Real estate magnate Sandy Miot developed the community of Weston with the promise of a “Hometown of the Future.” As a president of the Florida Homebuilders Association, he helped build more than 3,000 homes in Florida.
But his eight children and his wife best remember a family man who loved his hugs, his Friday night family time and Saturday movie night with his sons.
Even if that meant sitting through Alien vs. Predator since the kids got to pick the flick. After all, son Zachary was only 15.
“That wasn’t his choice,” his wife Denise said, laughing. “The youngest wanted to see Alien vs. Predator and he went. Wasn’t his thing but that’s the guy he was.”
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Denise Miot also tells an amusing story about the time Sandy almost burned the house down by broiling a pizza in the oven — while it was still in the box.
He built houses. Ovens? Who knew?
This was a man, after all, who, as president of Arvida Southern in 1983, at one time Miami-Dade’s largest homebuilder, gave Miami-Dade commissioners a check for $100,000 to help cover the cost of building the West Bird Fire Station. “We’re looking forward to the increased service it will afford Dade County residents in the area,” Miot said at the time.
This was a man who, as Zoological Society president a couple decades ago, pushed to improve a then-struggling Miami-Dade zoo before its name change and revitalization. “The zoo is at a crossroads. Either it’s going to grow or it’s going to go downhill,” he said, while urging the construction of a reptile exhibit. “How can you be a zoo in Florida and not have a reptile house?”
This was also a man who, in the 1980s, while with Arvida and developing what would become Weston on 10,000 acres of land, helped lead the push to construct I-595 to help bridge Miami-Dade and Broward counties. “Because of I-595, we’re 20 minutes from the airport. Because of I-595, we’re 35 minutes from Dadeland. We will have direct links to Miami and Fort Lauderdale,” Miot told the Miami Herald in 1985 about the superhighway.
“He started Weston when people didn’t even believe that it would be anything,” Denise said. Miami Dolphin quarterback Dan Marino signed on for television commercials at the time and touted his own home in the community.
Miot, born Sandford Burton Miot, and raised in Brooklyn to Russian immigrant parents, died at age 75 on Jan. 13. He moved to Miami in 1972 and earned a master’s of engineering at the University of Miami. He went on to become CEO of the Douglas Gardens Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged, served as vice president of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and the Holocaust Education and Documentation Center, among his real estate endeavors.
He was also a regular family man, not above the foibles of a father in the suburbs who might occasionally heat up a pizza box and sit through a horror film to please his children.
“We got a visit from Weston’s finest,” said his chuckling wife about that pizza incident.
“On the outside he showed up all in black. The Homebuilders gave him a painting of Darth Vader because he tried to play the tough guy. But his sons would say he loved his hugs every morning or evening. ‘Carpe diem, boys, seize the day,’ he would tell them every morning. That was his motto. My son, who is graduating from high school, knew all of Al Jolson’s Greatest Hits by the time he was 5 because Sandy would always play that.”
There were hurdles, of course. After Hurricane Andrew’s rampage through South Miami-Dade in August 1992 Arvida, and Miot, as its former president at the time, drew criticism from engineers for its construction of Country Walk a decade earlier.
Miot grew from the experience, his family said. He’d become president of real estate development company, Berkshire Enterprises, continue his philanthropy and ultimately he built homes in New Hampshire, Texas, Washington and Florida.
“He was larger than life,” Denise said. “When he walked into a room everyone knew he was there and he was always seeking education. We did our MBA together at the UM. We thought that would be romantic.”
And, most of all, he was dad to a blended family of eight kids he shared with his wife.
Sons Zach, 17, and Jesse, 15, collaborated on a eulogy at Miot’s service earlier this week at Menorah Gardens in Southwest Ranches. Zach touched the gathering with his remembrances of movie nights, Al Jolson songs ( “Sonny Boy was dad’s favorite,” he said. “As the song goes, ‘When there are gray skies, I don’t mind the gray skies, because I know I’ll always be your sonny boy’ ”) and the pizza box blunder.
“Aside from sharing his love of music and his trait of stubborness, Dad was an intellect and taught us how to value knowledge — our greatest tool. He gave us a Word of the Day, and whether it was in person or via email, we were required to use that word during the day,” Zach said “Aside from our faith in God, he taught us that being Jewish means seeking to act as if that code of conduct were our daily GPS. … Using our faith as our moral compass, he showed us the Jewish way.”
Stepdaughter Alesandra, 24, stressed their personal connection. Blood relations is a technicality. What mattered was their reality, she said at the service.
“I loved how despite Florida’s hot and humid weather, we would both go out to dinner and order different soups just so that we would be able to share each other’s. I loved his forehead kisses. I loved how proud I felt when he called me his daughter. But most of all, I just loved being his daughter,” Alesandra said.
Miot is survived by his wife Denise, children Angela Nudel, Elizabeth Kellermeyer, Sean, Seth, Zachary Joseph, Jesse Ariel, Cristina and Alesandra.
Services were held.