Lou Powsner, the dean of Courier Life’s Core Four of columnists whose feisty prose and tell-it-like-it-is attitude delighted readers of these pages since the 1950s, died early Sunday morning at the age of 93.
Powsner was found in the bed of his Avenue P home by his son Farrel, who came to check on him after receiving a call early in the morning that his dad wasn’t feeling well.
Lou’s popular column “Speak Out”, in which he took on politicians, special interests, and any bureaucrat that stood in his way, appeared in the pages of the Brooklyn Graphic for decades and online at BrooklynDaily.com for the past few years.
A haberdasher whose storefront on Mermaid Avenue in Coney Island lived through the tumultuous decades of the ’60s through the ’80s, Powsner fought successfully for brighter street lights to help halt nighttime crime, and battled the city over parking meters he said gave suburban shopping malls an unfair advantage over his beloved mom-and-pop and all those that peppered what was then Brooklyn’s dying commercial streets.
His fights for the working man led him to become a member of Community Board 13 in Coney Island, a president of the Coney Island Board of Trade, a member of the Bensonhurst West End Community Council, and a president of the Joint Council of Kings Board of Trade.
Powsner’s name was in the Rolodex of local reporters who counted on him for insights into what was happening — and, more importantly, what had happened in the past — for decades, and his mind was considered the institutional memory of generations that could be counted on to help put any situation in perspective.
In recent years, his column took on a voice that could only be described as a combination between god’s and Yoda’s, featuring sage advice that proved over and over again that Lou’s demands of yesteryear were as right then as they are now.
In one of his last columns, he waxed poetic about then-mayor Michael Bloomberg’s seeming disdain for the portions of Coney Island that didn’t sit on the ocean.
“Ne’er do my old eyes see Bloomberg walking along our main shopping thoroughfares. If he decided to come down from his beloved midtown Manhattan, our billionaire mayor would see and trip over giant potholes, blatantly un-repaired to trap and strap our shoppers all across our fair city, especially in Brooklyn, on avenues such as Surf, Mermaid, and Brighton Beach. Each crossing is a hazard of disrepair,” he wrote.
Louis W. Powsner was born on June 14, 1920 in Crandon, South Dakota. He was brought to Coney Island as a toddler, and grew up above his father’s storefront on Mermaid Avenue, his bedroom facing Our Lady of Solace’s — then a large wooden church at the corner of West 17th Street.
He attended Lincoln High School, and was a staff sergeant and member of “Kelly’s Kobras,” the 64th Bomb Squad Army Air Force during World War II from June 1942 to 1945.
He married the former Irene Hallote in April of 1946, and the two stayed together until her death in 2008.
He attended reunions with his Army pals yearly until two years ago, when the gatherings were canceled because, as Lou said, “there was no one else left.”
But Powsner kept up his trailblazing ways until very recently, appearing on the front page of the Graphic in his successful fight to get potholes fixed on Avenue P in April of 2012, and was named one of the boroughs busiest and most respected old-timers in a Courier Life story in January of that year.
Powsner anchored a team of Courier Life columnists — including Stanley Gershbein, Shavana Abruzzo, and Carmine Santa Maria, whose combined time behind a typewriter totalled more than 100 years.
Along with his son Farrel of Mill Basin, Powsner is survived by his daughter Bonnie Snow of Aberdeen, N.J., four grandchildren and five great-grand children.
He will be interred at the Veterans Cemetery of Forest Green Park, the Beth Sholom section at 535 Texas Rd., Morganville, N.J. His family will sit shiva Tuesday and Wednesday, at Lou’s home at 168 Avenue P.