Victor Kirschman was truly great man and a longtime friend of NOCCA. We asked Ashley Kirschman to write a short summary of the man who offered boundless passion, enthusiasm, and support to his family, friends, and generations of young artists.
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On August 29, 2009, New Orleans and NOCCA lost one of its beloved citizens, Mr. Victor Kirschman. He fought a long battle with Parkinson’s disease with the dignity and grace that those who knew him came to admire most. Yet the legacy that he left, both personally and professionally, lives on today in the lives he touched throughout his 86 years.
Many people are aware of his professional achievements, most notably, his long time service as Chairman of Morris Kirschman & Co., the family home furnishings business started by his father, Morris Kirschman, in 1914. He took the company from a one store operation and grew it to five, always accepting and adapting to fit the evolving furniture industry. Victor had the vision to see more than a dirt road and purchased the property on Veterans Memorial Boulevard that would one day house their flagship store. As a community leader, he also set the bar for civic involvement by serving on numerous boards such as Light House for the Blind, Tulane University Medical Center Board of Governors, B’nai Brith, Endowment Advisory Board of Newman School, UNO Foundation Board, Young Presidents Organization, Jewish Welfare Fund and the National Home Furnishings Association. He held the position of President of Touro Infirmary, Junior Achievement, Zionist Organization of America, and the New Orleans Retail Credit Bureau.
He also had the vision to see how a professional arts-training space would impact the training of the region’s young artists/citizens as well as its cultural vitality. A long-time supporter of NOCCA, he, along with Margery and their family, became the first to help lead the effort to build NOCCA’s new riverfront campus.
In contrast, it is the personal side of Mr. Kirschman that probably surprises people the most. Behind the strong, “tough as nails” entrepreneur was a devoted family man. He was the loving husband of Margery, proud father of Arnold, Richard, and the late Kenneth Kirschman (for whom NOCCA’s Ken Kirschman Artspace is named), grandfather of Michael, Kathryn, Kevin, Brittany, and Ryan, and great-grandfather of Matthew and Adam. His love for life was infectious to those around him. He displayed the rare combination of a tremendous business sense and high level creativity. This is evident in his ability to not only graduate from the prestigious University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Finance but also to put his love of music to work by collaborating with Reba Nell Herman and Freddie Slack to write “A Kiss Goodnight” which was recorded by Ella Fitzgerald and Woody Herman. He also had a deep love and appreciation for his Jewish heritage. In New Orleans, he was a member of Touro Synagogue and Beth Israel Synagogue. He and Margery were also members of Temple Sinai in Palm Desert, California, where they later retired. During his tenure as Sunday School President of Beth Israel, he wrote a Purim Operetta to be performed at the holiday carnival, once again, finding an outlet for his outstanding musical talent. On his 80th birthday, his grandchildren honored him with the presentation of a giant scroll entitled “The Top 80 Things We Love About Paw Paw Victor.” The list was filled with memories both momentous, such as standing in the cold Michigan rain to celebrate his grandson Michael’s college graduation, to miniscule, like the homemade bagel chips he loved for breakfast, and cereal often eaten as a midnight snack. Many were simple observances of his character that even as young children they all noticed and aspire to today.
To his family and friends, this was the real Victor Kirschman. A man truly devoted to his profession and community, but for the simple purpose of providing his family with the best opportunities and teaching them the skills they would need to one day carry on his legacy. He is deeply missed, but no doubt looking down at the family and city that he adored with nothing but the greatest love and pride.