Former Estates Mayor Murray Seeman Dies At 103

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Murray Seeman

Murray Seeman, former Great Neck Estates mayor and longtime community leader, passed away on Saturday, Oct. 14, of natural causes at his Great Neck Estates home. He was 103.

Seeman attributed his long, healthy life to keeping busy, continually learning and traveling around the globe with his wife, Town of North Hempstead Councilwoman Lee Seeman.

“He was not like a 103 year old, his brain was very much in tact,” said daughter Michelle Rothbort. “He was dynamo.”

Former Great Neck Estates Mayor Murray Seeman at his 100th birthday celebration in 2014

At his 100th birthday celebration in 2014, Seeman said that the most important part of a plan to live to 100 is to “nourish yourself, your body and your mind, and educate yourself.”

Seeman’s daughter reflected about how he was an avid, insatiable reader.

“Reading opens up your mind to learning. He was always curious and always wanted to be enlightened,” said Rothbort. “He was familiar with the librarians at the local branches in Great Neck, because he had a minimum of six books on reserve at all times for years and years. He read many newspapers daily and multiple books in short periods of time. Even at nearly 100, he was still reading physics books.”

Seeman was born on July 7, 1914, to Dora and Benjamin Seeman in Ridgewood, Queens, and graduated from Boys High School in Brooklyn in 1931. He had his first taste of elected office while at Brooklyn College, where he was class president and honored at his 1934 graduation as “mostly likely to succeed.” In 1937, he graduated from Columbia Law School.

“Starting out on the debating team at Brooklyn College foreshadowed his success and it was good training to becoming a lawyer,” noted his daughter. “The debating team helped him become even more articulate.”

Murray Seeman in 1988

Seeman joined the Army six months prior to Pearl Harbor. After completing Officer Candidate School training, he was stationed in the ports of Casablanca, Morocco; Naples, Italy; and Marseilles, France, each for a year. While in Naples, he served as a judge in the civilian court.

He met his wife at a hotel in Vermont in 1953 and they wed later that year. For more than 60 years, the couple lived in the Great Neck Estates home Seeman helped build in 1955.

“He was the wind beneath my mother’s wings,” said Rothbort. “He encouraged her to pursue her civic and community duties. She’s been on the chamber of commerce, involved in politics and on the board of many organizations. He never stopped her. He encouraged her to grow and do the things that she wanted to do. He was like a blanket for her. He was the patriarch until the end. The two of them were a great team.”

Seeman had his own law practice on Grace Avenue, and worked full time until age 95.

“I was always interested in village affairs,” Seeman told the Great Neck Record a few days before his 100th birthday. He was a civic association president before he moved to Long Island for the “beautiful community and good schools.” Seeman served as a trustee of Great Neck Estates from 1967 to 1975 before serving as the village’s mayor from 1975 to 1983.

While mayor, Karen Weisberg described him as “a compassionate and caring man, deeply involved in the concerns of his family, his village, his country and the world,” in a profile she wrote for the local newspaper.

Seeman loved his time as mayor. “I could do it again,” he told the Record a few years ago. “I did a fairly decent job; village residents liked me and I was elected three times.” The best part? “I loved solving problems,” he answered.

“He was innovative in solving disputes as mayor and never was sedentary in his role,” said Rothbort. “He was a doer. He was always looking for things to do and wasn’t afraid to take a stand for things he believed in. While he was mayor, he took a stand against nuclear proliferation, started an art sanctuary in a park on Shore Road in Great Neck Estates in 1977 and was even responsible for enacting a pooper scooper law in Great Neck Estates, which left a path for other villages across Long Island to soon follow suit. He was ahead of his time.”

His passion for archaeology, Biblical history and the early formation of the alphabet fueled Seeman’s desire to visit fascinating places, eventually writing and lecturing on his studies.

For 40 years, he was business partners with his close friend, former Lake Success Mayor Reuben Kershaw. Seeman and the former Lake Success mayor’s wife, Norma Kershaw, were founding board members of the North Shore Archaeology Society, which is now the Archaeological Institute of America, Long Island Society.

“Murray was the most wonderful person with whom to travel to archaeological sites because he researched everything thoroughly and shared his insights while on the trip,” said Norma Kershaw. “He was an amazing person.”

From left: Murray and Lee Seeman were presented with the Centennial Award by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and Great Neck Chamber of Commerce past President and Kings Point Trustee Hooshang Nematzadeh at the Great Neck Chamber of Commerce centennial celebration on April 30, 2015.

Seeman is survived by his wife, Lee; children Michelle Rothbort, Janine Buss and Scott Seeman of Port Washington and Roxanne Seeman of Los Angeles; as well as seven grandchildren.

Hundreds of people attended his funeral service on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Temple Beth-El of Great Neck. Seeman was buried in Wellwood Cemetery in Farmingdale. According to his family, hundreds and hundreds of people came to sit shiva, too.

“I wish to thank the community for the outpouring of support and sympathy offered to my family and me at this time,” said his wife, Lee. “My husband, Murray, was, as many know, the most ardent supporter of my political career. He was an outstanding public servant in his own right, serving as mayor of Great Neck Estates, as well as a captain in the U.S. Army. I am reminded of his good works every day.”

Rothbort reflected, “He was a very special man and he was very connected to Great Neck.”

Read Seaman’s obituary here.

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Sheri ArbitalJacoby brings more than three decades of publishing experience at national magazines to her position as editor of the Great Neck Record. She also writes decorating, travel, food and green articles for Long Island Weekly and Anton Media Group's special sections.

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