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Levaco, Benjamin M. (1911-1998) | Special Collections & Archives

Name: Levaco, Benjamin M. (1911-1998)
Variant Name: Ben Levaco

Historical Note:

Benjamin (Ben) Levaco was born to Michael and Rachel Levaco in Kainsk, Siberia in 1911. His family moved to Harbin in 1915 to escape the rising Bolshevik forces in Russia, where his father ran a variety of businesses. In 1918, the family moved again to Yokohama, Japan, where Levaco attended Saint Joseph's College. The family lived in Japan until 1923, when the Great Kanto Earthquake hit and destroyed most of the city of Yokohama. The Levaco's were left without a home, business, or liquid assets as all records of their bank accounts were lost to the destruction of the earthquake. The family then moved to Tientsin, China, where Michael Levaco was able to establish a haberdashery. Benjamin attended the British Grammar School in Tientsin, graduated in 1927, and found employment in an American firm dealing in natural sausage casings, the Oppenheimer Casing Company.

As a part of his employment, Levaco traveled extensively throughout the interior of China and Mongolia to buy casings, and as a result became proficient in Chinese. In 1936, he was made the manager of a branch office in Shanghai, and worked there until 1941 when the occupying Japanese forces terminated all American-run businesses. During this time he worked as a real-estate agent, and after the war decided to establish his own casing export company with a few partners. His company, Huhzung Trading Company, owned plants in Shanghai, Hangchow, and expanded in 1948 to Tientsin and Peking as well. This business ran successfully until 1949, when Levaco decided to leave in the wake of the Communist takeover.

After hastily wrapping up his business affairs and losing much in the process, Levaco received a U.S. Immigration Visa in October of 1950, and moved to New York City with his second wife, Nata. Levaco worked a variety of jobs, including as a salesman for the Oppenheimer Casing Company and a Canadian casing company. Nata passed away in 1955 from cancer, and Levaco married his third wife, Sonia, in 1956. In 1971, he began working for the Independent Casing Company of Montreal, where he stayed for 20 years, even working over the phone when he and Sonia moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1986. Sonia passed away in 1989, but Levaco continued to live in the area, close to their daughter Gail and her family. Levaco took a number of trips to China in his later life, and was involved in a number of organizations for Old China Hands and Jewish people who formerly lived in China. He passed away in 1998, at the age of 87.

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