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Howard M. Epstein, Publishing Executive

Thu, 03/09/2023 - 09:41

April 27, 1927 - March 1, 2023

Howard M. Epstein, an editor and publishing executive who was president of Facts on File, a news digest and reference publishing company, from 1975 until 1990, died on March 1 in Manhattan of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 96.

Mr. Epstein, who spent weekends and summers for nearly 50 years in a house on Three Mile Harbor-Hog Creek Road in Springs, was at the time of his death working on a book about French partisans and/or collaborators “who saved, or did not save, or hunted Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of France,” according to his family.

Described in an online obituary on the Dignity Memorial website as “a lifelong Francophile,” Mr. Epstein served with the Navy in the Pacific during World War II, and then attended the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris, the highly selective “Sciences Po,” on the G.I. Bill. He earned his B.A. at Queens College and did graduate study at the University of Chicago.

While a reporter in Ohio on the Xenia Daily Gazette, Mr. Epstein met his future wife, Cynthia Fuchs, also a native New Yorker, who worked at the nearby Yellow Springs News. They were married on July 3, 1954, and returned to New York.

In 1958, he began working with Facts on File. In a 1978 interview in this newspaper, he described Facts on File as “a very tightly compressed weekly digest of the news, indexed very thoroughly,” that drew from publications in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Britain, France, Venezuela, Cuba, and Australia. “Our clients include broadcasting networks, news services, magazines, government and university research libraries, public libraries, colleges, universities,” he told The Star. “All the spies buy it . . . both sides.”

In addition to its weekly digests, the company’s imprint Checkmark Books, which Mr. Epstein started, published indexed yearbooks of the digests and reference books, with such titles as “Atlas of World Population History,” “Political Prisoners: A World Report,” “Atomic Energy & the Safety Controversy,” and a biographical profile series covering presidential administrations.

The Epsteins first came to the South Fork with their young son, Alexander, as what were then called groupers, renting share-houses with friends, among them Betty Friedan. “It was really a kind of family,” Mr. Epstein said in the interview. “The kids loved it. All of the adults took an interest in the children. The kids had their responsibilities, too.”

The couple bought their Springs house in 1975; they also lived on Riverside Drive in Manhattan.

“A nurturing man, a mensch, he took care of everyone around him,” according to his obituary on the Dignity Memorial site. “He loved sailboats, British roadsters, catboats, and making sure his friends had enough wine to drink.”

Mr. Epstein was born in New York on April 27, 1927, to Samuel Epstein and the former Florrie Gilbert. He grew up in Queens.

He is survived by his wife, his son, Alexander Epstein of Montreal, and a grandchild, Jesse Anne Epstein.

A memorial service will be held in Manhattan next Thursday at the Riverside Chapel, 180 West 76th Street, at 3:30 p.m.

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