Seltzer leaves legacy of service

By Patt Keith


Irving “Irv” Seltzer of Duncansville died Friday and is being remembered as a Blair County businessman, Rotarian, philanthropist and leader.

“Irv never did anything halfway. He put his heart and soul into everything he did,” said Joe Hurd, president/CEO of the Blair County Chamber. “You don’t realize until after someone is gone the void that is left by his passing.”

Altoona businessman Larry McAleer said he knew Seltzer as a client in his plumbing and heating business, as a Rotarian and friend.

“I was really, really lucky to see a lot of Irv,” McAleer said. “Irv always seemed to be calm. He didn’t rattle. He was steady all the time.”

When McAleer was a “young president” of the local Rotary chapter, Seltzer generously “shared his immense knowledge and was there to guide me.”

A member of the Rotary Club of Altoona for over 60 years, Seltzer served as president of the local club in 1973-74, district governor of Rotary International District 735 from 1977-78 and past district governor of Rotary International District 7360.

In Rotary, McAleer called Seltzer “a beacon and a guiding light … he was one of the proudest Rotarians ever.”

Rotary is an international service organization focused on humanitarian needs. With its credo of “service above self,” many said Seltzer was the personification of Rotary’s mission.

Seltzer sponsored his eldest son, Steve Seltzer, into Rotary in 1978.

When his late mother gifted Irv with flying lessons, then 13-year-old Steve “fell in love with flying.”

Steve later received his pilot’s license.

“Years later, we’d go somewhere in my plane and we’d laugh about how the lessons were for him, but (flying) turned out to be my thing,” he said.

William Wallen, former executive director of the Greater Altoona Jewish Federation, said he “worked with and admired” Seltzer as their paths crossed during the years. The seeds of Seltzer’s dedication to community service and growth can be traced to Seltzer’s upbringing in Philadelphia, in “strong neighborhoods” where “everyone helped each other and learned the importance of helping each other and building a better life for the community as whole,” Wallen said. “This strong Jewish neighborhood had a formative influence on his life.”

When Seltzer attended Temple University, he participated in a Jewish fraternity, Sigma Alpha Rho, focused on community service and reinforced the ideal of using opportunities to build better communities.

Seltzer and his late wife, Joan, moved to Altoona in the mid-1950s and were committed to making downtown Altoona and Blair County better through innovative businesses, such as Manpower and Modern Communications, the area’s first answering service.

The answering service company became the “first line of providing emergency mental health services,” Wallen said. “The answering service was available 24-hours a day and weekends. I was working at the hospital in mental health at the time, and this was a precursor to today’s mental health crisis telephone line and mental health emergency team.”

It was Seltzer who often brought cutting-edge technology to the area, too.

“He had the first fax machine, and we just thought it was magic,” Wallen recalled.

Hurd said he will remember Seltzer for being “relentless. Irv was a guy that had a lot of interests and passion for an incredible number of things and they all related to efforts to help other people and organizations that made a positive difference in the lives of so many people. He had a very strong but caring personality that motivated people to follow him.”

Lisa Hann, executive director of Family Services, said she first came to know Seltzer early in her career in mental health and through Rotary. When Family Services embarked on a new teen shelter, she went to Seltzer, who not only sponsored a room, but recruited others to help.

“Irv became my friend. He always had a smile and a willingness to help.” Hahn said.

Seltzer is survived by his wife, Judith, four children, two stepson-in-laws, six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Memorial contributions may be made to Agudath Achim Cemetery Fund, 1306 17th St., Altoona, PA 16601; and The Rotary Foundation, 14280 Collections Center Drive, Chicago, IL 60693, Irving Seltzer – Rotary ID #1165526 – Polio Eradication; or Central Pennsylvania Community Foundation, 1330 11th Ave., Altoona, PA 16601, Irving and Judith Seltzer, Charitable Trust Fund.


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