Joe Schachter served as last year’s Memorial Day parade grand marshal.
Before that, he helped found the Minuteman Yacht Club. As “the voice of boaters,” they pushed the town to improve the Longshore and Compo marinas. First Selectman John Kemish appointed him to the town’s 1st Boating Advisory Committee too.
Schachter also helped form the Norwalk Oyster Festival and Commuter Action Committee. As a member of the statewide Rail Advisory Task Force, he served 3 governors.
During World War II he took enemy fire on the Wilkes Barre cruiser in Tokyo Bay, and along the Manchurian border.
After the war he spent 30 years in advertising in Hartford and New York, on accounts like Ford and Eastman Kodak.
He then embarked on an entirely new 2nd career, introducing floating concrete docks to the Northeast — and as far as Greenland and Bermuda. For 20 years he worked on projects for the Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers. He’s most proud of his 400th installation: the one at Compo Beach.
Many years before all that, Schachter was a 13-year-old bar mitzvah boy at Congregation Beth El in Norwalk. After all his work and travels — including Alaska and Antarctica — when Joe and his wife Carol moved back to the area and settled in Westport, they joined that same synagogue.
She died in 1964, leaving 3 young boys — who themselves had their bar mitzvahs at Beth El.
Schachter remarried. He and his wife Irma brought the congregation into the 20th century, when Beth El first recognized women in the prayer quorum, and later on the pulpit.
The couple helped raised funds, and even did some of the physical work, during a major expansion of the East Avenue building in the 1980s.
In 2014 — 89 years young — Schachter created Beth El’s new marketing campaign and print presence. For weeks he climbed ladders, hung signs on the building, and worked on details small (font and color) and large (what each generation seeks in a Jewish community). Irma was always by his side.
The couple still attends almost every Friday night service. Always, the temple says, they have “a kind word, a thought of encouragement, and a generous smile. They are living legends, quietly and graciously waiting their turn for a cookie or a cup of grape juice.”
On Sunday, April 2 (5 p.m.) Congregation Beth El honors Joe and Irma Schachter at their spring gala. There will be music, dancing, food, laughter and reminiscing.
Most of all, their many friends and admirers say, “there will be a spirit of joy. And there will be community.”
(For more information on the gala honoring Joe and Irma Schachter, click here.)