I. William Schimmel, 103, attorney active in Jewish life


I. William Schimmel, an attorney who was active for decades in Baltimore's Jewish community, died Thursday of natural causes at Roland Park Place. He was 103.

Born in New York City in 1896, Mr. Schimmel moved to Baltimore with his family when he was 3 years old. He graduated from City College in 1913 and from the University of Maryland law school in 1916. He practiced commercial law in Baltimore for more than 60 years. He was a member of the American, Maryland and Baltimore bar associations.

Mr. Schimmel served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and he served his community in local social, religious and fraternal organizations for decades after that. He was a founder and first board chairman of Beth Am Synagogue in Baltimore, president of the brotherhood of Chizuk Amuno Congregation in Pikesville, and a member of Yedz Grotto and B'nai B'rith Menorah Lodge.

Mr. Schimmel, the son of Hungarian immigrants, taught citizenship classes to immigrants at the Jewish Educational Alliance and coached basketball at the Young Men's Hebrew Association.

In an advertisement for The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore that appeared in the Jewish Times in 1997, Mr. Schimmel explained why it was so important to him to be involved in Jewish life.

"I've seen a lot of changes over the last 100 years," the then-101-year-old Mr. Schimmel was quoted in the ad. "But one thing never changes - and that's the desire of every Jew to support Jewish life and strengthen the Jewish community."

Mr. Schimmel and his wife, the former Blanche Sakols, recently celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary. A basketball and handball player in his youth, Mr. Schimmel later took up golf and played until he was 99. He was the first president of the Bonnie View Country Club in Pikesville. In his 90s, he played in a regular foursome with three men in their 80s, said his son, David M. Schimmel of Amherst, Mass., a professor at the University of Massachusetts.

David Schimmel said his father memorized a lot of poems and that, in a sense, he lived by them. One of those poems was "A Psalm of Life," by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

It reads, in part:

Let us, then, be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labor and to wait.

"He was enormously active," David Schimmel said of his father. "He was constantly doing."

Services for Mr. Schimmel will be held at 3 p.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.

In addition to his wife and his son, Mr. Schimmel is survived by a daughter, Bella Desser of Los Angeles, and seven grandchildren.

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