Irwin Shargaa

Irv Shargaa died peacefully on June 3, 2022 surrounded by his wife Barbara, daughters Jill and Judy and granddaughter Allie at the ICU at ORMC. He was 93. Cause of death was Congestive Heart Failure and Aphasia. He worked until the age of 91 at his beloved upholstery shop Tropical Decorators which he owned since the early 1950s.

Irv was born in St. Louis, in 1929 to Russian/Lithuanian immigrants, Harry and Ida Shargaa who operated a small grocery store and stall at the Farmer’s Market. He was the fourth of four children: Sara (16 years older), Sam (14 years older), and Babe (10 years older).

The Shargaas moved to Miami in the mid-1930s. After graduating Miami High, Irv took a job selling shirts. This occupation came with travel perks that took him to places such as Cuba, Honduras and Texas. This was the starting point for becoming a successful salesman. By the late ’40s Irv and his brother Babe had moved to Orlando and opened an Auction House on Orange Blossom Trail. They sold various items including TV sets and furniture. Babe knew how to upholster furniture and taught Irv this craft.

In the early 1950s while living near Orange Blossom Trail, Irv met an older neighbor named Jess Beardsley. Jess became a mentor and father figure to him. When Irv wanted to buy a car, Jess talked him out of it and encouraged Irv to buy a truck instead. Jess’s words of advice “You can always make a living with a truck,” still ring true. He also helped Irv buy his first piece of property, 2551 Nashville St., where his upholstery shop, Tropical Decorators, opened in 1953. For years, Tropical upholstered all the furniture at Ronnie’s Restaurant …a beloved hangout sadly gone.

Meanwhile, Plant City resident Barbara Branch was transferred from her job at Family Finance’s Lakeland office to the Orlando office. Barbara and Irv’s paths crossed when he brought his client’s loan papers in for processing to her office. Irv became Barbara’s weekly visitor, and due to the volume of loans he was bringing her, she told him that he had “won a date” with her! Their first date was to Gary’s Duck Inn restaurant (yes, it’s also gone) on Orange Blossom Trail. He picked her up in his red truck and that was the start to their 68-year-long happy marriage.

They were married in 1954 at Ohev Shalom by Rabbi Mallinger. They soon joined Temple Israel. Their family expanded by having two daughters, Jill and Judy (husband Mike Sherard; daughter Allie Kane; Adam Kane; Amelia Kane and son Max Sherard). As a young family they traveled, camped, fished, and went boating all over Florida and the U.S. Their trips to Europe, Israel and cruises to the Caribbean have created wonderful memories.

In 1979, Barb and Irv celebrated his 50th birthday by driving their RV to Alaska. “When you’re in that small space for that long, you had better be compatible!” Irv also loved watching sports on TV. Anything involving a ball could hold his attention for hours. He loved telling jokes, eating all kinds of food and drinking good Scotch. Aphasia robbed him of speaking and eating in his final months. Such a cruel way to end one’s life.

In 1988, Irv had a triple-bypass. During his recovery, his friend Alan Altshuler would tell Irv about the various activities his Kiwanis chapter was doing. For years, Alan was suggesting that Irv join his group. “I’m too busy” was the answer, until he finally agreed.

Irv served as Treasurer, Vice President and President of Kiwanis of Central Orlando. He was the chapter’s Foundation President and “chief fundraiser” and helped raise money by selling tickets to their annual Golf Ball Drop. He painted fences and houses, built wheelchair ramps, sold coloring books, put bicycles together, flipped pancakes, collected thousands of toys, convinced Publix and Winn-Dixie to donate dozens of turkeys at Thanksgiving time, and for many years had dressed up as Santa Claus for the kids in the Head Start program. Yes, Virginia, there IS a Jewish Santa Claus.

Funeral will be at Temple Israel-Woodlawn Cemetery (9302 Morton Jones Rd., Gotha, FL 34734), June 7 at 10 a.m.

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