Gerson G. Eisenberg, 90, writer and philanthropist

June 14, 1999|By Del Quentin Wilber | Del Quentin Wilber,SUN STAFF

Gerson Gutman Eisenberg, a writer and longtime supporter of Maryland history and arts, died yesterday at Greater Baltimore Medical Center after a lengthy illness. He was 90 and lived in Pikesville.

Mr. Eisenberg served on many boards and donated money to intellectual and artistic causes. He also wrote books on travel and history, and created an audiotaped, self-guided tour of Baltimore in 1969 -- a first for any U.S. city.

He was born in Baltimore, the son of Abram Eisenberg, the owner of Eisenberg's Underselling store on Lexington Street.

Abram Eisenberg and his wife, Helen, were art lovers and collected dozens of expensive and well-known paintings. They donated their collection of 19th-century works by French Impressionists to the Baltimore Museum of Art. The paintings include Claude Monet's "Charing Cross Bridge" and "Waterloo Bridge;" Pierre Auguste Renoir's "Child with a Hoop"; and Jean Baptiste Camille Corot's "Crown of Flowers."

The paintings are housed in the Eisenberg Gallery at the BMA.

Mr. Eisenberg graduated from the Park School in 1926 and earned his bachelor's degree in economics from George Washington University in 1930. After working briefly as a vice president for a Glen Burnie department store, he began focusing his attention on writing and philanthropy, while living on his inheritance.

"He was never interested in business, really," said his brother, Albert Eisenberg of Baltimore. "He was always trying to devise things that would be useful at bettering traditions here."

Mr. Eisenberg studied at the Johns Hopkins University and earned a master's degree in public finance from New York University. His thesis was on Robert Owen, a 19th-century Welsh industrialist who worked to better conditions for his employees.

In 1967, Mr. Eisenberg married Sandy Frenkil, also a Baltimore native.

Two years later, he produced audiotaped tours of Baltimore that allowed people to drive and learn the city's history. He donated the tapes to the Maryland Historical Society with a grant to turn them into tours for schoolchildren.

"He was a Renaissance man," said Barbara Katz, vice president of the Maryland Historical Society. "He was very generous."

Mr. Eisenberg and his wife donated to many causes and such institutions as the BMA, the Maryland Historical Society, the Johns Hopkins University and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The Eisenbergs traveled often and combined their trips with educational components, which they called "taking your mind as well as your bathing suit."

When they went to Cape Hatteras, N.C., they learned to fish and studied the ecology of the Outer Banks. At St. Mary's College of Maryland, they spent a week boating, swimming and studying American music.

From those experiences, Mr. Eisenberg wrote "Learning Vacations," a book that showed readers how to educate themselves on vacation.

He also wrote a history book, "Marylanders Who Served the Nation," and composed music and played the piano.

Mr. Eisenberg was known as a quiet man. In his high school yearbook, his friends wrote: "His speech is silver and his silence is gold."

Mrs. Eisenberg died in November.

Plans for services are incomplete.

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