Arthur Joseph Epstein, who rose from modest roots in Malden to become a business executive and philanthropist, died on May 21. 2023. He was 86.
Epstein began his career with Midas Muffler in 1965, when a friend of his mother offered him the opportunity to buy his Malden Midas shop. Eventually, he became the owner of the second-largest franchise in the country. In recent years, he focused much of his attention on philanthropy and supporting Jewish education and mental health. In 2017, Epstein donated $5 million to Hillel Academy in Marblehead, and the school was renamed the Epstein Hillel School.
That same year, Epstein donated $5 million to Salem Hospital – the largest gift in the hospital’s history – in memory of his late wife, Eunice, who suffered with bipolar disorder for most of her adult life. The funds were used to create The Epstein Center for Behavioral Health, a 120-bed unit caring for adults and children at Salem Hospital.
“Arthur embodied the very best of men, giving so generously of his time, warmth and resources. His support for mental health services in this community has been transformational and is saving lives and comforting families every day of the year,” said Roxanne Ruppel, president and chief operating officer of Salem Hospital.
While in high school, Epstein worked in his father’s Wakefield factory, Mystic Enterprises. After his father passed when Arthur was 16, he took on more responsibilities at Mystic.
Epstein married his high school sweetheart, Eunice (Sandler), in 1958. They began their married life in Peabody before settling in Marblehead, where they raised their three children, Julie, Lauren and Jonathan.
He also prided himself on supporting young entrepreneurs pursuing their passions. He invested in people and enjoyed seeing them flourish.
One of his greatest passions was Jewish philanthropy, and he strongly believed that any Jewish child who desired a Jewish education should be able to receive one.
“Arthur Epstein was my friend, my mentor, my cheerleader, and my inspiration. I will forever be grateful for the belief he had in me, and proud of the school we built together. Rabbi Isaiah di Trani taught that we see further on the shoulders of giants. Arthur is one of those giants for me personally, professionally, and for our community,” said Amy Gold, head of school at Epstein Hillel.
“Arthur was incredibly proud of his school and called frequently with ideas about how to spread the word about EHS, and encourage others to give generously. Arthur always said, ‘People don’t know how good they will feel when they give.’ He was extraordinarily generous and known for his acts of kindness. Arthur had a huge heart and a warmth that always made you feel welcome,” said Gold.
“Arthur was very proud of being Jewish and was committed to ensuring that North Shore children would be proud Jews who were compassionate and intelligent leaders. The attributes of the EHS education: potential, identity, curiosity, intellect, compassion, and community reflect the warm, joyful, and close-knit community that is Epstein Hillel School and Arthur’s legacy.”
“Arthur Epstein was a giant of our Jewish community and huge-hearted mensch who leaves an inspiring, lasting legacy on the North Shore and across Greater Boston,” added Rabbi Marc Baker, president and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “He was a friend and mentor to me as he was to so many others who feel a deep sense of loss at his passing, but also a profound sense of calling to keep stepping up, engaging deeply with our communities, giving generously, and playing our parts to build a thriving Jewish future and a better world.”
Howard Rich, a close friend of Epstein’s, first met him in 1981 when they traveled on a Jewish federation trip to Israel. They became fast friends, and would talk about philanthropy and Jewish affairs during their regular morning walks.
“Arthur was old school, and a consummate gentleman,” said Rich, who is also a philanthropist. “Our shared goal, ultimately, was the advancement of the Jewish community here and in Israel.”
Rabbi Michael Ragozin, of Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, called Epstein a father figure for many. “Arthur fulfilled the destiny of his Hebrew name, Avraham Yosef. The biblical Abraham is blessed by God to be the ‘father of a multitude of nations,’ as the name Avraham indicates.”
“Arthur was a father figure for many. He protected, provided, cared for, advised, and lovingly chastised so many of us. And, like the biblical Joseph, Arthur possessed an audacious inner strength, extraordinary wisdom and decision-making ability, unwavering optimism, and an unending concern for his brethren.”
Epstein is survived by his wife, Bryna Litchman; as well as his children, Julie and JB Nadal, Lauren and Mark Rubin, and Linn and Jonathan Epstein. Most dear to his heart were his six grandchildren, Jake, Grace, Zoe, Amy, Mathias and Noah, his “three kings and three queens,” whom he boasted about at every opportunity.
Funeral services were held on Wednesday, May 24 at Congregation Shirat Hayam of the North Shore, 55 Atlantic Ave., Swampscott. Burial followed at Shirat Hayam Cemetery, 506 Lowell St., Peabody. Shiva was observed on Thursday, May 25 at Temple Emanuel, 385 Ward Street, Newton.
In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory may be made to the Epstein Hillel School, 6 Community Road, Marblehead, MA 01945. Θ