Seymour “Sy” Klionsky, 89, a scion of Binghamton, passed away on Thursday January 26th in Raleigh North Carolina, after a short and courageous battle with cancer. His love of life and zest for living was infectious; he always had a twinkle in his eye. He was a showman with a gregarious personality and made friends wherever he went. He was dedicated to his wife Carole, who died in 2018 after her own battle with cancer, his family and his community. He was deeply engaged in the heritage of his roots in Jewish life in Eastern Europe, in the wonder of America and in the advancement of its Jewish community and in the existence and survival of the State of Israel. Here are some proud moments he wanted us to share.
Sy was born in Binghamton to Max and Marion (Rosefsky) Klionsky on January 21, 1934 on Mill Street. He had a wonderful childhood, surrounded by a loving and large extended family, and cherished friends.
He graduated in 1955 from Wharton School of Finance and Commerce at the University of Pennsylvania. He wrote a prescient honors thesis on “The Advantages of Writing Options in Large Portfolios”. The Chicago Board Options exchange opened 18 years later, in 1973!
At Wharton, he was elected president of the Wharton Finance Society and was appointed by representatives of other societies to represent Wharton in meetings with the University President. A clever wordsmith, he wrote the class cheer – “Pennsylvania’s push and drive comes from men of 55” sung at football games and since at reunions. He was a member of the freshman wrestling team, and, yes, at her suggestion, he did wrestle the future Miss America at the age of 18.
Sy became president in 1959 of the Binghamton Furniture Company, the Klionsky/Tanenhaus family business that provided furniture to so many families in Downtown Binghamton.
In 1970, he became a stockbroker, and was appointed regional sales manager at George D Bonbright and Company. He was named a senior Vice President of EF Hutton in 1977 and a Senior VP at Morgan Stanley in 1992.
Sy was always passionate about politics. In 1962, he was elected president of the Young Democrats of Broome County, and was elected state treasurer of the New York State Young Democrats in 1967, proudly displaying on his cottage wall letters of thanks from Robert Kennedy.
Sy was a member and Past Master of Philetus Masonic Lodge No. 1023, and taught investment classes at Broome Community College. He spearheaded an effort to build a Binghamton Walk of Fame in downtown Binghamton, highlighting such luminaries as Rod Serling and Richard Deacon.
Following the example set by his parents, Sy took a leadership role in the Binghamton area Jewish community.
He worked with the late Sholom Staiman to establish the area’s first Jewish day school, Hillel Academy of Broome County, and from 1966 to 1972 he served as its president.
To help the JCC, he explored and helped make Bingo games possible. Due to his efforts, the JCC was able to raise $25,000 during the first year. In 1969 he was selected as the first man of the year of the Jewish Community Center in Vestal New York in recognition of those efforts.
He was so proud and often talked of his role in chairing the Broome County Israeli Bond campaign at a critical time for Israel, during the Yom Kippur war, and was honored by the Israeli Bond Fund in 1973 for his fundraising efforts.
Sy was a longtime member of Beth David Synagogue, who honored Sy at its 1981 annual dinner. He was also the first president of Chabad in Broome County in 1987-89.
When Sy and Carole retired to Florida in 2006, he continued in his Jewish leadership role, serving as President of Temple Beth Israel in Longboat Key, Florida. He and Carole delighted in bringing many scholars from the Binghamton area to give lectures to the Jewish community at his new home.
Although he had many professional and philanthropic triumphs, Sy's greatest role was as a devoted son to his beloved parents. In his later years, he became the unofficial “Klionsky Family Patriarch” and made sure the entire Klionsky clan knew about the rich Klionsky/Rosefsky family history. He took immense joy in spending time with his 7 children and 13 grandchildren, often taking them on trips to locations around the world, or inviting them to his favorite place on earth, his cottage on Oquaga Lake.
A former student of Helen Foley at Binghamton High School, Sy enjoyed acting in local community theater, and had the distinction of playing the role of “Rabbi” in Fiddler on the Roof and the role of “Luther Billis” in SOUTH PACIFIC each twice! Once for the Jewish Community Center, and again, upon request of the Monsignor Brigatti, for St. Mary of the Assumption Church.
He loved swimming, which he did daily for over 50 years. He also loved walks on the beach, traveling, bridge, baseball, and coffee ice cream. He wrote poems, crafted beautiful speeches and reflections, and shared his love in this way. He loved to study the US presidents, and would teach interesting facts to anyone he encountered, making friends at every turn. He was a numbers guy and loved palindromes, including his birthday. Each year on their birthdays, Sy delighted in reciting (by heart) passages from Dr. Seuss’ HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU book to his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and dear friends, a practice he continued up until his final days. He loved life and embraced each moment, leaving behind an incredible legacy and example for each of us to aspire to.
He is predeceased by his wife Carole (Turner) Klionsky, his parents Max and Marion Klionsky, and his brother, Dr. Bernard Klionsky.
He is survived by his 4 beloved children, David, Sarah, Ari, and Ronna, and his 3 beloved step-children Debra Siton, Susan Cole, and Frank Tamarkin and their respective spouses Mara Cohen, David Borsykowsky, Nicole Klionsky, David Cleaveland, Ofer Siton, Rob Cole and Tama Tamarkin. Sy is blessed with 13 grandchildren; Miriasha Borsykowsky, Yosef Borsykowsky, Ally Klionsky, Jacob Klionsky, Moses Cleaveland Klionsky, Max Cleaveland Klionsky, Yael Siton, Noya Siton, Rachael Cole, Ariel Cole, Hannah Tamarkin, Gabriel Tamarkin, and Zachary Tamarkin. He is also survived by his dear sister, Eileen Rabson, his former wife, Marti (Kokis) Klionsky, and dozens of beloved nieces, nephews and cousins.
A memorial service will be held at 1 PM on Sunday January 29, at Beth David Synagogue, 39 Riverside Dr., Binghamton, followed by interment at Temple Israel Cemetery in Conklin.
Shiva will be held through Friday at 34 Avon Road. In lieu of flowers, donations can be sent in memory of Sy to the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton, 500 Clubhouse Road, Vestal, NY 13850
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