YOUNGSTOWN — Irving Lev has played many roles in his nearly 100 years: Air Force bomber, college graduate, home builder and, most importantly, husband, father and grandfather.
Lev was born on October 12, 1922, the third of five boys, to immigrant parents from what is now Ukraine and Belarus who had each traveled to the United States alone.
He was born just before the Depression. His father was a carpenter and worked his way up to the point where he could build complete homes with his own business.
Lev graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in 1940 and enrolled at Ohio State University. He dropped out of school after a successful first semester to enlist in the Air Force.
“He deployed to England with his crew as a navigator on a B-17 bomber, the Flying Fortress. He flew 35 missions, including three missions on D-Day, bombarding Nazi supply lines in support of the invasion. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service,” said his son, Doug Lev of Youngstown.
After his tour was over, he remained in the Air Force and trained as a pilot in Bakersfield, California. At the same time, he began dating Alice Raful of Newton Falls and later Boardman in earnest, whom he had known since high school and kept in touch. with during the war.
The couple married on July 25, 1945 in a ceremony in Oakland, California, just over a month before the war ended. The couple settled in Berkeley, California, where Lev went to the University of California, Berkeley on the GI Bill and earned a degree in mechanical engineering. They had their first son, Steven, in Berkeley on October 4, 1948.
Lev held a few engineering jobs in the San Francisco Bay Area, but after hearing that his father was struggling with his business, Lev moved back to Youngstown and they formed Louis Lev and Son Inc.
Lev expanded the business and greatly increased the number of houses they were building. He expanded the business to large housing estates of 50 or more houses that covered many city blocks. Lev built four of them. In fact, during his career, Lev built over 500 homes in the Youngstown area and also did renovations and new construction for the Air Force Base in Vienna. He also built a modern medical building on Belmont Avenue which is still in use as a doctor’s office.
Working with his wife, Alice Lev, he has assisted and advised her in her work building affordable housing for the disadvantaged, including low-cost housing developments serving primarily the African American community and client housing. mentally handicapped.
After retiring in 1988, Lev remained active in the community serving on numerous boards including the Jewish Federation, Goodwill Industries, Doris Burdman Home and the Youngstown Planning Commission.
He often served as an expert witness in legal cases due to his extensive knowledge of construction. He became a key player in settling dozens of Russian Jewish immigrants who were allowed to leave the Soviet Union after years of repression. Lev arranged for housing, brought furniture, and helped new immigrants find jobs, training, and whatever else they needed.
“He was like a savior to a generation of immigrants,” Doug Lev said.
Lev has three children: Steve, Roz and Doug; four grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren. His wife, Alice, died on December 14, 2016, after more than 71 years of marriage.
In his younger years, Lev enjoyed playing bridge, going fishing in Canada, playing handball and racquetball, tending to his beloved garden, and watching sports.
He is known as a happy, funny, good-natured person who is always eager to chat with his neighbors or anyone for that matter,” said Doug Lev.
Lev resided at Levy Gardens Assisted Living in Youngstown last month, but has lived near Crandall Park on the North Side since 1960.
“He’s still doing well and can often be seen around the neighborhood on his electric scooter or playing music on the streets or sitting on his porch with me,” Doug Lev said.