Samuel Selfman, 76, who had a long career in the food industry, died April 12, 1987, at Santa Barbara Convalescent Hospital after a seven-year struggle with Parkinson’s Disease and the effects of two strokes.
Born April 22, 1910, in the Ukraine, he emigrated with his parents and older brother to New York via Rumania in 1922. He began his career as a waiter, then chef, in the Catskills in New York. After a short stint as an airplane machinist at Curtiss-Wright in Columbus, Ohio, during World War II, he became the proprietor of a grocery store in Mansfield, Ohio, installing a deli counter to make “Big Mike’s” the town’s first delicatessen. He was an active member of B’nai Jacob Congregation in Mansfield. His family always said, “More people knew Daddy than knew the mayor.”
He moved his family (wife, Zena, and two daughters) to Los Angeles in 1960 and became the owner/chef of Jordan’s Bar-B-Q in Santa Monica. Many of his customers were well-known entertainers and crews from foreign airlines who stayed at the Miramar Hotel (now Fairmont Miramar). Jordan’s and the Selfmans were written up frequently in the local papers; one called it the “Little U.N.” for the variety of its clientele. Later he became dietary supervisor for a chain of convalescent and acute care hospitals in the Los Angeles area, supervising not only a kosher kitchen but also learning to communicate with a staff who spoke several different languages.
Mr. Selfman was also a vocational training teacher, for which he received numerous awards. He was a member of the local Parkinson’s associations in both Los Angeles (pre-PRO) and Santa Barbara.
Mike was also an accomplished painter and sculptor who created ice statues and prepared culinary artworks for his many catered affairs from 1945-64.
He studied oil painting with the Impressionistic painter Samuel Markitante; his paintings were exhibited in both Los Angeles and Santa Barbara.
He was tall, handsome, quiet, moral, and unfailingly kind. He and his wife (also from Ukraine; they met in New York) were immensely grateful to live in America and passed that love of country on to their children.
He is currently survived by his daughters, Flo Selfman of Los Angeles and Julia A. Stephen of Santa Barbara, son-in-law, two grandsons and a granddaughter, all of whom he knew, and four great-grandchildren, who came along well after his passing.
Remembering Samuel “Big Mike” Selfman
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