Problem in Town? To HAL with it…….
by Cate Murway
“He is a benevolent Don Quixote. If it had to do with Bucks County, he was involved in it.”
Alan J. Vogenberg, BSPharm, RPh, FASCP fervently praised Hal Lefcourt. “He was always doing what he thought was the right thing, from working on building membership with the Jewish Federation of Bucks County and the Lower Bucks Chamber of Commerce , to working with me on keeping business in Bucks County with my ‘Don’t let your dollars roam…shop at home’ project.”
Harold [meaning Mighty in War] “Hal” Lefcourt, APR just celebrated his ninetieth birthday. He continues to strive to give to others in his humanitarian and philanthropic manner, viewing life in very broad and intuitive terms.
Hal and his wife, Sylvia [Greenberg] met through friends. They still reside in the sixth house built by William Jaird Levitt [1907 –1994], the American real-estate developer widely credited as the father of modern American suburbia. Pieces of the American Dream were a hot commodity in post-World War II and moving-in day for the first Levittowners on June 23, 1952 was muddy and boisterous. The grass lawns had not yet matured and the families entered their homes on wooden planks. There were phone booths on every couple of streets and everyone would wait their turn to make a call.
The Lefcourts were married in the family owned Hotel Diplomat in mid- Manhattan on West 43rd Street, where Hal “worked behind the bar”. The newly married couple first lived in Rochester, NY when PE teacher Hal worked in the YMYWHA. One of their favorite songs was “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To”, written by Cole Porter for the 1943 film “Something to Shout About”.
“Under stars chilled by the winter
Under an August moon shining above
You'd be so nice, you'd be paradise
To come home to and love”
Hal and Sylvia moved into Levittown from their small apartment
on South Broad Street in August 1952.
They were thrilled to find a Levittowner for just $10,000.
Suburbs like Levittown had become the model
for the middle-class bedroom community until WWII veteran,
William E. and Daisy Meyers were daring enough
to purchase a home in 1957.
They were met by rock-throwers, bomb threats
and mobs screaming racist taunts at them.
Hal fought for them and secured a factory job for Bill in Trenton.
“This is a democracy. They can live wherever they like.”
Both Hal and Sylvia were the youngest of three children.
Hal’s parents were Yetta [Kutisker] and Isadore “Isaac” Lefkowitz, a kosher butcher and an expert pinochle player from the Ukraine. His family was very poor and he grew up in Newark, NJ after he was “kidnapped by gypsies” in Manhattan, NYC when he was just a year old. “The cops rescued me.”
Wednesday’s child is full of woe. Eight-year-old Hal was hit by an A&P truck in front of the Peshine Avenue Elementary School. Sylvia recalled the explanation, “His mother had given him a penny and he ran across the street to get candy and when he woke up, he was wrapped in bandages.”
Slyvia’s parents were Ida and Abraham Greenberg, a NJ tobacco salesman. Her mother sold U.S. War Bonds that were seen as a way to remove money from circulation as well as reduce inflation. Her sister’s names were Dorethy and Belle.
Hal’s brother, Dr. Albert was “sponsored” by the family to attend the Pennsylvania College of Optometry and his sister was Lillian [Lefcourt] Spetter. “I was the baby of the family.”
Hal competed in basketball, baseball and soccer. “I never joined the Boy Scouts, I was a Junior Forest Ranger.”
At Weequahic High School, he was the basketball team captain and “we won the State Championship when we beat the high school from west NY”. He is the President of the Hall of Fame at Panzer College of Physical Education & Hygiene in East Orange, NJ. “I pitched a no-hitter against Fordham University.”
[Panzer merged with Montclair State College in 1958]. Hal earned his Master’s degree in Personnel and Guidance from Rutgers in 1951 before attending the Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania.
Sylvia went right to work right after High School at the NOPCO Chemical Company, one of the first manufacturers in the country to promote Admiracion soapless shampoos and detergents.
Hal attempted to enlist in the Marine Corps but was refused for medical reasons. Pvt. Lefcourt joined the Army, was injured in maneuvers and was discharged after only 89 days in Fort Bragg, NC.
The Lefcourt family now includes their son, Scott Alan, proprietor of Scottsdale Fine Jewelers, a custom jewelry studio/shop and their daughter, Karen Nancy Emmet; 6 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.
Hal started his political career in their first home on Spring Lane as the Bristol Township Police Commissioner from 1955 until 1958. He also had served as the township treasurer and tax collector from 1967 until 1973. Bristol Township then was known as “the biggest and best in Bucks”.
Hal’s career has not been a one-time successful sprint win, much more like a marathon. He had grown up amid Great Depression hardships and he knew many who had gone overseas to fight and win the most awful war in history. He wanted to assist those needing employment.
He opened “Scott Personnel”, a private employment agency, in historic Bristol on the Delaware on the corner of Wood and Mill Streets in the mid ‘50’s.
He ran for Congress in 1958 and later, for State Senate; worked for the Department of Labor and Industry and was appointed to run for Director of Washington Crossing Park. His friend, the most powerful person in Bucks County, the late Harry Fawkes, who led the Bucks County Republican Committee for four decades, dubbed him “Lefty”.
Hal is a master of adaptability and change. He made the decision to go into Public Relations, turning his entire house into offices. Instead of glib reactions, he progressed along with thoughtful application.
He was Executive Director for the Pennsylvania State Constables Association [PSCA], the Director of Public Information for six years, and just recently retired from the Department of Children and Youth. Hal developed an evacuation program for the disabled.
His wife praised him, “Nobody did the job that he did. He has a very good mind and he was always an active athlete.”
Hal Lefcourt is a gentleman of pioneering spirit, individual drive, determination and diligence in his commitment to professional excellence and ethical conduct. “You will never believe the life I’ve lived.”
He was Grand Marshal of the 2012 Tullytown Memorial Day Parade,
honored for 54 years of service with the LBCCC,
served as president of the Rabbi Herbert Hendel Foundation of Temple Shalom, the Reform Jewish Center of Lower Bucks County, in Levittown; honored as Man of the Year by the Brotherhood of Temple Shalom in 1961; was the recipient of a community-service award from the State of Israel Bonds Committee in 1972; and earned the National Youth Service Award from the National B'nai B'rith organization in 1981. From 1978 until 1984, Lefcourt served as director of the Office of Public Information for Bucks County and during that time, he served a one-year term as president of the National Association of Public Information Officers.
The State Museum of Pennsylvania gratefully acknowledged Hal for his assistance in the production of the “Levittown, PA: Building the Suburban Dream” exhibit.
Hal’s legacy lives on. His nephew, NY criminal defense attorney Gerald B. Lefcourt is recognized nationally for his advocacy on behalf of high-profile clients. Gerald is the past president of the National Association of Criminal Lawyers and he was named a Tier 1 ranking in the 2013 edition of U.S. News Best Lawyer “Best Law Firms”.
There’s no spinning it differently: ethics in public relations, talent, experience, dedication and enthusiasm are the key performance areas and Hal Lefcourt is a key performer.
Recommend a “Spotlight”. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Harold 'Hal' Lefcourt, one of the first residents of Levittown, passed away Saturday morning, Dec. 13, 2014.
He was 91, and an active member of the community.
He was the beloved husband of Sylvia Lefcourt for 66 years; the loving father of Karen Lefcourt Emmet and Scott Lefcourt and his wife, Jill; and proud grandfather of Rachel and Christopher Emmet, David, wife, Rebecca, Bryan, wife, Lauren, Meghan and Maxi Lefcourt. Harold also was elated to be a great-grandfather of Isaac, Lily, Jackson, Benjamin, and Grace Lefcourt.
He was a BA graduate of Panzer College (now Montclair State) and received his Master's degree from Rutgers College. He was an ultimate athlete, earning 12 varsity letters in three sports. Maintaining his interests in sports, he was a referee for more than 25 years, he was chair of the Physical Educators' Committee for more than 400 Jewish Community Centers, under the National Jewish Welfare Board, and column writer of 'Hal Lefcourt's Locker Room' at the Bucks County Courier Times. His close involvement took him to Israel five times. Harold Lefcourt's commitment to the community is legendary. He was honored to be Grand Marshall at the 50th Anniversary of Levittown parade as the unofficial,'Mr. Levittown' and also at the Tullytown Memorial Day Parade.
He was a proud veteran of World War II, accredited Public Relations' Counselor, County Information Officer, Mason in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 50 years, Shriner, Lions Club Member, Jewish War Veterans, and politician.
He was dedicated to public service. Some of the many awards Mr. Lefcourt received: National B'Nai Brith Youth Service Appeal Award, president of the PIAA Basketball Officials Association, Chamber Ambassador for LBCCC, Honorary Life member of the Bucks County Rescue Squad, Ellis Island Centennial Commission, Presidents Award of the Public Relations Society of America, as well as multi-year president of Temple Shalom and the Brotherhood.
Friends and family are invited to Hal's life celebration with visitation at 10 a.m. and funeral at 11 a.m. Monday, Dec. 15, at Beck-Givnish Funeral Home, 400 New Falls Road, Levittown.
Donations may be made to your favorite charity in support of Hal's dedication to so much and so many.
THERE WILL NEVER BE ANOTHER HAL! 'Mr. Levittown' Harold 'Hal' Lefcourt passes away at the age of 91
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
By Petra Chesner Schlatter
BUCKS COUNTY >> The Bucks County community is remembering Harold 'Hal' Lefcourt, “Mr. Levittown,” who passed away on Dec.13 at the age of 91.
An active and devoted member of the community, the Tullytown Borough resident spent his working life as the ultimate public relations consultant, even spending a stint in Bucks County government as a public information officer.
Never at a loss for words or an opinion, Lefcourt lobbied strongly and effectively on issues impacting Bucks County, more specifically those impacting people south of Route 1. He prided himself on being a “man of the people.”
But his biggest pride and joy was Levittown and promoting the community he loved. His devotion and encyclopedic knowledge of the community’s past earned him the unofficial moniker of “Mr. Levittown,” a badge he wore proudly, especially as Parade Grand Marshal for the Levittown 50th Anniversary Parade.
Clark Schuster, the former president of the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce, said Lefcourt was one of a kind.
“I had the pleasure of knowing him for nearly 30 years,” he said. “He was a very enthusiastic member of the Chamber. With his larger than life personality, you always knew when Hal was in the house for his presence filled the room.
“He could be outspoken, opinionated, irritating and funny all at once,” Schuster said. “He had a heart of gold and prided himself on being a ‘man of the people’ for he was continually seeking ways to promote and enhance our local community. Though he could sometimes be a thorn in your side, he simply wanted what was best ‘for the people.’
“The other night I saw ‘It's A Wonderful Life’ and I thought about Hal,” he said. “His memory makes me smile and laugh. He lived such a full life and touched so many people in so many ways. Our community is a better place because of him. He truly was ‘Mr. Levittown’ and we will never see his like again.”
Dan Bates, the current president of the Lower Bucks County Chamber of Commerce (LBCCC) described Lefcourt as “opinionated” and a man who “took great pleasure in voicing his opinions. He was always prepped and ready to spar with opponents of opposite views. He was outspoken -- but kind, aggressive and passionate in any debate -- but a keen observer.
“He loved being called ‘Mr. Levittown’ and was quick to give a historical view of his beloved community,” Bates continued. “He fought for what he felt was right, never backed down unless he was proven wrong, which was rare. He was boisterous and energetic almost until the very end. He encouraged people to stand up for their views, take charge and do what needed to be done.”
Lefcourt was the chamber’s oldest active member and was honored as such at the Bucks County Ball two years ago. “He will be missed by the chamber members, staff and all those who knew him,” Bates said. “Everyone who knew Hal was impacted by him in some way and we all have humorous stories to tell about that experience.”
Bill Brady, the executive director of the Bucks County Transport Management Authority, described Lefcourt as “an amazing individual.
“He always had something to say and it was always something that was meant to be thought-provoking, complimentary or constructive,” said Brady. “He was never mean or mean-spirited. He wore his heart on his sleeve and many would say he wore his heart in the right place."
In Tullytown Borough, where Lefcourt has been a regular at council meetings for well over 30 years, Mayor Dave Cutchineal said Hal’s “enthusiasm and energy even at advanced age have been an inspiration to all in our community. May peace be with his wife Sylvia and family.”
Isabel Menichella knew Lefcourt through the chamber and worked with him on the 40th anniversary of Levittown. Lefcourt also was a leader of the 50th anniversary in which Menichella and her daughter were involved.
“He was forthright and he would say what he felt, but not in a nasty way,” she said. “He would just tell it like it was or the way he saw things.
“He was a humanitarian,” Menichella continued. “If someone needed help he would help them no matter who you were. If it were a neighbor or a community, who needed help, he would do what he could do. He was an outstanding person.”
Lefcourt was a graduate of Panzer College (now Montclair State) and received his Master's degree from Rutgers College.
He was an ultimate athlete, earning 12 varsity letters in three sports. Maintaining his interests in sports, he was a referee for more than 25 years; he was chair of the Physical Educators' Committee for more than 400 Jewish Community Centers, under the National Jewish Welfare Board. His close involvement took him to Israel five times.
Lefcourt's commitment to the community is legendary. He was honored to be grand marshal at the 50th Anniversary of Levittown parade as the unofficial, 'Mr. Levittown' and also at the Tullytown Memorial Day Parade.
He was a proud veteran of World War II, accredited public relations' counselor, county information officer, Mason in Pennsylvania and New Jersey for more than 50 years, a Shriner, a Lions Club member, a member of the Jewish War Veteran and a politician.
He was dedicated to public service and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National B'Nai Brith Youth Service Appeal Award and the President’s Award of the Public Relations Society of America.