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Obituaries Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 19, 2010

Harold A. Schwenk Sr.

Harold A. Schwenk Sr. was a beloved hero to his family.

They describe him as “always having a restless soul”; he moved and changed jobs every decade or so but, in each place, he was vitally involved in his work and community.

In the Helderberg Hilltowns, he owned the Knox Country Store with his family for 15 years. During that time, he was a Knox fire commissioner, a member of the Knox Zoning Board of Appeals, and a member of the Kiwanis.

Mr. Schwenk died on Aug. 11, 2010 in Vero Beach, Fla., where he had retired. He was 89.

He was born in West New York, N. J. and grew up during the Great Depression. “His father worked on the docks and did all different things” to support his wife and three children, said Janice Filkins, Mr. Schwenk’s daughter. Mr. Schwenk had a brother and a sister.

After graduating from high school, he worked in lithography and printing, she said. He joined the Army Air Corps during World War II. “He was a bombardier, mostly in Africa, and later he became a pilot and trained pilots,” said Ms. Filkins. He didn’t often talk about his war years, his daughter said, but she did repeat one thing Mr. Schwenk related.

“All the guys in his squadron had plans for after the war. He had no plans, and was surprised when they were killed and he wasn’t,” she said. “He felt the rest of his life was a gift.”

After his wartime service, Mr. Schwenk owned and operated a Texaco gas station, across from Manhattan in New Jersey, where the tunnel from the city ended.

“His plan in life was to change his lifestyle every 10 years,” said Ms. Filkins.

His family, though, was a constant. He met his wife, Virginia, in high school. They were married for 67 years and had two sons and a daughter.

“They decided to have kids in the country and bought a farm in Andes, New York, in the Catskills,” said Ms. Filkins. “They did well running the dairy farm. It was a great time. Everyone from the city would come up and stay. It was a wonderful place to grow up.”

Mr. Schwenk grew restless again and moved the family to Long Island, where he had a business doing wedding photography. The Schwenks bought a motorboat and the family enjoyed many outings.

The next move was to Knox. Ms. Filkins, now grown, and her son along with her brother and his four children moved with their parents to the Helderbergs. “Everyone was involved in running the store,” said Ms. Filkins. “The kids were in and out, and slept in the store as babies.”

She asked, “How many families can work together and still love each other?”

Mr. Schwenk was devoted to his family, she said. As a father, she said, “He was emotionally accessible. He was not judgmental. He taught us how to live in this crazy, changing world. He was very calm. He loved people.”

His final move was to Florida. “He once said Florida was for old people, but he got into golf and really enjoyed it,” said his daughter.

She went on about her father, “He was a very positive man. He read through the entire Bible five times.”

Mr. Schwenk was not a church-going man but he was very spiritual, she said. “He had great faith there was a heaven,” she said.

In this matter, his mother’s father was a strong influence, said Ms. Filkins. “He ran a little grocery store in Jersey and always gave food away to people when they needed it,” she said. “He was a very positive man, like my father.”

She concluded of her father, “I really can’t think of one negative thing to say about him.”


Harold A. Schwenk is survived by his loving wife of 67 years, Virginia; his son Harold Schwenk Jr. (Spike) and his wife Kathleen; his son Gerald Schwenk and his wife Judith; and his daughter Janice Filkins; his favorite granddaughter, Christine; his grandsons, James, Steven and wife, Heather, Dylan Vallequette, Jason, Jeffrey, and Kevin; and his great-grandchildren Marley, Zackary, McKenzie, Courtney, and Marissa.

His grandson Brian died before him.

Arrangements are by the Fredendall Funeral Home of Altamont. There will be no calling hours. A private graveside service will be held at the Knox Cemetery.

The family has requested that memorial contributions be made to the Knox Fire Company, 2198 Berne-Altamont Road, Post Office Box 131, Knox, NY 12107.

Melissa Hale-Spencer 

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