Kenneth J. Schwartz has always been a stickler for details.
So as his health failed, Schwartz edited his own obituary — adding words like “combat” to his Marine Corps description. He helped plan his funeral, wanting the service limited to an hour. And he even mapped out where people would park at the house to pay their respects to his family.
“I think it was his way of letting us know that it was OK,” said his daughter Elizabeth Schwartz, a Miami Beach lawyer. “I even read him my eulogy, which he enjoyed.”
Schwartz read his eulogy again Wednesday — this time to a group of more than 500 people who came to Temple Sinai in Northeast Miami-Dade to say goodbye to Kenneth Schwartz, a longtime leader of South Florida’s Jewish community, combat Marine veteran, long-time real estate executive.
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“What softens the blow a bit is that he handled this transition with such courage and grace, he wasn’t in pain and he wasn't afraid,” she read of her dad, who was 88 when he died Sunday from pulmonary and cardiovascular disease. “He died like he lived — as a Marine.”
Schwartz, who was born in Boston in 1926, graduated from Boston Latin School in 1944. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1944 and served in Okinawa. He completed his service in 1946 and went to the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where he graduated in 1950.
He then began his life-long career as a real estate executive.
In 1958, he joined the Gulf American Land Corp., a property development company, and was the first resident and the main force behind the creation of Cape Coral, near Fort Myers on Florida’s Southwest coast.
While at Gulf American he met his future wife, whom he married in 1969.
The couple then moved to Southeast Florida and Schwartz took on many more real estate and investment projects
Schwartz also was a family man, with six children. He loved to cycle and did so into his 80s. He also was involved in the Jewish community.
He served as a national vice chairman of the United Jewish Appeal and led thousands on visits to Israel over the years. He also served as president of Temple Sinai of North Dade from 1972 to 1978.
Jacob Solomon, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said Schwartz was “a tireless fundraiser and fierce advocate for Israel and Jewish causes and a real leader.”
“Passion is a great word to describe him,” he said, adding Schwartz and his wife either led or participated in more than 30 missions to Israel. “He was driven, almost compulsively, to do what was right under every circumstance.”
Schwartz’s son Tommy said religion, family and charity were a “big deal” to his father.
He was the central player in the family’s Shabbat dinners, leading the prayers and welcoming everyone to the table.
“He was a guy who shared himself very easily and naturally with anybody and everybody,” his son said. “That was his most characterizing feature. He was a walking mountain of goodwill.”
In addition to Elizabeth and Tommy, Schwartz is survived by his wife of 45 years, Maxine, children William, Nancy, Steven and David , and eight grandchildren.
Services were held. The family asks that instead of flowers, donations may be made to the Kenneth and Maxine Schwartz Philanthropic Fund at the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, 4200 Biscayne Blvd., Miami 33137.