Henry F. "Hank" Schoenfeld dies at age 82

Insurance executive and philanthropist

September 17, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Henry F. "Hank" Schoenfeld, a Baltimore insurance executive and philanthropist who enjoyed flying family and friends in his twin-engine Beechcraft Baron, died Sept. 11 of pancreatic cancer at his Stevenson home.

He was 82.

Mr. Schoenfeld, the son of a salesman and a homemaker, was born in Nuremberg, Germany, and spent his early years there and later in Munich, which coincided with the rise of Nazism.

"They knew trouble was coming. His father, who sold clothing, was finally told by his customers that they could not longer buy from a Jew," said a daughter, Judy Schoenfeld Morrison of Pikesville.

"His mother looked for a way out, and finally they found a cousin in Philadelphia who would sponsor them. They were able to get out in 1938 and settled in Coatesville, Pa.," she said.

After graduating from Coatesville High School in 1947, Mr. Schoenfeld earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering in 1952 from Pennsylvania State University.

Because of his fluency in German, he served in Army intelligence in Germany from 1952 to 1954, attaining the rank of lieutenant.

He came to Baltimore in the mid-1950s to work as an engineer at Eastern Venetian Blind Co. in Middle River.

Mr. Schoenfeld later made a career change and joined the insurance industry, and became a chartered life underwriter and a chartered property and casualty underwriter.

In 1960, Mr. Schoenfeld and partner Alan D. Hecht established Hecht-Schoenfeld Insurance, and two years later, the firm was consolidated with the Morton Wolman Co., forming Wolman-Hecht-Schoenfeld Inc.

Since 1964, when he founded Schoenfeld Insurance Associates Inc., Mr. Schoenfeld had remained the company's president and principal owner. Established in downtown Baltimore, the firm relocated from Charles Center to Lombard Street. Since 2003, the company has been on Smith Avenue in Mount Washington.

Mr. Schoenfeld's insurance specialties included property and casualty insurance and life, health and employee benefits.

"He was probably the most honorable person I've ever met in my life. If he said something, he meant it. He told me if I did 'A, B and C,' he'd make me a partner in three years. He did it in two," said Harvey S. Shankman, who has been a partner since 1977.

"He was an extremely bright, knowledgeable, warm and loving individual. He was also charitable toward his employees, many of whom have been here 20, 25 and more than 30 years," Mr. Shankman said.

Mr. Shankman said that he and Mr. Schoenfeld shared coffee very morning.

"He'd never buy a cup but would always take part of mine," recalled Mr. Shankman with a laugh.

Ira Gansler, a Baltimore stockbroker, is a longtime friend.

"He's been my insurance man and a client of mine for 40 years. He was one of the most complex individuals I've ever known. He had strong opinions, and I can't think of anything that he didn't have an opinion on, whether it was the best ice cream, place to eat or beach to swim," Mr. Gansler said, laughing.

Mr. Gansler described him as "generous to a fault" and "fun to be around."

"Hank was extremely hardworking and always wanted things done his way," Mr. Gansler said. "He was a character and a wonderful guy. He'd do anything for his family and friends."

Mr. Schoenfeld's philanthropic interests included Associated Jewish Charities and Penn State.

"He was always writing checks to charities. The mail would come, and he'd write a check," said Mr. Shankman. "He truly believed that those who had money had an obligation to help those who didn't. He really had enjoyed his life and believed in giving back."

In the early 1970s, Mr. Schoenfeld earned his pilot's license and enjoyed flying for the next 35 years. Through the years, Mr. Schoenfeld owned several airplanes, including his favorite twin-engine Beechcraft Baron.

"His favorite places to fly were Nantucket, where he had a time share, and Penn State, so he could attend football games," his daughter said.

"I flew with him a lot and through some dicey weather, and he was always in control," Mr. Gansler recalled. "He was very methodical. In his training, if they told Hank to check something before taking off, he'd check it three times."

Throughout his life, Mr. Schoenfeld remained a devoted Penn State alumnus and football fan. "He made my son go there and even flew him up for his interview," Mr. Shankman said.

In addition to Nantucket, Mr. Schoenfeld maintained summer homes at Sea Colony in Bethany Beach, Del., and Boca Raton, Fla., where he could indulge his passion for sleeping on the beach.

"He had this peculiar mix of iodine and baby oil which he'd mix up and put on his body," his daughter said. "And then he'd dig a big hole in the sand, make a nest and a sand pillow, and then climb in and fall asleep for several hours," Mr. Gansler said, laughing.

He also enjoyed playing golf and tennis, and was a 50-year member of the Suburban Club.

Mr. Schoenfeld was a member of Har Sinai Congregation for 50 years and had served on its board.

Services were Tuesday.

Also surviving are another daughter, Betsy Schoenfeld Collins of Ellicott City, and two grandchildren. His marriage to Sarah Lee Shusterman ended in divorce.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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