SUNBURY — Valley residents were in shock and saddened to learn that city attorney Michael Apfelbaum, his wife and father-in-law were killed Monday when the single-engine airplane Apfelbaum was piloting crashed about six miles from an airport in Greensboro, N.C.
Lewisburg residents Michael and Christy Apfelbaum, and Christy’s father, Clarence “Mike” Imgrund, were returning to Pennsylvania after a trip to Sarasota, Fla., and were scheduled to make a stop at Piedmont Triad International Airport, in Greensboro, N.C., when the accident occurred.
Sunbury attorney Jeff Apfelbaum said his family will grieve privately as he and his relatives try to stay out of the public eye.
Proud of brother’s achievements
“We don’t like to have any attention,” Jeff Apfelbaum said Tuesday. “But I will say I am extremely proud of my brother Mike and his career and lifetime achievements. His family and friends will miss him very much.
“Mike and his wife Christy were great people and will remain in our hearts and in our prayers forever.”
Michael Apfelbaum graduated from the Dickinson School of Law, and served as a trustee with his father, Sidney, and brother, Jeff, on the Charles B. Degenstein Foundation board.
The Degenstein Foundation provides funding for charitable projects in Central Pennsylvania and in the Northeast. Michael Apfelbaum has spearheaded successful initiatives to deliver health and dental care to underprivileged residents of Central Pennsylvania and to promote sustained economic development and vibrant communities throughout the region.
Michael Apfelbaum served on numerous community boards and was solicitor for the city of Sunbury and the Shikellamy Area School District, both of which became very somber Tuesday morning as word spread of the accident.
Mayor “at loss for words”
“I am at a loss for words,” Sunbury Mayor David Persing said. “The city lost a friend. Mike Apfelbaum would do and has done everything and anything to help out this city and the Susquehanna Valley. He stayed in the background and never wanted any credit for anything he did. It is mind-boggling to even be talking about this. I am devastated and my thoughts and prayers go out to the family.”
Shikellamy in shock, official says
Brett Misavage, Shikellamy’s interim assistant superintendent, said the district was in shock.
“That’s the best word to describe how we all feel around here,” he said. “It’s been a long day here. It’s so hard to believe. My heart goes out to his family. I can say that as a district, we are deeply saddened. Mike was greatly respected in his role as solicitor.”
By 9 a.m. a devastated Northumberland County Commissioner Vinny Clausi immediately ordered county flags at half-staff.
“I got very close to him over the past five years,” Clausi said. “He was one of the nicest persons I ever met. I am shocked and so sorry for the family. Anything I can do for the family I am here. They are respected across the state. I am devastated. Mike worked so hard for the county. Sometimes we were together until midnight. He became my friend.”
A “devastating” loss
The loss to the community will be felt daily, said state Rep. Lynda Culver, R-108, of Sunbury.
“The loss to the family will be devastating,” she said. “Mike was a great person and he will be missed.”
The Apfelbaums have been known for their support of community projects that include helping rebuild the Sunbury Area YMCA and recently pledging $1 million to help restore county records.
Northumberland County courthouse was stunned upon hearing the news, District Attorney Ann Targonski said.
“The county bar association extends sincere sympathies to the Apfelbaum family,” she said. “I have known Mike since law school and his passing will be felt deeply. He gave his time and served our local community in many charitable ways.”
Gary Grossman, former publisher of The Daily Item, said Michael Apfelbaum, who also was an attorney for the newspaper, was great for the community.
“Michael and I had a number of conversations about developments in the school and city,” Grossman said. “He always advocated for the best, highest goals even when some of the personalities appeared to present obstacles. He steadfastly and admirably focused on what was best for the coming generations. I respected his viewpoint on a variety of developments over the years.”
A visibly shaken Stephen Bowers, who has been a friend of Michael Apfelbaum for more than 30 years and taught him how to sail, was trying to make sense of the crash Tuesday.
Not only is Apfelbaum’s death a personal loss, but a professional one as well because Apfelbaum served as solicitor to the Penn Valley Airport Authority and Bowers is the airport manager.
“He had such support and enthusiasm for the regional airports,” Bowers said. It’s a great loss to local aviation. His loss to our aviation community and the region is incalculable.”
Michael Apfelbaum was also an attorney for the Northumberland County Airport Authority and member of the board of Evangelical Community Hospital, Lewisburg.
Lewisburg Mayor Judith Wagner was a guidance counselor for 38 years in the Lewisburg Area School District, where she met each of the couple’s three children.
“They were a wonderful family and great people who really contributed to the community,” Wagner said. “We will miss them tremendously.”
At the start of Tuesday night’s meeting, Point Township Supervisor Randy Yoxheimer reflected on his relationship with Apfelbaum.
“I was on the Sunbury Wetlands Association, and Mike and his brother Jeffrey represented us in a case about wetlands property in the township,” he said. “The case eventually went all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, and Mike argued and won the case. That was something I know he was very proud of.”
U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, of Hazleton, said Apfelbaum and his wife were integral parts of the Sunbury community.
“And their absence will be starkly noticeable,” Barletta said. “Their legacy will live on, however, in the great charitable works Michael was involved in through the Charles B. Degenstein Foundation.”