Harold H. (Harry) Pressman, beloved raconteur, joke-teller, veteran, and family man, died at age 97 on December 25, 2023. Born on January 10, 1926, Harry grew up on Philadelphia’s south side with his twin brother George and their younger sister, Pearl. His parents were Julius Pressman and Sarah Pressman (née Belapolski), who were both born in Ukraine (then part of the Russian empire) but met in Philadelphia. As a patriotic American and especially as a Jew, Harry was eager to enlist in the military as soon as the U.S. entered World War II, but he had to wait until late 1943, when he was nearly 18. Assigned to the 385th infantry regiment of the U.S. Army’s 76th Division, Harry was trained as a field radio operator. His unit arrived in France several months after D-Day to begin the final push against Nazi Germany. Harry participated in the Battle of the Bulge as well as the Rhineland and Central Europe campaigns. Highlights of his service included adopting a stray dog and having a chance encounter with his brother George in U.S.-occupied Germany (neither brother had had any news from his twin for months).
After being honorably discharged from the army in 1946, Harry moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he lived with relatives and worked in the clothing trade for a time before returning to Philadelphia in the late 1940s. Not long after, while visiting Atlantic City with friends, he met Mildred Pinkus on the boardwalk. She was from West Philadelphia and also had parents who had emigrated from Ukraine. They married in 1950. Meanwhile Harry had decided to enter the upholstery trade. His father, a furrier, had helped him get an apprenticeship to learn the skills, then Harry struck out on his own. He had a long, successful career, mostly doing slipcovers and draperies.
Harry and Mildred settled in the Overbrook Park section of Philadelphia and had four children. The family moved to the neighboring suburb of Havertown, PA, around 1961. Harry was active in a men’s club called the Gamma Lodge, comprised mainly of Jewish veterans from the area. In addition to lunches, dinners, and happy hours, Gamma Lodge held family events and put on humorous skits and plays that allowed Harry, a natural ham, to indulge his passion for performing and trying to get a laugh out of people. He and Mildred divorced in 1978, but they remained lifelong friends.
Harry remarried twice, first to the late Renee Rubin, then in 1992 to Avra Bershad, an interior designer. They met when Harry was doing the draperies for a client with whom Avra was working. They lived happily in Ardmore, PA for nearly 30 years.
A man of many interests and passions, Harry was always active and surrounded by family and friends. He loved to fish and play pool, was a devoted follower of Philadelphia sports teams, and was an avid reader of books and newspapers. In his retirement years he took up painting and did most of the cooking for himself and Avra (chili and sweet and sour meatballs were two of his specialties). Among his many remarkable qualities, Harry had a gift for connecting with people. With his quick wit, sincerity, and generous nature, he could win over strangers in an instant; at every shop or business he frequented, he was well-known and well-loved.
In addition to his wife Avra and his friend Mildred Steele, Harry is survived by: his four children and their spouses, Arlene (Kurt) Pressman, Ellen Pressman, Paul (Bruce Wishnefsky) Pressman, and Bonnie (Thomas) Fabiani; his seven grandchildren and their spouses, Evan (Andrea Flynn) Pressman, Matthew (Lauren) Pressman, Jordan (Alex) Chaim, Michael (Allison) Karney, Erica (Michael) Soucek, Michael (Brianna) Fabiani, and Julia (DJ) Nowels; his sixteen great-grandchildren, Patrick, Luke, Ryan, Owen, Caleb, Clara, Brady, James, Noa, Leo, Luca, Sofia, Dylan, Sienna, Simone, and Vincent; and his two stepchildren and their spouses, Michael (Heidi) Bershad and Joseph (Jacqueline) Bershad. Contributions in his memory may be made to Jewish War Veterans, 1811 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, www.jwv.org.