Irving Levy

One of the prices of being President has been being extracted from my beloved breakfast table companionship which has always included Marv Levy.  I have known Marv, Jeff and Phil in different ways over the years and today it took me a long time to sign cards from the club to them about the loss of their father, our member, Irving.

I did not know Irving.  Today I learned he was our member with the second-longest tenure, joining in 1963.  I just read his obituary (below) which poignantly reminded me of why we should make an effort to get to know each other, sit with new people, and just introduce ourselves in the valet line.

So I grieve for this family, especially during Passover.  But I am mindful of the legacy that softens that grief.  How rich a legacy described of service, business success, and family.  To cry for someone you didn’t know because of what their life stood for and seeing their legacy firsthand, well, that is something most of us can only wish for.

Of course, I grieve for the family and my friends in it too.  Is it really possible to feel a loss that is not your own?  I don’t know.  But whether through empathy or personal experience, we have lost a great one of our own.  The Levy Scholarship at this moment becomes such a tangible way to keep this in front of us for the “forever” of our club.  Imbuing this family’s spirit and generosity in young people is the rainbow at the end of the storm (to paraphrase badly Dolly Parton re today’s birthday quote).


Obituary for Irving E. Levy


Irving E. Levy

Irving E. Levy, age 95, retired President of Phillips Distributing Corporation, died on Sunday, April 17, 2011, after sustaining injuries in an accidental fall. A longtime Madison resident, he was born to Philip and Rebecca (Epstein) Levy on September 6, 1915, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Irving attended the University of Minnesota and Princeton. He was united in marriage to Dorothy Barvin on May 14, 1941.

During World War II, he served in the South Pacific as a Captain in the U. S. Army. Returning to Wisconsin after the War, he became an executive officer of Ed. Phillips and Sons Co. in La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1961, he moved his family to Madison after purchasing Phillips Distributing Corporation. The firm operated the Phillips Home Specialty stores in the Madison area for many years. Phillips Distributing Corporation has distributed liquor and wine in southern and western Wisconsin since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.

He was a loving husband and father, who enjoyed supporting his family and encouraging his sons to live accomplished lives. He helped found and was President of the Jewish Synagogue in La Crosse. In Madison, he was a director of the Madison Jewish Community Council and Temple Beth El. He was also chairman of the Methodist Retirement Center Board, now Capital Lakes, where he lived and served on the residents’ foundation board. He and his beloved wife, Dorothy, also enjoyed golfing together at their winter home in Rancho Mirage, California. The charitable activities of the Irving and Dorothy Levy Family Foundation held a very special place in his heart. In 2010, the Levy family along with the Foundation was honored with the Tocqueville Society Award by United Way of Dane County.

He established a named scholarship fund within the Downtown Madison Rotary that currently helps support four Madison area students throughout their undergraduate careers. He also provided significant fund support to Beth Israel Center, UW Hillel Student Center, Madison Chabad House, Jewish Social Services and the Madison Jewish Community Council. He also gave support to the Meriter Foundation and the American Family Children’s Hospital. He was a Benefactor of the Mayo Clinic.

He is survived by his three sons, Phillip, Marvin and Jeffrey. He was preceded in death by his wife of 61 years, Dorothy; and an infant son, Marc.

The family wishes to thank the entire staff of the Meriter Hospital ICU for the care they gave Irving on the last day of his life.

Visitation will begin at 3:30 pm, with the funeral service at 4 p.m., on Thursday, April 21, 2011, at the CRESS FUNERAL HOME, 3610 Speedway Road, Madison. Burial will be in Forest Hill Cemetery. A celebration of Irving’s life will be held at Nakoma Golf Club, 4145 Country Club Road, Madison, from 6 until 8 pm. Memorials may be made to the United Way of Dane County Foundation, or the Levy Family Scholarship Fund of the Downtown Madison Rotary.

One response to “Irving Levy

  1. Juli,

    This pretty much sums up what our club, and the Rotary spirit, are all about. Thank you for a touching blog post.

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