Most retirees to Miami Beach come to escape the cold winters and to enjoy the sun and fun.
Nathan Reiber’s retirement from a Canadian law career lasted about a week as he strolled West Avenue in Miami Beach in the late 1970s.
He spied a vacant lot near Lincoln Road, saw its potential years before the region’s revival, purchased it and built the first of many apartment buildings in Florida.
Reiber, who died July 1 in Aventura at 86, would spend the next 35 years as a developer. He built and managed real estate properties in the states and in Canada. Among them: the multiple Champlain Towers in Surfside, which he completed in 1986.
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“He was always a sharp businessman,”said daughter Jill Meland. “He enjoyed the game of business and was good at that.”
When he saw that vacant lot on Miami Beach, “that brought him out of retirement so quickly,” Meland said. “He was always fascinated by a deal.”
Reiber’s business sense, which also included developing the 99-unit Centennial Towers project on Collins in Surfside in the 1980s, helped him land on the boards of Mt. Sinai Hospital-Toronto, the YMHA and Miami Beach’s Temple Emanuel. He also supported the University of Miami, Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach and the Miami Jewish Health System. He was national executive vice president for the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs where he addressed NATO and met with world leaders from Spain, Hungary, Germany, Ethiopia and Uzbekistan.
His passion for the arts led him to become a benefactor of the Tanglewood Music Festival, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Berkshire Theater Festival.
In 1988, The Community Alliance Against AIDS hosted a $2,500-per-person fund-raiser for the AIDS fight with celebs like Elizabeth Taylor, Ed Asner, Roddy McDowall and Jerry Herman serving as co-hosts. Prominent locals including Reiber, Julio Iglesias, Abel Holtz, Joaquin Blaya and Mitchell Wolfson Jr. opened their homes for parties.
Reiber and his wife Carolee hosted a cocktail cruise aboard their custom 80-foot yacht, the RYE-BAR.
Carolee Reiber said his philosophy crystallized to her 20 years ago when the two moved into her home in the Aventura area. As the couple sat amid boxes that needed to be unpacked, Reiber booked a four-week cruise. She balked.
“He taught me something. ‘I have always lived my life that you do everything you want to do, that doesn’t hurt someone else, when you want to do it. You know where you are now.’”
This philosophy applied to not only business but charity and family. “He did live his life this way. If ever the next month came, he had no regrets. He did everything he could for four generations, starting from his mother all the way through his grandchildren,” his wife said.
Born in Czestochowa, Poland, Reiber emigrated to Montreal with his parents and siblings in 1929 when he was two. He later graduated with a law degree from the University of Alberta and practiced law in Toronto before retiring to Miami Beach and starting his new career as a developer.
But those earliest days shaped the rest of his life, Meland said.
“His strong sense of family goes back to those immigrant roots with his Uncle Nathan bringing those people over. He and his family lived on the floor of Uncle Nathan’s house.”
His uncle made sure that his neighbors respected the newcomers. “‘Don’t make fun of those kids,’ his uncle said. That’s where he got his sense of belonging, from what Uncle Nathan did for his family to survive. He never really forgot that and always put family first,” Meland said.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Reiber is survived by children Terrence, Lawrence and Keith, seven grandchildren, brother Jack Reiber and sister Shirley Cadesky. Services were held.