Sapperstein, had vending business, founded Save-A-Heart Foundation

July 11, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Contributing Writer

Bernard P. Sapperstein, a vending company owner who also was founder and past president of the Save-A-Heart Foundation, died Friday of cancer at Sinai Hospital. He was 72.

It was his own heart problems at age 50 that caused Mr. tTC Sapperstein to establish the Save-A-Heart Foundation in 1971.

When the Pikesville resident was diagnosed as needing a cardiac catheterization, then a novel medical procedure, he was surprised that Sinai Hospital, which he considered "his" hospital, didn't have a diagnostic catheterization laboratory available. And decided to do something about it.

Cardiac catheterization helps doctors locate blockages in coronary arteries.

Mr. Sapperstein was later admitted to the Johns Hopkins Hospital for the procedure, then one of only two hospitals in the area that had the unit, and it was found that he would require open-heart surgery.

He credited his survival to the medical expertise of Dr. Vincent Gott, his physician, who performed the surgery at Hopkins Hospital, as well as his own determination to escort his daughter, Rochelle, down the aisle on her wedding day in 1971. He realized his dream two months after his surgery.

Save-A-Heart's initial goal was to raise $500,000 to establish a catheterization unit at Sinai Hospital, which was the recipient of the foundation's first grant. Since then, the foundation has donated more than $5 million toward cardiac-care projects at area hospitals such as the Francis Scott Key Medical Center, Franklin Square Hospital and Mount Washington Pediatric Hospital. It recently made a $25,000 grant to the Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

Mr. Sapperstein was born and reared in East Baltimore, where his father operated a confectionery and delicatessen, known as Sapperstein's, in the 1100 block of East Baltimore St.

He was educated in city public schools and graduated from City College in 1938.

Following the death of his parents and brother, all because of cardiovascular disease, he operated the family business until World War II, when he was inducted into the 29th Division in 1942. He served in the 1st Air Force at Bolling Field in Anacostia, Va., as a sergeant managing noncommissioned and commissioned officer's clubs.

In 1943, he was transferred to the 15th Air Force, serving in Africa and Italy. He was responsible for supplying Passover foods to Jewish servicemen.

Mr. Sapperstein was discharged in 1945 and returned to Baltimore, where he managed the food operation at the Club Charles, a well-known North Charles Street nightclub where Sophie Tucker, Joey Bishop, the June Taylor Dancers and other acts of the era were presented.

After the club closed in 1951, Mr. Sapperstein founded Bernie's Vending Service Inc., which provided machines to many businesses, clubs, taverns and fraternal organizations.

He retired from the business in 1990.

In a business brush with the law, he and an employee and the company were given probation before judgment in Baltimore County Circuit Court in 1986 on charges of possessing illegal slot machines in the form of video poker machines. The company was fined $30,000.

Because of Mr. Sapperstein's philanthropy, he was the recipient of many awards. He was named "Outstanding Citizen of Maryland" by the Jewish War Veterans in 1977.

In 1978 he was named Save-A-Heart's "Man of the Year."

He also was named to the Maryland Jewish Hall of Fame at the Lloyd Street Synagogue by the Maryland Historical Society.

The Histadrut honored him in 1984 with its merit award and named its Kupat Holim Cardiovascular facility in Israel after him and the Save-A-Heart Foundation.

On June 19, he was honored at Save-A-Heart's "Cosby at the Meyerhoff" fund-raiser. And even though he was ill, he continued to go to the office to make calls, sell tickets and help plan the organization's major fund-raiser.

"His Save-A-Heart work took up most of his time and was his major interest," recalled his wife, the former Janice Kantor of New York City, whom he married in 1947.

The couple enjoyed traveling and spent winters in North Miami, Fla.

Mr. Sapperstein was a former member of the Laurel Hills Country Club, the Bonnie View Country Club and the Summit Country Club.

He was also active in the Beth Tfiloh Congregation and Brotherhood, the Roger C. Snyder Post No. 117 of Jewish War Veterans and many other organizations.

Services for Mr. Sapperstein will be at 3 p.m. today at Sol Levinson and Brothers funeral home, 6010 Reisterstown Road.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two daughters, Marsha Bornfriend of Baltimore and Rochelle Jacobs of Yardley, Pa.; and five grandchildren.

The family suggested that memorial contributions could be made to the Save-A-Heart Foundation, 302 Reisterstown Road, Baltimore 21208.

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