Families working together can be fraught with sitcom-worthy moments of calamity.
Then there are the Admires, led by patriarch Jack Admire, a prominent South Florida attorney and philanthropist who died at 87 on Saturday at his Coral Gables home. As family members, including Ruth, his wife of nearly 67 years, and their children held his hand, a loud afternoon summer storm swept the neighborhood.
Soon after, Admire passed. “I just swear that’s God’s trumpets and chariots coming to get him,” son John said he imagined as the storm raged. “It’s amazing how many people have difficulties working with their family.”
Under Jack Admire’s lead, his children never had that concern.
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The Gables law firm Admire led — Sullivan, Admire & Sullivan — was founded in 1923 by the late John C. Sullivan. In 1950, two years after Admire married Ruth Sullivan, whom he met while studying business and law at the University of Florida, he joined her father’s practice. Their sons John and the late Robert Admire joined the firm in 1979 and 1987, respectively.
“He taught me to respect everyone, even those with whom I disagreed,” John Admire said. “He had a keen, mathematical mind and that helped him in trying to deal with the complexities as people aged and passed away.”
Indeed, Donald Van Orsdel, president of the namesake funeral chapels, sought Jack Admire often. The Admire and Van Orsdel children were schoolmates at Gables High in the 1960s.
“He was always willing to help our family with any personal and company matters that came up. They handled both my mother and father’s complicated estates. They did a fantastic job. He was an amazing man and community leader, staying active into his 80s,” Van Orsdel said.
Admire, born in Jacksonville on Oct. 9, 1927, was an only child, born of the Depression years, but for reasons few knew, he dedicated much of his life to philanthropy and community service. He was a six-term president and board member of the Museum of Science. He served on the boards of the Miami Dade Community College Foundation, Human Services Coalition, Governor’s Constituency for Children and the Coconut Grove Playhouse. He was president of the Donors Forum and the Historical Association of Southern Florida.
He also helped charter and establish the CHARLEE program that helps abused, abandoned and neglected children.
Not given to braggadocio, few knew the origins of Admire’s compassion. “Maybe the people growing up in the Depression did not have a lot of advantages but he wanted to make sure everyone coming after him did,” son John surmised. “Dad never, ever talked about himself.”
Wife Ruth Admire agreed. “Jack sought no glory for himself. He was a peacemaker, always bringing out the best in others. It was a blessing and a privilege to share his life and to be with him as he skillfully built bridges of love and caring, affecting the lives of many.”
In 1970, in a period struggling with court-ordered integration in public schools, Admire became an advocate for children to secure equal educational opportunities. A decade later, in 1983, he faced opposition from a coalition of black and white parents who had formed the Attendance Boundary Committee (ABC). Admire was a member of the group. Many within the ABC wanted to end busing and argued that their children should go to schools in their community, even if it meant a return to segregation.
Admire conceded that the black community bore the brunt of desegregation — white students were generally not bused into black neighborhoods. But he countered in a 1983 Miami Herald story, “I cannot support any plan that racially isolates children during their formative years. I cannot see anything that separates us as a solution to a problem.”
David Lawrence Jr., a childhood advocate and former publisher of the Miami Herald, said, “Jack Admire was among the people I first met when I came to Miami 26 years ago. He and Ruth were simply lovely examples of philanthropists who gave love and care as well as money.”
Admire, a recipient of the 12 Good Men award from Ronald McDonald House and Outstanding Grant Maker Award from the Miami Dade Committee for National Philanthropy, strolled through the streets of Miami once in the late 1980s. With him, three of his six children and his wife.
The optimist was struck by the progress he saw amid myriad growing pains. “It’s all really coming together in the last few years, isn’t it?” he said in a 1988 Miami Herald story. “Seven years ago, after the riots, people thought Miami would never recover. Now look at it. It’s exciting.”
The activity embodied Admire’s “humble spirit and generous heart” his daughter Ruth Admire said.
“I loved going with him on expeditions to find just the right gift for someone. It was such fun to see the joy in his spirit and the light in his eyes. His gifts to me were in many forms. When I would ask him ‘Dad, how can I ever repay you?’ He would reply, ‘You will help someone else someday.’ And then he would give me a kiss. And I will.”
In addition to his wife, son and daughter, Admire is survived by his children Valerie Baggs, Susan Admire Harris and Mary LeDuc, and 12 grandchildren. Services will be held at 4 p.m. Aug. 21 at Riviera Presbyterian Church, 5275 Sunset Dr., South Miami.
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Remembering Jack Admire
Susan Corrigan, family friend: “Jack was a gentleman. He enjoyed dancing and being with his family. I grew up with Bobby and Mary Ellen, the youngest of the Admire children. We went through Gables High together. What I remember most is being excited every Christmas to get one of their Christmas cards. It had all the family on the sleigh, trees, snowmen with all their names, children, wives, husbands.”
Ruth Admire, wife, philanthropist: “It thrilled me to see the joy in his face when he gave to others. Jack was an extraordinary man and I am honored to have been his wife.”
John Admire, son, attorney with Sullivan, Admire & Sullivan: “I don’t think Dad ever talked about his own life. He always talked about others and what he could do to help others. He taught us a respect for our country and our leaders and a love of God and, more than that, we all have a responsibility to care for each other. … And he taught me how to throw a curve ball.”