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Presidents and sports stars give H-Town legend Harold Wiesenthal a fitting goodbye as lapels flash

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George H.W. Bush and Jim Nantz were both big fans — and friends — of Harold Wiesenthal. Letters from both Bush and Nantz were read at the funeral. George H.W. Bush, Jim Nantz Photo by Richard J. Carson
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Earl Campbell

On Sunday, beloved Houston businessman and clothier Harold Wiesenthal passed away in his sleep at 84. A crowd of mournful faces and crisp suits — many of them purchased from Harolds in the Heights — filled Congregation Beth Yeshurun's Barg Sanctuary for funeral services on Wednesday afternoon. 

A genuine personality with a knack for kindness, Wiesenthal greeted customers and sold suits for more than 50 years in his menswear shop on West 19th Street, only retiring several years before the store closed in 2011. A diverse crowd in the full sanctuary evidenced Wiesenthal's far reach within the Heights community and the temple's congregation.

 As the procession passed, audience members opened their jackets to flash their Harolds lapel in honor and remembrance of an influential, inspirational man.  

All rose to their feet and fell into a deep silence as yarmulked pallbearers pushed the casket down the center aisle of the sanctuary. As the procession passed, audience members opened their jackets to flash their Harolds lapel in honor and remembrance of an influential, inspirational man. 

Over the years, Wiesenthal dressed notable sports and political figures and neighbors. He became a fixture at birthday parties and backyard barbecues, won over cameras with his ebullient personality and was a friend to many. Several of those friends came forward to speak of Wiesenthal's life during the service. 

Rabbi Jack Segal recounted how Wiesenthal set him up to play a round of ping pong against a Chinese national champion (who, armed with a toothbrush rather than a paddle, still won).

Houston Oilers great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Earl Campbell remembered how Wiesenthal introduced him to bagels and lox. A letter from CBS sports announcer Jim Nantz was read aloud in which Nantz noted how Wiesenthal inadvertently taught him to give away his on-air tie after each broadcast.

Wiesenthal sold colorful golf pants to Dwight D. Eisenhower, set up a tee time at Memorial Park for President George H.W. Bush and hand-delivered suits for President George W. Bush's inauguration to his ranch in Crawford. (The 87-year-old George H.W. Bush also sent in a letter that was read at the service). 

Also a philanthropist, Wiesenthal has a history of involvement with the Boys & Girls Club, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, St. Joseph Foundation, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Memorial Park, his good friend Marvin Zindler's Guardian Angels and more.

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