There are so few true Miami natives, it would seem when you find one, they would rhapsodize about the good ol’ days.
Albert Quentel, born in Miami on Nov. 27, 1934, was raised on what sounds idyllic property — a swath of land that stretched from one block to the other that his grandfather owned near the Miami airport. He had at least four acres to play in a backyard that, for a little kid, seemed to stretch for an eternity. Behind a 1,200-square-foot house sat a giant avocado grove.
Cue a chorus of “those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end...?”
Quentel, a fifth-name partner with the international GreenbergTraurig firm, had another view.
“They weren’t all that good,” he opined in a 1985 Miami Herald story. “I remember Miami as basically a small town, living off out-of-town money. In the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, the Northerners brought the money down, along with winter activities. In summer, the city rolled up and went to sleep.”
Think of it this way: Quentel, who died Aug. 6 at age 80 at his South Miami home, was more about making things happen for the future of South Florida.
As a real estate attorney representing The Graham Companies in the early 1960s, Quentel worked with the Graham family on the development of 3,000 acres of the family’s land that, in 1962, would become the town of Miami Lakes. Quentel, a 1957 graduate from the University of Florida’s law school, provided the legal groundwork for the region’s planning and created the rules that govern how homes must be maintained in Miami Lakes.
“Anyone who lives in what is now Miami Lakes owes a great deal to Al’s legal genius,” said Matt Gorson, GreenbergTraurig’s co-chairman.
Not everyone championed the changing face of South Florida that Quentel had a hand in molding. Unbowed, change, he said in the 1985 Herald column, is good. “Many people are unwilling to adjust to change.”
“The best way to describe him is he was a man of few words, but when he spoke, they were quite meaningful and impactful. He was a continuous role model to six boys,” said son Paul Quentel.
One of Quentel’s life lessons impressed his son. As a boy, Paul once visited his father at GreenbergTraurig’s Miami office around the time he joined the firm in 1971.
“We were going up an elevator — he was already a successful attorney at that point — and he was greeting everyone who came on, including a mechanic. I was young, impressionable, and he said, ‘Always be nice to everybody because God made us all the same way, and you never know when you may need that person or who they will become.’
“That’s one of those moments that stuck with me forever,” Paul Quentel said.
Quentel was known as “the dean of condominium lawyers” for his role in writing Florida’s first condominium statute in 1963 as part of a team of three law firms hired by Arvida Corporation.
Later, he helped Neiman Marcus build its open four-story atrium and glass elevators at Bal Harbour Shops by helping skeptical designers satisfy the South Florida building code by envisioning an enclosure that used closely spaced fire sprinklers to create a wall of water. The creative design met the requirements.
Richard Rosenbaum, GreenbergTraurig’s chief executive officer, said, “When I joined the law firm … in 1985, Al was already a legend in the Florida real estate world. But what I remember most was how much of a gentle soul he was, and what an approachable gentleman he could be, even to me as a third-year associate.”
Quentel is survived by sons Albert Jr., Stephen, Lee, Paul, Peter and Michael; five grandchildren and two great-grandsons, one born Friday. “The circle of life,” Paul Quentel said.
A visitation will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. Sunday at Stanfill Funeral Home, 10545 S. Dixie Hwy., Miami. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday at Plymouth Congregational Church, 3400 Devon Rd., Coconut Grove. Donations in Quentel’s name can be made to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals or the National Parkinson Foundation.
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Remembering Albert Quentel
Cesar Alvarez, GreenbergTraurig’s co-chairman: “I will always remember the tall southern gentleman, with his signature Panama hat, who loved all of humanity and would always welcome everyone with a gentle smile and a sweet disposition.”
Lee Quentel, son: “[He] took great pride in the lifelong friendships he had established throughout the state of Florida and beyond during his distinguished career.”
Larry Hoffman, founding chair of GreenbergTraurig: “We lost a great friend, a great lawyer and a great visionary. We were very fortunate that he was part of the GreenbergTraurig family for more than 40 years. His memory will live on in the legacy he created of award-winning and caring real estate practitioners, not just at this firm, but throughout the state.”