Sylvan Myers, 95

Sylvan Myers, former president of Wometco, dies at 95

 

ejester@MiamiHerald.com

Sylvan “Van” Myers spent 44 years at Wometco, rising through the ranks, first to head the data division, later as executive vice president of bottling, vending and food service operations and finally as president and CEO of the company.

After retiring in 1984, Myers devoted himself to the South Florida community and working to improve people’s lives, said son Bruce Myers.

“I think he was a role model, a leader,” Bruce Myers said. “He would’ve made a good politician, but people like that don’t want to run for office.”

An avid sports fan, devoted father and husband of 72 years to wife Jane, Myers died Tuesday. He was 95.

Born in Norfolk, Va., in 1917, Myers’ father wanted him to join him in the family’s mattress company. But Myers had bigger plans and left home for Harvard University.

It was there that an acquaintance gave Myers the phone number for a young woman, a senior in high school. Jane and Van began dating, eventually marrying in 1940.

But the honeymoon was short — Myers soon went into the Navy and served as a lieutenant during World War II. He was assigned to an amphibious craft in Okinawa.

After the war, he returned briefly to Boston, but was soon contacted by Mitchell Wolfson, the co-founder of Wometco Enterprises, a prominent Miami-based entertainment company that founded WTVJ, Miami’s first television station.

Myers followed Wolfson down to Miami in 1946 and never left.

At Wometco, he was a born leader. He rarely raised his voice, said his son, but he had a quality that made people follow him.

“He’s just the type of person you would want to be around and work for,” Bruce Myers said.

When Wolfson died in 1983, Myers became president and CEO, responsible for overseeing its sale to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Although his presidency was brief, he made sure to stick around long enough to advocate for his former employees, his son said.

By the time Kohlberg Kravis Roberts took over the company in 1984, Wometco’s assets included 45 movie theaters, three TV stations, 47 cable TV systems, the Miami Seaquarium, the Citrus Tower and one of the largest Coca-Cola bottlers in the nation

Ever concerned with giving back to the city and the people he loved, Myers remained on several community boards in his retirement, including WPBT-Channel 2 and The Family Counseling Service. He was a founding member of Feeding South Florida and an original board member of the Mitchell Wolfson Foundation, of which he was a member when he died.

“He was literally the soul of decency, in my estimation,” said Dave Lawrence, a former publisher of The Miami Herald and founder of The Children’s Trust. His warm sense of humor and his thoughtfulness made him a good leader and a great friend, Lawrence said.

Myers was a tireless sports fan, often taking his two children to see the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat and the University of Miami Hurricanes. Another weekly family activity, during his time at Wometco, was Friday screenings of movies the company wanted to show at its theaters.

Well into his 90s, Myers still insisted on going somewhere outside his home every day. He had an endless reading list, as a longtime member of the Book of the Month Club, and he was interested in every subject.

In addition to his wife Jane and son Bruce, Myers is survived by daughter Catherine Myers and sister Valerie Rothschild.

There will be a celebration of his life at 1 p.m. Feb. 23 at the Coral Gables Country Club, 997 N. Greenway Dr.

In lieu of flowers, Myers’ family requests that donations be made to WPBT-Channel 2 or Feeding South Florida.

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