Eugene Glaberman, known simply as “Gene” to a legion of friends and associates, died June 21 at New York University Langone Hospital, following a heart attack. He was 87.
Gene, a silver-haired fixture of Chelsea for more than 50 years, lived at the Penn South Cooperatives as one of the first residents of the 10-building housing complex that opened in 1963. Affable and quick-witted, Gene was a longtime community and political activist who never lost his passion for championing racial and economic equality.
He was an avid advocate for furthering democracy in the U.S. and the world. He was president of the Chelsea Midtown Democratic Club.
Even as a graphics artist and founder of his own advertising agency in New York, Gene sought out clients like the American Federation of Teachers, the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Polish workers’ union (the Committee for Solidarity), to help further their causes through his art and expertise.
“There will never be another like Gene,” said Velma Hill, a former vice president of the American Federation of Teachers and Gene’s friend and neighbor for 40 years. “He was such a special human being.”
Gene, a native of Brooklyn, grew up in a socially conscious family. He was named for Eugene Victor Debs, an American labor union leader and five-time Socialist Party candidate for the U.S. presidency; many of Debs’ social reform ideas greatly influenced Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.
Advancing community involvement and social democracy were important hallmarks of Gene’s approach to activism, which included a lifelong commitment to civil and social justice, and human rights.
Gene graduated from Brooklyn College in 1951, and did postgraduate work at Pratt Institute and The School of Visual Arts. After completing his service in the U.S. Army, Gene started his advertising agency in New York. He was well-traveled and enjoyed singing, especially the songs of one of his favorite crooners, Frank Sinatra.
Gene, who possessed an incandescent smile and charm, remained active into his final days, holding a number of posts and memberships, including the presidency of the Eugene V. Debs Society at Brooklyn College. He also was the New York membership director of the Congress of Racial Equality; the vice president of Community School Board 2; a member of the Penn South Cooperatives Board of Directors; the president of the Penn South Workmen’s Circle branch; and a member of the National Board of the Workmen’s Circle. He also was a member of the Chelsea Recreation Center Working Group, which facilitated the opening of the Chelsea Recreation Center after decades of delay.
He was a leader in the reconstruction of 27th Drive; an officer of the Hudson Guild Council; an elected member of the Hudson Guild Board of Trustees; an officer and one of the founders of the Chelsea Community Council; an officer of the Steering Committee of Afford Chelsea, a community coalition of labor, civil rights and political leaders, which spearheaded an effort that achieved a city commitment to include 27 percent of affordable housing in the West Chelsea rezoning plan. He also was a member of the Graphic Artists Guild and an associate member of the American Federation of Teachers and the United Steelworkers. He served on the board of directors of the Jewish Labor Committee and the Workers Defense League.
Gene is survived by a nephew, Peter Glaberman, and Peter’s children, Rosaruby Kagan Glaberman, Ursa Brown Glaberman and Ellen Glaberman Skolnik, and dear friends Velma and Norman Hill.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. Sunday, July 31 at the Fulton Center of the Hudson Guild, 119 Ninth Avenue.