ONEONTA — Sidney Levine of Oneonta was remembered Sunday for his roles as a best friend, supporter of many local organizations and business partner in the former Oneonta Yankees.
Levine, 99, died in his sleep of a massive heart attack, his daughter, Cheri Rubin of Albany said Sunday night. He died at his 8 Roosevelt Ave. home, an obituary said.
Levine and Albert “Sam’’ Nader of Oneonta partnered with other investors in 1966 to form the Oneonta Athletic Corp. to retain minor league baseball in Oneonta. Levine and Nader managed the organization’s New York Yankees and later its Detroit Tigers franchises until the team’s sale in 2008.
“Sid was one heck of a guy,’’ said Nader, who described Levine as his best friend for more than 75 years.
“He was a great Yankees fan and a wonderful person to be in business with,’’ Nader said Sunday night. They traveled to many cities to attend NY-Penn League meetings, he said.
Nader, a Democrat and former Oneonta mayor, said Levine called him a “fool’’ when he said he was running for office. But Levine supported him nonetheless, Nader said, and Nader appointed him to the city capital budget and planning commission.
“He was a first-class citizen,’’ Nader said. “He believed in giving. He put his money where his mouth was. … his great love was Fox Hospital.’’
Levine raised millions of dollars for the foundation at A.O. Fox Memorial Hospital in Oneonta, Nader said.
The Fox Hospital emergency room was dedicated to Levine and his wife in 2006, in addition to the Sidney Levine Conference Room at the hospital.
Levine had married Elizabeth Muriel “Smitty’’ Levine in 1943, his obituary said, and she died in 2009.
Levine came to Oneonta in 1932 to manage the Palace Theatres, according to his obituary. He joined the Oneonta Ford Sales Co. in 1934, which became the Oneonta Sales Co. in 1975, where he worked as general manager and then president until his retirement in 1997.
He was a master sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Force, serving as a bombardier stationed in Scotland during World War II, the obituary said.
In Oneonta, Levine served as chairman of the Fox Hospital Foundation, president of the Jessie Dewar Fund and a founder and chairman of the Future of Oneonta Foundation, which named the Levines as Mr. and Mrs. Oneonta in 2001, the obituary said. He also served as president of the Oneonta Chamber of Commerce and on the Salvation Army Building Fund, the YMCA Building Program and the city of Oneonta Safety Board.
His many awards included a Distinguished Service Award from the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce, the Silver Beaver Distinguished Service for Youth from the Boy Scouts of America and Outstanding Citizen Award by Hartwick College, the obituary said. He was recognized as a member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks for more than 75 years, and he was a Freemason.
Rubin said she and her siblings were aware of his involvement in the community while growing up. While he set high standards for his children, who showed him “old-fashioned respect,’’ he had “lots of pride for his kids,’’ she said.
“He loved his family, and he was loved by his family,’’ Rubin said. Levine did for Oneonta what he thought anyone would do — live in the community, embrace it and work to make it better, Rubin said.
“He was a man of few very few words — lots of action,’’ Rubin said. “He was a very humble man. ... He was a real mensch.’’
Levine was a founding father of Temple Beth El, and he was instrumental in raising money for the renovations at its Chestnut Street property and in setting up its cemetery, Steven Feurer, chairman of the cemetery committee, said.
Levine received the Baal Shem Tov Award, or Master of the Good Name Award, recognizing him as an honorable and revered member of the congregation, Feurer, a lawyer in Oneonta, said.
Once, Feuer said, Levine invited him, his wife, Gail, and their son, Michael, who was about 3, to sit in his box at Damaschke Field, the lawyer said, then made the day memorable by producing a baseball for Michael.
“He was a really nice guy,’’ Feurer said. “He was very kind, never had a harsh word about anybody. … He was loved by everyone.’’
Nader and Levine sold the Tigers to a group of investors led by New York City lawyer E. Miles Prentice III in December of 2008. Prentice’s group agreed to keep the NY-Penn team in Oneonta through at least the 2010 season.
But the team left for Dodd Stadium in Norwich, Conn., after the 2009 season, ending the NY-Penn’s longtime relationship with Damaschke Field, which started with Nader, Levine and eight others more than 40 years before.
Nader said the civic awards recognize Levine’s community involvement and service “to his fellow man,’’ But words to describe Levine couldn’t be found, Nader, 93, said Sunday.
“I knew he was 99 and his days were number,’’ Nader said, but his friend’s death left him feeling “devastated.’’
Nader said as a high-schooler he was playing semi-pro baseball in the summer when he met Levine, who was “betting on me — a little left-handed’’ pitcher.
“There our friendship started,’’ Nader said. “It closed Sept. 23.’’