Leonard H. Schwall died peacefully at home in the company of his family on March 30, 2019 after a long and challenging illness. He was born in Boston, Massachusetts on August 27, 1926 to Sarah Tarmy Schwall, an immigrant from Russia, and Samuel Schwall, an immigrant from Austria. He graduated from the Boys Latin School, Boston MA, during World War II and expressed a desire to enlist in the United States Navy. His parents persuaded him to delay enlistment until he turned eighteen. In 1944, immediately after his 18th birthday, he withdrew from college and enlisted in the US Navy. He served as an aviation cadet and was selected for the Navy’s V-12/V-5 flight training and officer’s training program. After the end of the war, he returned to college and graduated from Harvard University in 1947.
He completed Columbia University School of Law in 1950 and went to Washington D.C. to work for the Federal government’s idealistic but controversial Slum Clearance/Urban Renewal program. Next, he returned to New York City where he worked to assist aspiring home owners to obtain reliable and affordable home financing. In 1956 he moved to New City, Rockland County, New York and established a private law practice specializing in finance and real estate.
In Rockland County he also served for a time as Town of Clarkstown Tax Assessor. As assessor, he developed a unique method of updating and validating tax rolls. His unconventional method succeeded in resolving conflicts, avoiding future legal controversies between property owners and the town.
His solo law practice eventually grew into Schwall and Becker Attorneys at Law, with offices in New City New York, Hillsdale New Jersey and Central Valley New York. Mr. Schwall believed that dependable people who wished to be homeowners should have a chance to own a home. The strength of his belief was demonstrated in the early 1960’s by his personal co-signing of home mortgages for some Rockland County families when he believed they were being denied financing due to racial discrimination.
In Rockland County he was instrumental in establishing the Rockland County Legal Aid Society. He was a fund raiser for Boy Scouts, member of C.O.R.E and NAACP, a member of Jewish War Veterans, member of the Rockland County Bar Association and an active participant in all Democratic party activities.
Through his political and civic activities he met Lois Ella Doyle, whose social and political views matched his own. They married in 1959, had five children and subsequently moved to Highland Mills, New York while he continued to practice law in Rockland County.
Mr. Schwall was a long time chair of the Rockland Bar Association’s Law Day ceremonies at the New City courthouse, where he invited school choirs to participate by singing his favorite patriotic song, “America.” Over the years, the Rockland County Bar Association awarded him the Richard Sterns Award, the Pro Bono Award, the Presidency of the Bar Association and finally the Lifetime Achievement Award. He sometimes said with a smile that receipt of the Lifetime Achievement Award was a signal that it was time to retire. Reluctantly, he did retire as his health began to fade.
Throughout his life, Leonard Schwall exhibited a strong affinity for truth and a scornful intolerance of dishonesty, greed and deceit. He actively supported the rule of law and the civil rights of all people, especially the vulnerable. He instilled these values in his beloved children who, with his wife of sixty years, survive him. They are: Samuel Schwall, wife Lisa and children Rachel, Aaron, Abigail of Oakton, northern VA; Daniel Schwall, wife Eva and daughter Molly, of Hingham, MA; David Schwall of Stony Point, NY; Benjamin Schwall, wife Emmy and children Florence, Emmet, Gabrielle and Ellis of Taipei, Taiwan; Sarah Schwall Weinstein and husband Steven and children Benjamin, Rebecca and Ethan of Highland Mills, NY. His sisters Hilda Schwall Berner and Florence Schwall Kaufman predeceased him. Nieces and nephew Diana Berner Seasonwein, Richard Berner and Amy Kaufman Rosen and their families also survive him.
A memorial service is planned for 11 a.m. Thursday, April 4, 2019 at the Monroe Temple of Liberal Judaism, Monroe, NY. Interment at the Monroe Temple section of Cedar Hill Cemetery, Middlehope, NY (just north of Newburgh) will follow the service on Thursday.
Callers are welcome at the Schwall family home in Highland Mills, NY following interment. Shiva will be observed at the family home on that day.
Memorial donations are appreciated for the Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Alabama or Hospice of Orange and Sullivan.