Play the telephone game and the message almost always gets diluted as it passes from person to person.
But Harvey Reiseman’s first and second wives echo one another in one instance along the phone lines.
Harvey Reiseman, a former Miami-Dade County commissioner and Miami Municipal Court judge who died Dec. 21 in West Palm Beach at 84, was a charming man.
“He was a charmer, he really was,” said Sandra Reiseman, who married Reiseman in 1956. The two were married for 20 years and had daughter Randi Reiseman Olguin.
Never miss a local story.
The couple met at a Virginia Naval hospital through a mutual friend when she was 17. At the time, Reiseman had served in the U.S. Navy from 1950 to 1953 aboard the destroyer USS Isherwood during the Korean War. The two bumped into one another a few years later on the University of Miami campus in 1956. Reiseman, a Pennsylvania State University grad, was studying for a law degree at UM that he would earn in 1958.
Within three months, the couple were engaged. “He didn’t have anything and I didn’t have anything, but I always knew he would amount to something,” Sandra Reiseman said. “People liked him, he had a gift of gab.” The two honeymooned in Havana.
She laughs when she thinks back to his college days.
“This was a man who was in Iron Arrow, Phi Sigma Delta, Omicron Delta Kappa and every single one of them and he was a man who read Peanuts and was playing ping-pong through law school and rarely studied and still graduated cum laude. He was extremely bright,” she said.
Current wife Deanna “DeeDee” Reiseman was married to Reiseman for 35 years. She married him in 1979, shortly before he finished third in an eight-man race for Miami mayor in 1981, a position that went to his opponent Maurice Ferre. She, too, describes her husband as “courtly, very European and charming and it was sincere.”
The two met when she was a liquidator in the late 1970s and clearing out the contents of an apartment at The Charter Club. Separated awhile, he had bought an apartment and needed furniture. “I met him at the sale. We made a date for Tuesday and he called me on Monday. ‘First dates make people nervous. Let’s go out tonight instead and it won’t count.’ He was charming and we’ve been together ever since,” DeeDee Reiseman said.
Reiseman, born Sept. 8, 1930, grew up in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He was chairman of the City of Miami Economic Advisory Board from 1965 to 1967 and would spend the next four years as a Miami Municipal Court judge.
At the time, he endeavored to do more for alcoholics than the traditional jail ’em-release ’em style of the era. “Harvey realized that alcoholism is not something you get over one, two, three,” Sandra Reiseman said. “This was in the ’60s when they started realizing alcoholism is a disease and something you want to take care of. He was instrumental in rehabilitating alcoholics and not just throwing them in jail.”
Daughter Reiseman Olguin, 54, remembers trying to emulate her father. “He was funny, had a sensational sense of humor. Because he was such a good listener he always had very good advice. I have my dad’s gavel and remember going to court and watching him in the courtroom with his black robe. As a little girl I got to sit in the judge’s big chair — when court was not in session, of course — and see what it looked like from the judge’s perspective. That’s a very cool memory.”
Shortly after his term as judge, Reiseman was appointed to the Miami-Dade County Commission and served from 1971 to 1973. Family friend, Miami Mayor David Kennedy, who died at 80 in September, chartered a plane for a trip with the Reisemans to Gov. Reubin Askew’s inauguration.
“His being in public office was exciting,” his daughter said.
The mayor’s race a decade later was a long shot and Reiseman, who eschewed a microphone and preferred using his own booming voice, couldn’t gain traction against challengers Ferre, the incumbent, and former Miami city commissioner Manolo Reboso. “Miami is destined to be one of the great cities of the world,” Reiseman said at the time.
In later years, Reiseman practiced law into the 1990s and served on numerous committees, including United Way, March of Dimes, Dade County Arthritis Foundation, Dade County Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Jackson Memorial Health Trust. He also traveled often with his wife.
“A superguy,” DeeDee Reiseman said. “One of a kind.”
In addition to his wife and daughter, Reiseman is survived by his sister Joyce Schottenstein, stepchildren Steven and Gary Gottlieb and grandchildren Erika and Rachel Gottlieb. Services were held.
Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.