Joseph M. Schwartz, 78, developer and philanthropist

November 14, 1999|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Joseph M. Schwartz, a real estate developer who went from selling World War II surplus clothing to donating millions of dollars to hospitals and schools, died Tuesday after suffering a stroke at his home in Boca Raton, Fla. He was 78.

In 40 years as a Maryland developer, Mr. Schwartz built thousands of homes and apartments before donating more than $6 million to the University of Maryland Medical System. The gift aided organ transplants and the treatment of brain injuries.

"He was a visionary man," said Dr. Morton I. Rapoport, president of the medical system. "His intelligence was the basis of his success."

In recognition of Mr. Schwartz's gift, the University of Maryland Medical Center named its organ transplant program after him. In 1996, he donated $1 million to the Kernan Hospital for the Schwartz Stroke and Brain Injury Center.

Mr. Schwartz began building homes and apartments in the 1940s after he failed at an earlier business -- selling war surplus clothing in downtown Baltimore. He worked as a general laborer at an Anne Arundel County homebuilding site until a boss saw he had a talent for numbers and moved him inside the field office.

Within nine years, he had founded Modern Suburban Buildings. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he built 1,500 apartment units in the metropolitan area. They include Fallstaff Manor in Northwest Baltimore, Walker Manor near Govans and Fellowship Court on Goucher Boulevard. Some homes he built sit along Aquahart Road in Glen Burnie.

Two decades ago, Mr. Schwartz was impressed by the revitalization of Fells Point and purchased the old National Can Co.'s complex on Wolfe Street, developing it under the name Thames Point.

"He was a very hard-working guy," said Ron Creamer, a friend who lives in Baltimore County. "He was also bright and a strong, tough businessman. He knew what he wanted, and he took risks."

Always interested in education, Mr. Schwartz donated money to build four wings of the Bais Yaakov School for Girls in Owings Mills.

"He [and his wife] felt that Jewish education was important for the enlarging of Judaism in America today," said Rabbi I. Ari Flamm, the school's executive director.

Mr. Schwartz also gave three buildings to the Ner Israel Rabbinical College on Mount Wilson Lane and gave to the religious education program of the Beth Israel Congregation in Owings Mills. He was a longtime member of the Beth El Congregation on Park Heights Avenue, which also benefited from his generosity.

Born in Baltimore, Mr. Schwartz was raised on Virginia Avenue in the northwestern section of the city, and in 1939 graduated from City College. He worked briefly at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. aircraft plant in Middle River before joining the Army Air Forces. During World War II, he flew 31 bombing missions over Europe as a navigator.

His World War II experiences led him to become a founding benefactor of the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

For many years, Mr. Schwartz lived in Northwest Baltimore and kept a winter home in Boca Raton. While business occupied much of his life, he indulged himself in fine cars and was especially fond of his Rolls Royce Corniche and an Excalibur.

Services were held Friday in Delray Beach, Fla.

He is survived by his wife of 53 years, the former Corinne "Peachy" Silverman; a son, Richard Schwartz of Baltimore; two daughters, Roslyn Stoff of Scottsdale, Ariz., and Marcia Hochman of Boca Raton; and five grandchildren.

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