HAL ROCHKIND, 2020-2021 GHF PRESIDENTHal Rochkind was named as GHF president for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. After graduating from UT Austin, Hal, a 4th generation Galvestonian, worked for National Western Life in Austin, TX. After two years in the NWL home office, Hal was recruited by Moody Insurance Group in Galveston to work as their National Marketing Director for life insurance and annuities. In 2009, Hal joined the family business of Rochkind Insurance.
In addition to running Rochkind Insurance, Hal serves and has served on the boards of many organizations focused on helping the Galveston Community, including, Galveston Island Meals on Wheels, Galveston ISD Educational Foundation, Galveston Historical Foundation, Rotary Club of Galveston Island, United Way of Galveston, The Knights of Momus, and Child Advocacy Center of Galveston County amongst others. Hal was recently awarded the Isaiah Star Bright Award for excellent leadership from Galveston Island Meals on Wheels. Also, he was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow award from the Rotary Club and was Rotarian of the Year in 2014. Hal enjoys spending time with his wife Jessica and children and is a huge sports fan, like his father, and plays 2nd base on a local Baseball team, The Gulf Coast Sugar.
It’s good to be back in the Garten Verein. Twenty-seven years ago, I celebrated my Bar Mitzvah party in this building. I’m pretty sure I was lip singing the song Informer by the incomparable Canadian rapper SNOW on that stage. I moved back home to Galveston at the end of 2009 after my dad got sick. I had been living my best life in Austin for the previous 12 years. But I was born here, my mom was born here, both of her parents were born here, and my great grandmother was born here in 1898, just before the 1900 Storm. My boys are 5thgeneration BOIs, so our family has a lot of history here, most of it good.
As a kid, I remember my mother would drive us around, pointing out historic homes that her great aunt Esther used to live before she came to live with them. Or, the Jean Lafitte Hotel on the corner of 21st & Church where her family stayed for Hurricane Carla, and she swears she saw a shark swimming down Church Street, or the houses she grew up at in fish village: 104 Tarpon and 1202 Harborview. I remember staying at my grandparent’s jewelry store Isenberg’s on the Strand for Hurricane Alicia and the Nathan boys passing me between the first and second floors on the dumb waiter. I moved to Austin in 1998 to go to school (Hook ‘em!) and majored in history. How could I not? Then when I moved home ten years ago and met cool, intelligent, thoughtful people like Will Wright, Denise Alexander, and Dwayne Jones, I knew I wanted to be involved with GHF.
Galveston is a special place, and I believe it is directly attributed to the work that GHF does. Preservation of historic homes, the last still sailing tall ship from its era, the ELISSA, great big impressive Victorian mansions like Bishop’s Palace or Ashton Villa, drawing attention to the history that has happened here like Juneteenth (the Google Doodle was of Galveston this year), and the largest Victorian festival in the world, Dickens on The Strand where descendants of Charles Dickens still come every year. Not to mention my personal favorite, the great Barry White was born here.
These are interesting times, to say the least, and challenging times to put it mildly. But this is nothing Galveston hasn’t experienced before. The 1918 Spanish Flu was in Galveston 102 years ago. Mayor Isaac Kempner closed theaters and dance halls on October 11, 1918, and the school board closed public schools for almost a month that same day. There were bans on meeting places and entertainment venues. The people of Galveston at that time were resilient. They had just experienced the worst natural disaster and loss of life to date in the 1900 Storm, then the often-forgotten Hurricane of 1915, only to be followed up with a pandemic a few years later. Sound familiar? Hurricane Ike knocked us down 12 years ago, but we got up. Today we face another pandemic, and times are tough. Just like 100 years ago, the people of Galveston are resilient.
It is my distinct honor to serve as president of GHF this year. Without a doubt, our organization boasts the best members, volunteers, and staff. We have so much to look forward to. A new exhibit at Galveston’s Historic Seaport, Ship to Shore. A finished conservatory at Bishop’s Palace, and the completion of another revolving fund house. We have many challenges, as well. GHF just had a virtual homes tour instead of the very popular in-person event. This year’s Dickens might look a little different with top hats and face masks, but we will adapt and carry on. With your continued support, we’ll weather this storm like we always have. Thank you.
ABOUT GALVESTON HISTORICAL FOUNDATION
Galveston Historical Foundation (GHF) merged with the Historical Society of Galveston, formed in 1871, to create a new non-profit entity in 1954 devoted to historic preservation and history in Galveston County. Over the last sixty years, GHF has expanded its mission to cover community redevelopment, historic preservation advocacy, maritime preservation, coastal resiliency, and stewardship of diverse historic properties. GHF embraces an inclusive and broader view of history and architecture that encompasses advancements in environmental and natural sciences. GHF recognizes the intersection of historic buildings and coastal life and conceives of history as an engaging story of individual lives and experiences on Galveston Island from the 19th century to the present day.