and other visitors are invited to submit material for a special
memorial page like this for any other departed classmate. Just e-mail it to me.

      Howie   

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