Irvin Fine

Irvin Fine grew up on the North Side of Youngstown. His parents had immigrated from Poland, and they spoke mostly Yiddish in his home when he was growing up.  Irv still speaks the language, which he sees as an important part of Jewish culture, though he admits he’s forgotten a few words.

The Fines opened a grocery store in 1922 on Madison and Covington, serving the diverse neighborhood where most of the men worked in the steel mills.  He remembers how the store existed primarily on credit, and his family often carried the families of steelworkers when they went on strike.

The Fines were not especially religious.  They went to temple for holidays, and Irv had a Bar Mitzvah, but he describes it as a minor thing.  Because it was on a Saturday, which was an important day for his parents’ grocery store, his father and brother skipped his Bar Mitzvah in order to work.  Irv remembers spending time at the early Jewish Community Center, which was in a house on Bryson Street, and with Jewish fraternities and sororities during high school.  Today, he defines himself as Jewish because he was born Jewish, but he no longer goes to temple, though he does live at Levy Gardens, an assisted living facility run by the Youngstown Jewish Federation.  Only one of his children maintains a strong sense of Jewish identity.

His family later moved to Crandall Avenue, and he later graduated from the Rayen High School.  He attended Youngstown College, studying pre-law while still working in his parents’ grocery store.

Irv served as a medic during the war, stationed in Panama.  He remembers the Army testing the effects of gas in the jungle there, a process that burned some Puerto Rican soldiers who were sent into the area where the gas had been dropped.  One of his jobs was to help treat their burns.  He also began to suffer from an eye disease that he thinks may have been caused by exposure to chemical weapons during the war.  As his eyesight worsened, he sought help from the Veteran’s Administration, which directed him to the Heinz Rehab Center.  They taught him some strategies for handling daily life well despite his blindness, such as walking with a cane.

Irv and Lucy Fine

Irv and Lucy Fine

After he came home from the war, Irv went to law school at night, completing his degree in about five years.  Five years later, after splitting his time between working as a lawyer and working in the story, he sold his family’s grocery store and started practicing law full time.  He married Lucy Lewin in 1948.  While he built his law practice, Irv’s wife Lucy worked for a while at Kravitz’s Deli, and he remembers playing pinochle in a back room there, together with Herb Kravitz. Lucy later worked at Isaly’s Dairy and then at the Wean United Credit Union.  They had a son and two daughters, one of whom was quite ill, and Lucy spent a lot of time with her care, including taking her to the Cleveland Clinic, hospitals in Pittsburgh, and the Mayo Clinic.

He and his wife eventually built a house on Granada, between Ohio and Fifth, where they lived for 35 years.  Over time, Irv began investing in the stock market, and he did well.  He retired in 1988, in part because of his failing eyesight.  Despite being blind, he still plays golf.

Irvin Fine, playing golf

Irvin Fine, playing golf

One Response to “Irvin Fine”

  1. terry roth says:

    what an interesting story-
    thank you, terry roth

Leave a Comment