Brooklyn Heights

Philip Stenger dies at 89, banker saluted as ‘Brooklyn’s Statesman’

June 19, 2018 By Francesca Norsen Tate Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Phil Stenger at one of the many civic events that he supported. Eagle file photo by Kate Attardo
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Philip F. Stenger, a business and civic leader in Downtown Brooklyn for more than half a century, died Friday, June 15 at his home in Wantagh. He was 89.

Having served as chairman and active board member of a dozen key Brooklyn institutions, Stenger brought the common sense of a conservative banker to all organizations he served, from the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce to the

Brooklyn Industrial Home for the Blind (now called Helen Keller Services).

Stenger served in the U.S. Army during the Korean Campaign, retiring with an honorable discharge.

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He built a 60-year career in banking, with 45 of those years in Brooklyn, where he was known as the unofficial mayor. Starting his banking career at Bankers Trust in 1954, Stenger retired from TD Bank in 2013.

The Brooklyn Chamber released a statement on Monday praising former board chair Stenger, as “a tireless champion for the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the borough’s business community, and honored as such, as a ‘Celebrating Legends of Brooklyn’ recipient at the Chamber’s 2013 Winter Gala. He served on the Chamber’s Centennial Committee, contributing to a celebration that began this February.”

“Phil Stenger was, in every sense, a true gentleman,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Acting President Rick Russo. “A giant of the banking world, Phil’s leadership with legions of organizations over the decades places him central to the Brooklyn renaissance.

“Always impeccably attired, Phil remained vital in recent months, contributing his prowess to planning the Brooklyn Chamber’s Centennial Gala, an event with which he was devoted.  So many have been the beneficiary of Phil’s expertise and friendship, and I am honored to count myself among them. I vividly recall a breakfast he asked I have with him in 2003 in Albany — just us —  as he took a keen interest in the work I was taking on, having just joined the Chamber staff after serving as fellow Board members for five years previously — now and again, I reminded him about what our talk meant to me. He was a constant in my work over the years, and I already miss him,” Russo said.

“Phil Stenger was a leader amongst men,” said Denise Arbesu, current Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce board chair. “Phil was someone who was always there, someone you could always count on for help and support.  Phil was the ‘Dean of Bankers.’ Above all, Phil treasured his family. I am proud to have called Phil a friend. Phil enriched all who knew him. Phil Stenger will be greatly missed.”

“Phil always showed great dedication and commitment to the many causes and organizations he was part of,” said Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce Centennial Chair and Chair Emeritus Peter Meyer. “For so many of us in banking he served as a role model and mentor and we will all miss him.  He was always a man of service to his community, to Brooklyn, and his country (having served in the army during the Korean War) and our fond memories of him will live on forever. We wish his family peace and comfort during this time.”

Stenger gave his time over the years supporting many organizations. He was chairman of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Brooklyn Association; president of the Brooklyn Club and the Municipal Club of Brooklyn. He was also treasurer of the Brooklyn Borough Hall Restoration Project.

Paul Golinski, a first vice president of the Municipal Club, said, “Phil was a Brooklyn statesman, the likes of which will probably never be duplicated again. He dedicated himself to civic, charitable and fraternal causes in Brooklyn his entire adult life. If you had a question about Brooklyn, he was the first one to call.”

Stenger served on the board of directors of the Angel Guardian Home, Brooklyn Sports Foundation, Helen Keller Services. He also served on the Council of Regents of St. Francis College, which conferred on him an honorary degree, Doctor of Humane Letters.

Near his Long Island home, Stenger served as a member of the Wantagh Fire Department and president of the Wantagh Fire Department Benevolent Organization.

Stenger is survived by his wife of 64 years, Evelyn; his son, Kenneth (Deborah) Stenger, and daughters Nancy Stenger (Anthony) and Karen (Robert) Hempel. He was also the proud grandfather of six: Laura (Michael), Kimberly (Joseph), Kathleen (Robert), Robert (Lauren), Kenneth and Kaleigh, and brother of Patricia Harris, Mary Desmond, Eileen Haggerty, Robert and the late Raymond.

Kenneth Stenger said of his father, “He demonstrated his character through action rather than word.”

Visitation will be held Charles J. O’Shea Funeral Home 603 Wantagh Ave. from 2-5 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, June 19 & 20. The Mass of Christian Burial will be held Thursday, June 21, 10 a.m., at St. Frances de Chantal Roman Catholic Church, 1309 Wantagh Ave.

Gifts in Phil Stenger’s memory may be made to: MercyFirst (in Brooklyn), the Angel Guardian Home and Wounded Warriors.

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