Harvey D. Semilof, 85, a sweet and gentle soul, of Kingston, NY and Stuart, FL, son of Alex and Sadie B. Semilof, joined beloved friends and family, former football team mates and Lehigh University alums, fellow horsemen, all with front row seats at a Benny Goodman concert, smiling, singing and laughing. They are the lucky, who will now forever enjoy his unmatched wit and humor.
Born in Brooklyn, NY, the family moved to Kingston, NY in 1948 where they grew a family business, the Federal Venetian Blind Corp. "The Factory", on O'Neil St. He graduated from Kingston High School, class of 1950, and Lehigh University, class of 1954, of which he was forever proud. "Old 68" or "Dirty Harve" was a standout offensive lineman for the Lehigh football team and remembered the words to every one of the old Lehigh fight songs.
He married Rhona Friedland in 1955, after having met in Buffalo while he briefly attended the University of Buffalo, School of Law, quitting after his first year because he thought it was boring. He joined the army, and the two began a yearlong adventure living on Clark Air Force in the Philippines, while he worked in army intelligence. When his father became ill they returned to Kingston where he remained, where he raised three daughters, Leigh, Margie and Suzanne.
For many years he bred, owned and raced Standardbred harness horses, mostly at Saratoga and Monticello. For years you could find him nearly every morning, even on the bitterest, coldest days, with Charlie and Frankie Tiano, and the gang, at Fortune Valley, where they fed and jogged the horses. We are sure he's sharing coffee and a Danish with these guys at a celestial version of the Park Diner. When he retired in the 1990s, he took up golf and eventually became a part-time resident of Stuart, FL., where he collected even more wonderful friends. He was a game Bridge player, a so-so golfer and a terrible bowler. For one hilarious season, he deviously used his historically large handicap to win the only bowling tournament he was ever entered in, over at the old Midtown lanes.
Harvey had encyclopedic knowledge of so many things classic movies, big bands, the Brooklyn Dodgers, to name just a few. He was the beating heart of so many gatherings. Through the years he was also active in civic organizations. For example, he served on the town planning board in Lake Katrine, and he was president of the Exchange Club where he started a Junior Football League. But more important, he attended an uncountable number of his daughter's band concerts, dance recitals, graduations, always ready, always there and usually an hour early. He only wanted to know how you were doing, and was always happy if you were happy.
He is survived by his beloved wife of 61 years, Rhona, who is the best caregiver in the world. His daughters, Dr. Leigh Semilof, DVM, Margie and her husband Charles Collinson, Suzanne and her husband, John Souza, and their daughters, Karen and Christine, his brother, Duke Semilof of Sarasota, Florida. A sister, Arlene Neporent, died in February. He also leaves many nieces and nephews, cousins, and a cast of thousands - friends who are like family. Among them Frank and Kathy Tiano and family, Chris and Brandi Poenicke and family, RJ and Natalie Kelder and family.
A Funeral Service will be held on Wednesday, April 12, 2017 at 1:00 PM at the Simpson-Gaus Funeral Home, 411 Albany Ave at 1:00 PM, with Rev. Charles Stickley, officiating.
Interment will follow in Montrepose Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to the charity of your choice. As Irving Berlin once said, a song has ended, but a beautiful melody lingers on.