Jack B. Wasserman, 80, department store head and longtime businessman

April 10, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Jack B. Wasserman, a businessman and former president of Brager-Gutman's department store in downtown Baltimore, died Friday of heart failure at home in Pikesville. He was 80.

During a business career spanning more than 50 years, Mr. Wasserman had headed the department store and been a principal in a commercial real estate management firm. At his death, he was working from his Pikesville office, where he had focused on investments and consulting on real estate since 1984.

He began his career in 1947 when he joined the Julius Gutman and Co. department store at Park Avenue and Lexington Street, which was founded in 1876. He worked in all phases of the business, including buying, merchandising and management.

In 1962, he was named president and general manager of Brager-Gutman Inc., a result of the 1959 merger of Julius Gutman & Co. and Brager-Eisenberg Inc., another city department store.

In 1968, Brager-Gutman's was sold and Mr. Wasserman joined Monumental Properties Inc. Named senior vice president in 1975, he directed Monumental's regional shopping center division. In 1979, he established Mall Management, which specialized in leasing, managing and financing regional shopping centers. Some of the properties managed by the firm included Westview Mall, Salisbury Mall, Burlington (Mass.) Mall and Tri-City in Memphis, Tenn. He closed the business in 1984.

"He had a wonderful personality and was a friendly and outgoing man. He was easy to talk with and had good, common business sense," said Henry L. Gutman, a brother-in-law and former store executive.

"Jack Wasserman was a lifelong friend of my wife and mine," said Julius Westheimer, a former president of Julius Gutman & Co. "His departure leaves an aching void which will be impossible to fill.

"We traveled together. We worked together. We played golf together," Mr. Westheimer said. "And if I ever had a close friend in the world, Jack was it. He was a courtly, loyal man, highly successful in business, and a devoted father, grandfather and husband."", Family and friends said he had a quick wit and an infectious sense of humor.

Born and raised in Norfolk, Va., Mr. Wasserman earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Virginia in 1941 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Army Air Forces and served in the China-Burma-India theater as an administrative officer. He was discharged in 1946 with the rank of major.

"He always said he flew a desk during the war," said his son, Richard L. Wasserman of Ruxton."He was a member of Temple Oheb Shalom and the Baltimore Retail Merchant's Association, and a former president of the Suburban Club of Baltimore.

He enjoyed golfing and travel.

In 1946, Mr. Wasserman married Claire Gutman, who died in 1980. In 1982, he married Ellen Weis Platz, who survives him.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at Sol Levinson & Bros. Inc., 8900 Reisterstown Road.

Other survivors include two daughters, Susan W. Gale of Westwood, Mass., and Kathryn L. Wasserman of Elkins Park, Pa.; two stepsons, Jim Platz and Tom Platz, both of Auburn, Maine.; a stepdaughter, Kathy Zox of Albany, N.Y.; six grandchildren; and eight step-grandchildren.

Sun staff writer Tanika White contributed to this article.

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