The soft-spoken gentleman with the ever present cigar, who enriched the lives of so many he encountered, passed away Friday, Feb. 22, 2013, surrounded by the family that he was most proud of and did everything he could to make their dreams a reality.
That gentleman, Irving Rosenstein, 90, born in Frankfort in 1922, came to Lexington in 1939 by train to attend the University of Kentucky. His father, Robert Rosenstein, was a Frankfort retailer, as would be Irv’s brother, Wolfe. Another brother, Sam, would rise to prominence as a lawyer in Frankfort and Louisville and eventually be appointed a Federal Court Judge by President Lyndon B. Johnson. All predeceased him, as did his sister, Betty Gendler of Brooklyn, NY, and mother, Harriett Rosenstein of Frankfort.
After WWII service in the Army, where he was seriously injured in a training incident, Irv worked for Fruit of the Loom, The Union Underwear Company. It was also during this time while on a business trip to New York City that he met the love of his life, Irma Sarett. He wooed her to be his bride and move to Kentucky.
In Lexington, after starting several retail stores including The Kent Men’s Wear and Sportswear Mart, Irv began to demonstrate his vision for real estate development. That vision led to one of Lexington’s first neighborhood shopping centers. He also established Shoppers Village Liquors, a successful chain of wine and spirits stores. Around this time he began advising and helping others – which would endear him to many over the next 60+ years.
Irv and Irma welcomed their children, Ann and Robert, into their lives. Irv and Irma each also became deeply involved in religious, social, artistic and educational activities, dedicating their time and resources to help create what are now mainstay organizations in the Lexington community fabric.
Irv was prominently involved in the leadership of Temple Adath Israel, serving in several positions on the Board of Directors and leading the Endowment Committee. He was one of the founders of Triangle Park, served on the Founding Board of KET and became an early supporter of Junior Achievement. He was named one of their People of the Year in 1997.
Irv was a more than 25-year board member of the Child Development Center of the Bluegrass. He served on Hospice, Urban League, Humana, First Security Bank of Lexington, and Kentucky Mental Health Foundation Boards among many others. He was proud of his Kentucky heritage and always wanted to help his community.
The Rosenstein Family was honored by the Kentucky Historical Society into the Lincoln Society for their contributions to the archives of early Jewish settlers in Kentucky. Irv was also appointed by Governor Jones to the Board of Trustees of Eastern Kentucky University, where he proudly served for two terms.
Besides work and service, Irv also loved his “hobby” – thoroughbred racehorses! A one-time owner and breeder who raced successfully across the country, Irv never lost his love for horse racing. At the last Keeneland meet he was still holding court at “his” table on Second Floor Main next to the giant bouquet. And he was one of a very small group to be at both Keeneland’s opening day and their 75th Anniversary Celebration in 2012.
Belovedly nicknamed “Chief” by his family, Irv was proudest of each one of them. Irma’s endeavors in several difficult issues during the turbulent 1960s and ’70s always had his complete support. Robert and his wife, Dr. Kim Clawson, and their three children, Ross, Kyle and Jamie, were daily sources of joy. When Ann married Bill Giles, he proudly introduced him to Kentucky, particularly to the racetracks. Bill’s sons, Hudson and Van (Danielle), as well as Kim’s parents, Dr. Kay and Jan Clawson, were also warmly embraced as members of his family.
What all will enduringly remember about our wonderful Chief is the time and compassion that he always made to listen and advise. Many came to learn “Irv’s way” to accomplish their varied goals. He often put concern for others first. A visit to his office was almost always somehow both a reality check and confidence booster. All would share that they found a man whom they believed cared about them, their families, this city and the Commonwealth.
The Chief was in his office doing just that only a few days ago.
Visitation: 2 – 4 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24 at Temple Adath Israel, 124 North Ashland Ave. Funeral service: 9:30 a.m. Monday, Feb. 25 at Temple Adath Israel. Interment to follow at The Lexington Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, suggested donations to: Temple Adath Israel, 124 North Ashland Ave., Lexington 40502, Child Development Center of the Bluegrass, 290 Alumni Drive, Lexington, 40503 or a charity of your choice. www.milwardfuneral.com.