Bernard Schapiro Philanthropist


Services for Bernard "Ben" Schapiro, a retired businessman and philanthropist who devoted the last years of his life to helping the mentally ill, are scheduled for 10 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc. funeral establishment, 6010 Reisterstown Road.

Mr. Schapiro, who lived in Pikesville, died Saturday of respiratory and congestive heart failure at Sinai Hospital after a monthlong illness. He was 91.

Mr. Schapiro was born in what was Lemberg, Austria, and immigrated to Baltimore with his family when he was 7. He was educated in Baltimore public schools, but left when he was in the eighth grade to help his father in the rag business.

In 1918, he and his brother Joseph formed S. Schapiro and Sons Inc., a horse-and-wagon pick-up business that operated in the alleys of Baltimore. The company grew into an internationally known textile recycling firm that exported materials throughout the world.

He remained active in the business until his retirement in 1985.

Throughout his life, Mr. Schapiro was involved in numerous civic and business associations and was honored by many of them.

Mr. Schapiro was president in 1942-1943 of Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital, which grew out of an institution founded by a family member, Adolph Kress, in 1890.

He was one of the eight founders in 1946 of Beth El Congregation, in which he remained active throughout his life. The congregation's Men's Club named him "Man of the Year" in 1964.

Moved by a visit with a friend to Sinai Hospital's psychiatric department in 1977, Mr. Schapiro decided to devote his attention and resources to the chronically mentally ill. The visit prompted him to found People Encouraging People (PEP) Inc., a program designed to assist the mentally ill in adjusting after release from institutions.

In 1986, at the age of 87, he saw a continuing need for help and founded a job-placement program for the mentally ill, Schapiro Training and Employment Program (STEP) Inc.

In 1988, he was honored by President Ronald Reagan as one of America's most outstanding volunteers. Last year, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke honored him at the Schapiro Center -- the building named for him that houses PEP -- on Primrose Avenue in Northwest Baltimore.

His wife of 64 years, the former Rose Kress, died in March 1987.

Mr. Schapiro is survived by a brother, Daniel Schapiro; two sons, Alan I. and David S. Schapiro; seven grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. All live in Baltimore.

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