Claire Shulman’s son dies in California at age 45

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Kim Shulman, a longtime Bayside resident, was living in North Hollywood, Calif. and had...

By Betsy Scheinbart, Jennifer Warren

The son whom Queens Borough President Claire Shulman and her husband, Mel, adopted 42 years ago died suddenly from a cerebral hemorrhage on Saturday. He was 45.

Kim Shulman, a longtime Bayside resident, was living in North Hollywood, Calif. and had partial custody of his 4-year-old son, Daniel.

He worked as an assistant director for television shows, including “Party of Five” and “China Beach,” as well as motion pictures. He was also a member of the Directors Guild of America.

“He had a very nice personality, got along well with people,” Mel Shulman said of his son in a telephone interview with the TimesLedger Monday. “He had a lot of friends here, most of them in the industry.”

Claire Shulman expressed her grief in a public statement.

“This is a great tragedy for our family,” she said. “Kim was a young man with great promise.”

Shulman became the first woman elected as borough president in Queens in 1986, and has served in the post ever since. This year she will be restricted from running for the office again because of the city’s new term limits law.

Mel and Claire Shulman adopted Kim from a Korean orphanage in the late 1950s. Kim Shulman went to PS 41, graduated from Bayside High School, and attended Queens College, his father said.

Friends of the family were still in shock Monday.

Scott Duka and Kim met as 6-year-olds in Bayside’s PS 41 in first grade.

“He was a great listener and he was very positive,” Duka said. “If things were down he’d find humor in it, make you feel better.”

Vincent Riso, of Riso L. & Sons Co. in Bayside, has been a longtime friend of the Shulman family.

“He was a lovely young man,” Riso said. “It’s just a horrible tragedy that this had to occur. He was a shining star. He was always up, and gave a great deal of pleasure to his parents.”

Queens politicians who have worked with the longtime borough president offered their condolences to the family.

Bernard Haber, chairman of Community Board 11 in Bayside, served with Claire Shulman when she presided over that board in the late 1960s.

“I knew him when he was a kid,” Haber said. “Oh that’s so sad — poor Claire. He was always a delightful young man. I feel so bad.”

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) also offered condolences.

“Having known and worked with Claire Shulman for many years, I know that she has dedicated her life to her family and her community,” Padavan said. “She is a devoted wife and mother, and her son Kim’s death is an untimely tragedy.”

The Shulmans received a call at about 7:30 a.m. last Thursday notifying them of their son’s condition, Mel Shulman said.

Claire Shulman canceled several of her public appearances in Queens and rushed out to California with her husband.

The aneurysm occurred at the base of Kim Shulman’s skull, most likely causing an immediate and painless death, but he was not pronounced dead until Saturday, his father said.

Kim Shulman was born in Korea on Dec. 21, 1955, and the Shulmans adopted him from an orphanage when he was 3 1/2, Mel Shulman said. One of his biological parents was Korean and the other was American, his father said.

He came to live with the Shulmans and their two other children in Bayside around Memorial Day of 1959.

About two or three years later, the Shulmans bought a large house on 29th Avenue and 215th Street, where Kim lived for more than a decade. Claire and Mel Shulman now live in Whitestone.

Mel Shulman said his son gained about three fourths of the credits needed for a bachelor’s degree at Queens College. The elder Shulman struggled to recall the details of his son’s life just two days after his death.

“It took him a while to find himself,” Mel Shulman said of his son, who moved to Los Angeles about 12 years ago.

When he and his girlfriend had a baby 4 1/2 years ago, Kim focused on his new role as a father. He and the child’s mother never married, Mel said.

“The baby, aside from his work, was the center of his life,” Mel Shulman said. “He was a great father.”

Duka, who grew up with Kim Shulman, said the two men shared much throughout the years.

As boys they discovered a common love of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and perhaps most of all, films.

Duka remembered the day in 1973 when “The Exorcist” premiered in New York. The two teenagers skipped school and traveled to Manhattan’s 59th Street and 3rd Avenue theater to see the much-hyped horror film, he said.

“We were too young to get in. But it was a big deal,” Duka said. “There were cameras everywhere. We were so afraid of getting caught on camera.”

Duka said Kim also was an accomplished guitarist. “He was good and he knew he was good,” Duka said. He recalled in high school the year when Kim locked himself away in his house to perfect his playing.

Politicians from throughout the borough expressed their grief for the Shulman family.

City Councilwoman Juanita Watkins (D-Laurelton) said she and fellow Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) met Kim at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles last year.

“He was a very bright, talented, nice, friendly person,” Watkins said of Kim. “I feel so bad for her [Claire Shulman]. It is very tragic for a parent to bury a child.”

City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), a mayoral candidate who has worked in city government for more than 20 years, offered condolences.

“Kim was a vibrant man who was taken from us much too soon,” he said in a statement. “My heart goes out to his family and to Claire. He will be greatly missed. We will remember him and his loved ones in our prayers.”

Chuck Warn, a spokesman for the Director’s Guild of America, said Kim had worked on “Radio Days,” “Batman Forever,” “Showgirls” and other films.

Besides his parents and son, Kim Shulman is survived by his brother Lawrence, and his sister Ellen as well as his nieces and nephews.

A funeral was planned for Tuesday at 11 a.m. in Los Angeles.

Updated 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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