Obituary: Arthur Fidel / Businessman, devoted to charity, known for giving 100 percent
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Arthur Fidel was brilliant -- in high school, in law school and in business. Where he applied hard work and ethics, success followed. But giving back may have been his greatest legacy.
Mr. Fidel was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where his photographic memory helped him to graduate from high school at 15. He studied engineering until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, when he enlisted in the Army.
At New York University law school he was nearly expelled after his flawless memory led to accusations of cheating on an exam. He proved his honesty by reciting cases verbatim for the dean, said David Greenberg of Upper St. Clair, his close friend and former business partner. Mr. Fidel graduated first in his class.
"He was a great teacher and a hard taskmaster who expected perfection," Mr. Greenberg said. "He was a man of extremely high ethics. His mantra, in today's parlance, was 'Just do the right thing and everything else will work out.' "
Mr. Fidel, of Squirrel Hill, died Wednesday. He was 88.
He was practicing law in New York when he met Edythe Rogal at a resort in the Catskills. They married in 1953, and he joined her father's insurance brokerage in Pittsburgh. Working in partnership with his brother-in-law Alvin Rogal, it became Hilb Rogal and Hamilton, a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange.
Mr. Fidel knew how to advocate for his clients without alienating the insurance companies, said his son, Robert of Squirrel Hill, who worked with him.
"He was able to engineer compromises in complex cases, leaving both sides feeling that they were treated fairly and that he was looking out for their best interests," he said.
He was a devoted family man who designed and built model railroads with his children and attended countless sporting events with his grandchildren. He traveled the globe with his wife, mastering the languages with just a few weeks' study.
Mr. Fidel never forgot his humble roots. He was a generous tipper who learned the names and stories of the waitresses, busboys and valets at the establishments he frequented. When the Concordia Club closed, he helped staff members find jobs. Large charitable donations were a fixed line item in the family budget.
He was a major donor to Jewish organizations in Pittsburgh, both on his own and as a trustee of the Charles Morris Foundation. He had been a board member of Montefiore Hospital, the United Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh and predecessors of the Jewish Community Center.
He teamed with his brother-in-law to raise nearly $500,000 for the Pittsburgh Press Old Newsboys Fund for Children's Hospital, writing letters to their associates and having his own children collect coins in canisters.
After one of his grandsons was born with a serious heart defect, the family's concern became more personal, with the creation of the Noah S. Fidel Endowed Cardiology Fund at Children's Hospital. Mr. Fidel inspired other members of the family to devote themselves to charity. Another grandson is executive director of the Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh, a Jewish agency that pairs children and young adults who have disabilities with volunteers their own age for social activities.
"He led by example. All of us have tried to emulate him as we led our lives," said his daughter, Stephanie Fidel of Newton, Mass.
"He was the original multi-tasker, before the phrase was coined. But with all of his roles I don't think that anyone, from his family to his clients to his charitable organizations, felt that they got anything but 100 percent from him."
In addition to son Robert and daughter Stephanie, Mr. Fidel is survived by his wife, Edythe, and daughter Lieba Rudolph, both of Squirrel Hill; 15 grandchildren; and many great-grandchildren.
He was buried Thursday in Beth Shalom Cemetery, Shaler.
Gifts may be made to the Noah S. Fidel Endowed Cardiology Fund at Children's Hospital, 4401 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh 15224 or the Friendship Circle of Pittsburgh, 5872 Northumberland St., Pittsburgh 15217.
First Published December 10, 2012 12:00 am