Samuel G. Werbel

by | Apr 4, 2024 | Obituaries

VIRGINIA BEACH – Samuel G. Werbel (Commander Ret. US Navy) passed away on April 1. He was 89 years old. He died how he lived – full of love and gratitude for his family, his friends, his faith, and his country.

He was born on February 20, 1935 in Far Rockaway, N.Y., to the late Ethel and Howard Werbel, the third of four children. His siblings, Joan and Steve, were his lifelong best friends. Losing his brother, Jerry, was one of his greatest heartbreaks.

He received a congressional appointment to attend the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, graduating in 1958. In 1960, he was in Norfolk, Va. on assignment and went to Shabbat services at Beth El, meeting his future in-laws Sadye and Joe Rafal and others who encouraged him to call Beverly Rafal for a blind date that evening. They were married in 1961 and began a life together in the Navy that took them from Monterey, Calf., to Rota, Spain, to Battle Creek, Mich., and many places in between. He served his last five years in Norfolk, where they settled, and he retired as a Commander in 1978.

Their three children – Scott Werbel, Evan Werbel (Hallie), and Jill Werbel Rider (Jeremy) – were the center of his world. Sam was a brilliant and devoted father who could help with an algebra proof, advise on an essay, discuss world events, and tutor on a Torah portion. He was the smartest and kindest and most humble father and man with an excellent sense of humor.

Sam went on to have many interesting and fulfilling private sector jobs after retiring from the Navy. He loved to work and consult and connect people. He made friends everywhere and with everyone. He was genuinely interested in people from all walks of life and asked questions about their lives. Everywhere he lived, he was the center of the community. He often acted as an informal Jewish chaplain in addition to his day job. He and Beverly hosted the first ever Passover seder on the naval base in Rota, Spain.

Though a New Yorker by birth, he adopted Norfolk as his hometown and embraced that community with love and dedication.

He was a proud news junkie. The New York Times was an integral part of his daily routine, right until his final days. He relished discussing current events with whoever was game. He was a proud and ardent Zionist, traveling to Israel as a graduation gift from his parents for the first of many times in 1958. He was involved with AIPAC, the Jewish Federation, the Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy, and so many more organizations. Serving as president of Beth El was a tremendous honor for him. “Shul business” was his true passion. He also loved politics – following nationally and getting involved locally on the ground.

In 2000, he lost his beloved wife, Beverly. His family and friends rallied around him, and he relished his role as the uber father, grandfather, and community leader. He later met and married Diane Gould Werbel. They traveled the world, enjoyed their Jewish life, were involved in the community together, and spent precious time with their children and grandchildren.

In addition to his wife, children and siblings, Sam is survived by his grandchildren, Jordan and Bennett Werbel, Bo, Jesse and Sadye Rider, and Dani and Baila Werbel. If you had a few minutes to spare, he would tell you all about them. Also surviving him are his devoted brother-in-law, Edwin Jay Rafal, and sisters-in-law, Judy Werbel and Lettie Werbel, many nieces and nephews, great nieces and nephews, and great-great nieces and nephews. He is also mourned by Diane’s family. He treasured his relationships with all of them.

Sam is also predeceased by his brother-in-law, Bernie Shapiro, and his sister-in-law, Marilyne Rafal, in addition to his first wife, Beverly, and his brother, Jerry.

The funeral was held at Beth El with burial at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

We lost a true mensch.