Sigmund Ettinger, who spent his retirement years as a teacher at an adult-education academy run by the University of Delaware, an Army Air Corps veteran of World War II and dedicated family man, died Monday. He was 91 and lived in Martin's Run, a senior community in Broomall.
Sig was a lifelong physical-fitness addict who worked out at a YMCA and ran in races into his 80s.
A passionate newspaper reader since childhood, Sig was well-qualified to teach current events at the University of Delaware's Academy of Lifelong Learning. He also served on its board.
He volunteered there after selling both his businesses in Wilmington to longtime friends and employees in 1987. He also was an honorary counselor for the Delaware Hospice Camp New Hope, for children who have suffered the loss of loved ones.
Sig was born in Philadelphia to Abram and Bessie Ettinger. The family lived at 711 Oxford St., in North Philadelphia's Ludlow section. Sig always considered his address fortuitous because 7 and 11 are lucky dice numbers.
He grew up loving baseball and aspired to play for the Phillies. His first business venture was a newspaper-delivery route.
He graduated from Simon Gratz High School and went on to Saint Joseph's University, from which he graduated in 1941. It was a close call: He had to sell his Model T Ford to make the final tuition payment of $25.
He entered the Army Air Corps, serving as a first lieutenant in London, flying in bombers as a navigator and bombardier with the 8th Air Force.
After the war, he worked for a leather-goods store in Philadelphia. He learned the business, then moved to Wilmington to open Bag & Baggage.
In January 1946, he was invited to dinner by friends who secretly intended to fix him up with a woman.
He liked to tell of how he looked in a mirror in the dining room and saw this beautiful woman entering the room. It was love at first sight. He married Betty Dworkin four months later.
Selling sports tickets could be challenging. In 1982, the National Football League players' strike cost him a bundle. Fans lost interest in pro football and Sig was sitting on a lot of unsold tickets.
Then, in 1983, when the Sixers swept the Lakers in four games to win the NBA title, Sig was stuck with tickets and refunds for a fifth game that never came off. But he was happy about it.
"Even though it cost me a lot of money, I didn't want them to play the fifth game," he liked to say. He was afraid they might lose it.
Sig joined the YMCA in Delaware in 1961 and spent the next 50 years as a dedicated weightlifter, swimmer and runner, participating in 5K and 10K races into his 80s.
Sig was known for his generosity and kindness to anyone who might have needed help. "He had the gift of making others feel good about themselves," said his daughter Laurie Ettinger. "His fond regard for most of the people he knew in life, his kindness and quiet generosity are just a few of the ways he enriched our lives."
Besides his daughter, he is survived by two other daughters, Lynne Shapiro and Judy Ettinger; a son-in-law, Alan Shapiro, and five grandchildren.
Services: 12:30 p.m. Thursday at Martin's Run Auditorium in Broomall. Burial will be at the Jewish Community Cemetery, 401 Foulk Road, Wilmington.
Contact John F. Morrison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-5573