David Waxberg solved problems from AAA to EEEEE.
He used padding, lifts and hand-stitched cushions to modify shoes for people with bunions, hammertoes, plantar fasciitis, corns and calluses.
It may not have been glamorous, but he helped thousands of aching feet during a career of more than 40 years.
Mr. Waxberg crafted custom orthotics for some of the Chicago Bulls, made size 20 shoes for a man with gigantism and created foot-high lifts for polio survivors left with one leg shorter than the other. He also sold shoes to musical star Carol Channing.
His father, Isaac, founded Waxberg’s Custom Shoe Rebuilders in Chicago in 1919. “He taught my father the business, and my father taught me the business,” said Ron Waxberg, David’s son and the third generation in the trade.
Often, David Waxberg’s shop was crowded with nuns, whom he wouldn’t charge for footwear. They were waiting to get the sensible black lace-ups with a sensible sobriquet: “nun shoes.”
And when a relative of Mayor Richard J. Daley dropped in to buy shoes, the sisters “used to tell him he [the mayor] was going to heaven,” said Mr. Waxberg’s wife of 69 years, the former Regina Sherman.
Mr. Waxberg, 94, died Monday at Delray Medical Center in Delray Beach, Florida, where he’d settled in retirement.
Young David grew up in Albany Park, where he was a basketball star at Von Steuben High School, said his 92-year-old cousin Sidney Waxberg.
He served as a Marine on Guadalcanal in World War II. In 1946, he married Regina at Temple Beth Israel when it was located at 4850 N. Bernard Street. The officiator was Rabbi Ernst M. Lorge, who later would visit the White House to discuss civil rights with President Kennedy.
His father, Isaac, a native of Lodz, Poland, immigrated to America after learning to make shoes for people with special needs in Germany in the early 1900s. “There was no such thing as foot doctors then,” said Ron Waxberg. Isaac founded Waxberg’s and did repairs for the bespoke shoes then made at Chernin’s and Marshall Field’s. Eventually, he opened a shop at 17 N. Wabash. It relocated a few times downtown before Waxberg’s Walk Shoppe opened in 2001 at 7013 Dempster, Niles.
“In dad’s day, he was helping people with polio,” Ron Waxberg said. Because the disease sometimes led to unequal leg lengths, “I can remember him making shoes that had a whole 10 or 12 inches of lift on one foot.”
Mr. Waxberg had a prodigious memory for feet. When customers came in, he could recall their size and width. “He lived, ate and breathed it,” his son said.
He loved cowboy movies, John Wayne, joke-telling and golf.
Mr. Waxberg is also survived by his daughter, Linda Schimberg, brother, Harry, seven grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. His children, Carole Baran and Mark, died before him, as did his brother, Charles and grandson, Jacob.
Services by the Goldman Funeral Group were held Friday at the chapel at 195 N. Buffalo Grove Rd., Buffalo Grove. Burial is at Shalom Memorial Park, Arlington Heights.