If there was one thing Eugene Hurkin lived for, it was to laugh and make others smile too. And if a joke was good enough to tell once—it was good enough to tell a thousand times. Every time Eugene and his family drove past a cemetery he would ask “Why do cemeteries have fences?” In unison, his family would yell back “Because everyone is dying to get in.”
And even when battling dementia for the last 11 years of his life, his sense of humor and good nature continued until the end when he died at home from Covid-19 on January 8, 2021.
Eugene was born on November 21, 1925 in Reading, Pennsylvania—but eventually moved to Brooklyn. He attended New Utrecht High School and joined the cross-country track team, which was one of his great passions. He was also practicing long jumps out of his bedroom window in order to sneak out to go to track practices which his mother had prohibited. He graduated from Brooklyn College and Brooklyn Law School (class of 1950). He practiced Landlord-Tenant law at 282 Atlantic Avenue and worked in real estate for 46 years and even after his retirement worked pro bono in the community.
Eugene wore bright, flamboyant suits all week while working in the Housing Court, but at the end of each week, he traded in the suits for a Boy Scout Campmaster uniform to go camping in the great outdoors. Eugene became active in the Cub Scouts in the early 1970s with his son and then with the Boy Scouts for almost 45 years. As a Scout Campmaster, he wore his uniform proudly as a badge of brotherhood. The Scouts provided him with a life of comradery, friendly competition, the mentoring of young people, the regular acquisition of new skills, and just plain fun.
He was also a longtime member of the Brooklyn Heights Synagogue and helped them purchase their original building at 117 Remsen Street.
Towards the end of his life, Eugene still enjoyed joking around even though it was to an audience he didn’t know due to his memory loss. His family would take him shopping on Atlantic Avenue where many people there knew him and would greet him, patting him on the back and letting him know how much they liked him and appreciated all the great legal work he did for them. He didn’t let on that he didn’t remember them, but when they left he would always say “Wow, I must have been a great guy.” I know his family and friends would agree.
Eugene is survived by his children Jean, Allen, and Ruth and his grandchildren Dean, Jack, and Dailen. There was no funeral service due to the pandemic. He was buried at Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn in his Scout uniform alongside his wife, Rosalie, who died in 1996.