Arthur Seidman, a World War II veteran and Great Neck resident, began volunteering in North Shore University Hospital’s surgical waiting room in 1995 after a nearly 50-year career as a salesman in New York City’s garment center.
Last Tuesday, Seidman celebrated his 100th birthday at the hospital with family, friends and hospital staff.
“I’ve lived a very eventful life. I’ve always tried to be as good as I could be,” he said. “My father was my role model; I tried to behave as he did. So, for me, coming to the hospital and working with other people who are really in need is a reason for me to get up in the morning. This is a labor of love. I love being here.”
Seidman was born on Feb. 28, 1917 and grew up in Bensonhurst, his daughter, Jane Krakauer, said.
Krakauer said her father was drafted into the United States Army in 1941.
In 1942, she said, Seidman received his commission to serve as an Artillery Forward Observer in the Philippines.
Krakauer, a Russell Gardens trustee, said although her father wanted to serve, he was hesitant because his father was ill and wanted to take care of him. Seidman’s mother had died when he was two years old due to the flu epidemic.
Seidman’s father, Krakauer said, who was of European descent, was “so proud to be an American” and told his son to serve.
For his service during World War II, he was awarded both a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.
Seidman returned back home to his wife, Lillian, who he married in 1941, in 1945. The couple had two children, Krakauer and a son, Steven Seidman.
In 1946, Krakauer said, he began working as a salesman in the garment center, where he worked until retiring in 1995.
She said after he returned from war, Seidman did not speak about what took place and what he was involved in while serving.
“The interesting thing is we did not know what he did. He never spoke about it,” Krakauer said. “My mother, I am sure, had no idea what he did.”
She said she believes he wanted to move forward and “reinvent” his life.
“You’re starting your life,” Krakauer said. “You’re coming back to people who have no idea what happened and in a way, they really don’t want to know.”
Seidman and his wife moved to Great Neck about 65 years ago, she said.
Krakauer said in 1986, her mother died of breast cancer at 65 years old.
She said she was unsure of how Seidman would handle her death, as his wife was “the star,” given her outgoing personality and knack for connecting with other people.
“The irony is that my father is the star now,” Krakauer said. “When she died, he became the star because he had to reinvent himself.”
After retiring in 1995, Seidman’s son suggested he begin volunteering at a hospital since he had time to spend.
Krakauer said her father began volunteering at North Shore University Hospital shortly after, where he currently still volunteers for 15 hours each week. He spends one day volunteering in the surgical waiting room at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset and one day at the Monter Cancer Center in New Hyde Park.
“Some people want to talk, and some people don’t. If they want to talk, he talks to them,” she said. “My mother died of breast cancer so he knows what it’s all about, he’s been through it.”
“If they don’t want to talk, he doesn’t bother them. But some people come back and they look for him,” Krakauer added. “He says that he gets more out of it then he gives.”
She said Seidman also heads the hospital’s car raffle, which has seen him bring in around $500,000 for the hospital.
Krakauer said her father played a huge role in both her and her brother’s lives, as he “brought music into the house,” instilled values of respect and integrity and expressed the importance of getting an education.
She said Seidman has lived a long life, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to slow him down.
Krakauer said he remains sharp because of a combination of good genetics, he had aunts who lived to be 100, active reading and stubbornness.
“Every characteristic you have is a double-edged sword,” she said. “He’s stubborn with me, but it also makes you persistent. He keeps going.”
Krakauer also said Seidman keeps a high spirit all the time and loves to joke with friends and family.
On a CBS news segment about him for his 100th birthday, Seidman responded to a reporter’s question about the secret to living 100 years with, “fast women and hard liquor.”
“That’s not my father at all, but it’s a funny line so he said it,” Krakauer said. “Everybody went crazy with it.”