Louis Shornick, 98, Class of 1935

Louis H. Shornick of Madison, Miss., the last living member of the Ridgefield High School Class of 1935, died on Dec. 21, after a brief illness. He was 98 years old.

Born on May 6, 1918, in Stamford, Shornick grew up in the Branchville section of Ridgefield where his father, Dave, had been a blacksmith at the Grumman Tool Works near the train station and later owned an automobile garage north of the The Little Pub. His first years of schooling were in the old Branchville Schoolhouse.

By the age of eight, when he acquired a $1 Brownie camera, Shornick began what would become a lifelong hobby. As an avid photographer and world traveler, he captured countless photographs from 49 states and many countries, some of which have been published and are in private collections. Even at the age of 98, he maintained a website, LouShornick.com, which displays many examples of his work.  

When Shornick was nine, Charles Lindbergh made his historic flight across the Atlantic, inspiring the boy to eventually earn a degree as an aeronautic engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1939. His first job was as a civilian at the U.S. Air Force experimental station at Wright Field in Dayton, Ohio. There, his experiments in vibration pickups led to the first use of a new material called silicone in aircraft.

In Dayton, he met Cecille Muskin, whom he would later marry.

In 1944, he entered the Navy as a commissioned officer, working in Washington, D.C. After his service, he moved to Chicago, married Cecille and started a family.

In 1953, the Shornicks moved to Mississippi where he took over a woodworking company in Canton, expanded it, and named it Madison Furniture Industries. In 1966, his company merged with Shelby Williams Industries.

After retiring from the company several years later, Shornick became active in the Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson, where he had served as president.

As a philanthropist, he supported many local and national Jewish organizations, as well as quietly — and generously — sponsored people who needed humanitarian aid.

Shornick maintained a fondness for his old home town and even in his late 80s, would visit Ridgefield while in the Northeast to attend reunions of his class at RPI — and sometimes, of his class at Ridgefield High School. His closest friend among the 40 class members was Smithsonian historian Silvio Bedini, with whom he carried on a lifelong correspondence.

He is survived by daughters Sally Shornick of Atlanta, Ga., and Bette Shornick, and nieces, nephews and cousins. He was predeceased by his wife and a son, Lee.

Services took place Monday, Dec. 26,  at Beth Israel Congregation in Jackson. Burial was at Beth Israel Cemetery, Jackson.

Memorial donations may be sent to Beth Israel Congregation, P.O. Box 13249, Jackson MS 39236; the Institute of Southern Jewish Life, P.O. Box 16528, Jackson MS 39236; or a charity of one’s choice.