Ira Westreich, 74, sales manager, motivational speaker to groups

July 31, 1998|By Rachel N. Elbaum | Rachel N. Elbaum,SUN STAFF

Ira Westreich, a former Pep Boys manager and motivational speaker, died of an aneurysm Monday at Sinai Hospital.

The Pikesville resident was 74.

"The man with the voice," as his friends knew him, most recently worked as an actor, portraying patients for doctors being trained at Johns Hopkins medical school and the Milner Fenwich Organization, which makes medical films.

The New York native began his 33-year career at Pep Boys, a national auto repair and parts firm, in Lancaster, Pa., in 1948 and later became district sales manager for the Baltimore-Washington area. He retired from Pep Boys in 1981.

Mr. Westreich served in the Army during World War II.

In 1947, he married Elaine Hurshman, and they moved to Lancaster, where he worked as a radio personality for a year before going to work for Pep Boys.

"He commanded attention the minute he opened his mouth," said a friend, Gerrie Highto of Pikesville. "The first time I heard his voice I gave him the lead in the play I was directing. People say Frank Sinatra had the voice, but so did Ira."

Mr. Westreich, who moved to Baltimore in 1957, became a motivational speaker in 1970 and spoke throughout the United States and Canada on goal-setting and self-improvement.

Always willing to lend his voice to a good cause, he made appearances for the American Heart Association, speaking to children about living healthy lives.

He also tutored Russian immigrants in English, and was a volunteer at the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Covenant Guild.

He served as toastmaster for affairs at Ner Tamid Congregation in Mount Washington, where he was a member, and fund-raising events for the National Conference of Synagogue Youth.

"I worked with him in our synagogue for over 40 years, and everyone looked up to him," said Leon Albin of Pikesville, a former two-term member of the House of Delegates. "He was very knowledgeable and communicative."

Mr. Westreich acted in plays staged by the PTAs at Summit Park and Wellwood elementary schools, and the Jewish Community Center.

"No matter what part he held, he was a commanding presence on stage," said a daughter, Carol Solomon of Montgomery Village. "He was a man of incredible integrity."

Services were held Wednesday.

He also is survived by two sons, Neal Westreich of Toronto and David Westreich of Moorestown, N.J.; a daughter, Joan Heller of Reston, Va.; a sister, Sylvia Friedman of Reston; and eight grandchildren.

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