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09/24/2000 - Sunday - Page A 47
Herbert Cantor, One of First Levittown Homeowners


Herbert Cantor, a retired auto-parts store owner who was one of the original Levittown homeowners, died Thursday of complications from open-heart surgery.

He was 87.

Cantor was born in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, but later moved to Harlem, graduating from high school in 1931-an unlucky time to be thrown into the working world, said his wife, Mildred Cantor.

It was the beginning of the Great Depression, and "there weren't any jobs," she said.

In 1933, he was able to find steady work as a Wall Street "runner," getting paid $5 a week to transport documents from one brokerage firm to another.

While working his day job, Cantor was attending night school. He graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor's degree in the mid-1930s, and continued at Fordham University's law school, earning a certificate in law a few years later.

For the next several years, Cantor struggled to help support his family, working several odd jobs. His law background was nearly forgotten. "You did whatever you could," Mildred Cantor said. "In those days you didn't have a career, you had a job." In 1941, Cantor enlisted in the Army, starting out as a private in the Signal Corps, the division in charge of communication. Cantor was first stationed in Fort Monmouth, N.J., which is where he met his wife, who had a civilian job there. When he was discharged in 1945, he held the rank of technical sergeant.

In 1946, Cantor married Mildred. The two settled in Long Beach, in a one-room apartment, Mildred Cantor said. Cantor began working in his brother-in-law's auto-parts store.

In 1948, they moved to the newly built Levittown. "We thought the Levitt house was a little palace," Mildred Cantor said. "To have four rooms was a luxury." There, the couple started a family, raising two sons and a daughter. In 1955, Cantor opened his own business, Valley Stream Auto Parts. He ran the store until his retirement in 1985.

About eight or nine years ago, Mildred said, Cantor rekindled his interest in the law, but this time as a spectator. Along with a half a dozen other "court buffs," Cantor spent nearly every day watching high-stakes trials in Nassau Criminal Court and at the federal courthouse in Uniondale.

"I was getting a first-hand report from him every night at the dinner table," Mildred said.

Cantor was a member of the Suburban Temple in Wantagh, and the Israel Cantor Family Society, an association of 150 of his relatives.

In addition to his wife, Cantor is survived by children Philip Cantor of Montclair, N.J., Mady Cantor of Philadelphia, and Dan Cantor of Brooklyn. He is also survived by six grandchildren.

The funeral services will be held today at noon at the I.J. Morris Funeral Home in Hempstead. Burial will be at the Mount Judah Cemetery in Queens.

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