Jerome Gumenick, scion of the prominent Gumenick Properties clan, has died at 85.
Gumenick, born in Richmond, Virginia, on June 28, 1929, first joined his father, Nathan, in the family real estate business after graduating from the University of Miami in 1952. Nathan had established Gumenick Properties in Richmond in the 1940s and the family, which included Jerome’s mother Sophia, settled in Miami in the early 1950s.
By the end of that decade, the senior Gumenick, with son Jerome as a young sales apprentice, built the 15-story, 550-unit Southgate at 910 West Ave. near the southern entrance to Miami Beach, the city’s first high-rise apartment complex. At the time, people thought he was “a kook” for envisioning a high rise on Biscayne Bay. Who would want to live year-round in a winter tourist place, the mindset of the 1950s chortled.
Apparently, plenty wanted to live in a building overlooking the bay, within walking distance of Flamingo Park, Lincoln Road Mall and shops along Alton Road. Southgate paved the way to neighboring Morton Towers and Forte Towers.
Jerome Gumenick would run his own homebuilding operations in Virginia in the late 1960s.
“My grandfather was one of the first-generation, self-made businessmen and dad, for awhile, spun off and did his own homebuilding operation,” said son Jeffrey Gumenick, 53. “I don’t know if he wanted to strike out on his own but when Nathan got sick he came back into the family company and that’s the type of situation me and my brother are in. We still think of ourselves as the grandsons but now that we are in our 50s, we can’t really rely on that anymore.”
Forty-plus years later, with Jerome Gumenick the company’s chairman and his son Randolph overseeing construction from his grandfather’s office in Southgate, The Floridian rose 33 stories above Biscayne Bay.
“Dad grew up around property on Miami Beach and assembled the land during the mid-1990s to put together the site for The Floridian. That was his drive and one of his proudest moments,” said Jeffrey.
Gumenick, the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient from the Miami Beach Chamber of Commerce, got his drive from his parents, he had said. “My mother and father were real role models. They taught me the real meaning of giving and caring for my fellow man.”
As such, in 1990 Gumenick, a philanthropist who was a National Vice Chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America, turned his attention to healthcare. He supported Mount Sinai Medical Center where he was a Founder whose financial support allowed an expansion of the outpatient Gumenick Ambulatory Care Center that his parents had founded. Gumenick also contributed to the expansion and renovation of the Sophia and Nathan Gumenick Suites at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond in 2005.
But his other great love was his alma mater. Gumenick’s parents started a regular program of giving in the 1950s that led to their membership in the school’s Society of Founders and the installation of the Gumenick Lobby at the school’s Richter Library. Gumenick recently established a charitable trust and creation of the Gumenick Family Hall at the new Alumni Center. He was also a member of the university’s George E. Merrick Society, President’s Council and nominated into the Iron Arrow Honor Society.
“Jerome ‘Jerry’ Gumenick was a dear friend to the University. As a founding member of the UM President's Council, Jerry was a loyal alumni supporter to many areas across the University. The University community extends our condolences to the Gumenick family,” said UM President Donna Shalala.
“He loved his ’Canes,” Jeffrey said. “We have so many memories of going to the Orange Bowl together. He was such a fan and supporter. Those are things I’ll never forget about him.”
Survivors include his wife Gene Grayson, sons Jeffrey and Randolph and seven grandchildren. A private burial and memorial will be held in Richmond Oct. 8.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.