Eric Livingston, lifetime member of HFLA, dies in S.F. at 100

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In 1938, newly arrived immigrant Eric Livingston stepped off a boat in New York with his young family and $10 in his pocket.

He had signed away all his possessions to escape a concentration camp, and was forced to make a fresh start.

To help him along, he was granted $500 from the Hebrew Free Loan Association. Later, when he found financial success in the pest control business, he became a lifetime member of HFLA and served on its board of directors.

Livingston, a longtime resident of San Francisco, died at home on Friday of last week. He was 100.

Born Eric Loewenstein, he grew up in the Rheinland town of Elberfeld, Germany and obtained a degree in chemical engineering. In 1916, he volunteered to fly in the German air force, but was instead assigned to the infantry and later received the Iron Cross for his bravery in combat.

After the war, he returned to Elberfeld to manage his family's textile business. He visited San Francisco with his brother-in-law in 1936, and facing the rapidly escalating anti-Semitism at home, determined to move here.

With visas and passports ready, Livingston and his family prepared to leave for America. But those plans were threatened on Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, when Livingston was arrested and interned in Dachau simply because he was planning to leave. He was freed after two weeks when he offered his possessions to secure his release.

With his wife and two daughters, Livingston first came to New York and then traveled by boat via the Panama Canal to San Francisco. In 1940, he landed a job at Crane Pest Control and signed on most of San Francisco's leading hotels to the company's account. He soon became a partner and, in 1948, sole owner of the company, which now operates in many states.

"When he came to this country, he wanted to be an asset to this country, not a burden, and he never was," said his daughter Vera Stein, who lives in San Francisco.

Stein said that the loan furnished by the HFLA, an organization which is as old as Livingston, had a powerful effect on him, prompting him to give back to the Jewish community.

He served on the boards of HFLA, American Committee for Shaare Zedek Hospital in Jerusalem, Jewish Home for the Aged, Jewish National Fund and American Friends of the Hebrew University. He was a member of Congregation Emanu-El in San Francisco.

"His heart was very Jewish," said Greta Livingston, his wife of 73 years.

She described him as "a person who always wanted to make other people happy, to help the underdog. He helped many people get their first jobs. He was an excellent businessman and very good provider."

In addition to his wife and daughter, he is survived by another daughter, Doris Livingston Grasshoff, of San Francisco. He is also survived by son-in-law Harold Stein Jr., grandchildren Leslie Simon, Deborah Hoffman, Lynne Simon and Peter Livingston Stein and great grandchildren Jessica and Gabriel Hoffman, and Adrienne and Portia Simon-Krichman.

Livingston was buried in Eternal Home Cemetery in Colma. Services were held. Memorial contributions may be made to the Hebrew Free Loan Association, 717 Market St., Suite 555, S.F. 94103 or American Friends of Shaare Zedek Hospital, 703 Market St., S.F., 94103 or the charity of choice.