Today is April 12, 2024 ()

Alex Gershowitz

Alex Gershowitz was born in San Antonio, Texas on Aug. 16, 1922, the son of Russian
immigrants. As the depression set in, he had to quit school and go to work. His energy, work
ethic and desire to be of service to all he met stayed with him his entire life.
Alex came to Brownsville in 1937 to visit his sister, Minnie, who was married to
Abraham William King, son of the “Snake King.” (Abraham’s father, William Abraham King
owned a snake farm and had changed the family name from Lieberman to King.) Alex went into
the rag business (selling used clothing to mills) with his brother, Joe.
Always the entrepreneur, Alex also picked up cooking grease from the Texas Café at
Market Square and sold it to the government who used it to make nitro glycerin which was
used to make gunpowder. Over the years, he became Brownsville’s largest recycler.
In 1942, Alex Gershowitz joined the Coast Guard. In 1945, his sister Minnie told him to
come back to Brownsville to meet her friend’s sister, Sylvia Sommer. Alex said he’d have to see
her first and went to the Western Union Office where she worked, looked through the window
at the petite ingénue and was smitten (The Sommer girls had that effect on men).
Alex and Sylvia dated for two weeks and eloped to be married in New Braunfels on Aug.
8, 1945. Alex’s parents in San Antonio said that since it wasn’t a Jewish wedding, it wasn’t
“kosher,” so they were married by a Rabbi in San Antonio on August 19 th . Then, Sylvia’s parents
(Oscar and Laura Sommer) said that they wanted to witness their daughter’s wedding, so a
week later they had a third wedding ceremony in Brownsville. Alex always joked that he could
never divorce Sylvia because the three weddings would make it too complicated. They shared
56 years together.
In 1969, Alex bought a building and land on 14 th street which he named Texas Salvage
Company. His business cards read, “Alex the Junkman,” and he was proud to say, “If you want
it, we’ve got it or can get it!” He collected everything and in Oct. 1987, The Historic Brownsville
Museum exhibited a collection of antique tools provided by Alex including a squirrel nutcracker
and an early 1900’s Dictaphone.
Alex was always interested in the economy including inflation, unemployment and
saving energy. He sent his ideas to Presidents Ford, Carter, and Reagan as well as Senator Lloyd
Benson. His family still has the letters that representative of each administration sent back.
Alex was a member of Temple Beth-El and very active in B’nai Brith District Seven. He
served as their Second Vice-President in 1977. He spent many hours over the years fundraising
for that group. He also received letters of appreciation from the Cameron County Sheriff’s
Reserves and the Brownsville Civitan Club for his support.
Alex and Sylvia had three children: Jerald, Arlene & Marvin. His beloved wife of 56 years
passed away on Oct. 3, 2010, at the age of ninety.
Alex Gershowitz passed away on May 15, 2001, at the age of seventy-nine. He is buried
next to Sylvia in the Hebrew Cemetery.