Don Felson ( Feigelson)
Don Felson, partisan fighter, East Bay developer, dies at age 72
Friday April 19, 2002
ALEXANDRA J. WALL
Don Felson often threw parties on the Fourth of July.
"He had a great love for America," said his first cousin, Don Ungar,
of San Francisco. "He felt a debt to this country because it gave him
freedom and the opportunity to flourish and prosper."
Felson, a Holocaust survivor and real estate developer, died April 4
of lung cancer. A resident of Hayward, he was 72.
Born in Glubbock (Glubokie now in Belarus) , Poland, in 1929, Felson
was a teenager when the Germans invaded Poland. "There was no
resistance by the Poles," he once told a reporter. Poland was
smashed, beaten by the Germans. ( in 1939 the area of Glubokie was
annexed by the Soviets, in June of 1941 Germany attacked the Soviet
Union and in a short time the Germans put the Jews of the area in
Felson and his older brother, Stan ( nee Zalman), spent most of the
war fighting with the partisans affiliated with the White Russian (
Soviet) army ( Stan was the first to escape from the Glubokie Ghetto
in November of 1942 and joined the Markov brigade, he helped his
brother escape in the Spring of 1943 and they joined a Unit Led by
Meirson) "He fought Nazi convoys and blew up railroads toward the tail
end of the war," said his eldest son, Joe Felson of Oakland. "They
were successful in pushing back some incursions."
Because of poor health, Felson's father ( Yosef Feigelson) stayed back
in Glubok and was eventually deported and killed ( the Jews of
Glubokie were not deported, they were killed in the ghetto in August
of 1943). His mother and a younger brother managed to flee (some
months before the killing and were taken by Stan to the Wostok which
was considred a much safe area for jews to hide in), but they were
eventually caught and killed in an ambush ( blokade) in a forest.
After the war, both Felson brothers ended up in a displaced persons
camp in Berlin. They knew they had an aunt, Katie Ungar, in San
Francisco, and with her help, they came here in 1946.
At first, Felson worked in the dry goods business. While up in
Seattle, he met Ada Nahon, the daughter of a man with whom he did
business. They married in 1950 and lived in Seattle.
Shortly after they married, Felson was drafted to serve in a special
services unit with the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Because of his
fluency in Russian and German, he was sent back to Germany.
"It was the last place he wanted to be," said his son, both because he
was a newlywed and because the country was Germany.
Nonetheless, he went willingly, as he felt indebted to the United
States. Joe Felson was born while his father was away.
Shortly after he returned from Germany, a cousin in Hayward, Saul
Marcus, convinced Felson to join his construction business. In 1952,
he founded Felson Builders, based in Hayward. The company, still run
by Felson's sons, has developed more than 2,000 apartments, as well as
condominiums, single-family homes and commercial buildings in the East
Felson was not one to dwell on the past, and he taught by example, his
son said. In the family business, "he made it work...He was the glue
or kind of leader who could foment the kind of relationships we needed
to work together as brothers."
Felson described his father as extremely unassuming and unpretentious.
At his memorial service, there were people from all walks of life, he
said, mayors as well as hourly wage earners who worked for him.
"He was a very open person who was friendly to everyone," said Joe
Felson. "He always had the time to spend, either trying to help
someone or being a sounding board. He always gave time without any
restraints or agenda."
Felson was not particularly religious, his son said, but he was a
He supported many housing and civic organizations, as well as the
Reutlinger Community for Jewish Living in Danville, the Jewish
Federation of the Greater East Bay and Temple Beth Sholom of San
"An institution in the East Bay Jewish community" was how Ami Nahshon,
executive vice president of the Jewish Federation of the Greater East
Bay, described Felson.
"Through his synagogue and federation involvement and philanthropy and
raising three incredibly committed, involved sons, all of whom are
Jewish community leaders in their own right, he made a special place
for himself in this community," said Nahshon.
In addition to his son Joe, Felson is survived by sons' Richard of
Castro Valley and Elliot of San Francisco; brother Stan of Hayward and
six grandchildren, Adam, Blake, Zachary, Jayme, Kara and Sophia
Felson. His wife, Ada, died six years ago.
Send donations to the Don and Ada Felson Family Philanthropic Fund,
c/o Jewish Federation of the Greater East Bay, 401 Grand Ave.,
Oakland, CA 94610.
AMI ASHER FELSON
A son born Oct. 6 to Mimi and Jeff Felson in Castro Valley. He is the
brother of Tali Edena. Grandparents are Pearl and Stan Felson of
Hayward, Marallyn Schwartz of Los Angeles and the late Dr. Edward J.