When Albert Glickman appeared at any gathering or party, he attracted a crowd like a magnet.
Soon the Portland native, with a sweet, slightly devilish grin, would be surrounded by people straining to hear the latest funny story.
“He would just suck you in. People would cry with laughter,” said his son, Rabbi Brenner Glickman of Sarasota, Fla.
Albert Glickman, a major Maine philanthropist who made a fortune in California commercial real estate after World War II, was remembered Sunday by a long list of friends and family members as disarmingly sweet, smart and generous. Glickman, 79, died Saturday night at his Los Angeles apartment from complications related to Parkinson’s disease, which he battled for 20 years.
A funeral service is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday at Temple Beth El in Portland.
Glickman grew up in poverty in Portland at the height of the Great Depression. His father died in an automobile accident when Albert was 3, and his mother raised him alone until she remarried about 10 years later, said another of Glickman’s sons, Rabbi Jeffrey Glickman of Hartford, Conn. Albert was adopted by his stepfather and took his last name.
The three moved to California when Albert was about 13. After high school, Glickman talked his way into a free education in the University of California system by offering to start a football team at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in exchange for scholarships for his fellow team members and himself.
“He was quite an athlete, a terrific skier who I couldn’t keep up with,” said Leonard Nelson of Falmouth, a close friend and family adviser.
Glickman later transferred to the University of California at Los Angeles, where he obtained a bachelor’s degree, and later a law degree from the UCLA School of Law. Although he never practiced law, it gave him a vision of how to defend against remote possibilities, his son Jeffrey said.
For the next 45 years he developed real estate in California and other Western states with an uncanny eye for just the right spot to build a community shopping center.
But Glickman never forgot Maine. He would spend a week or two each summer at Old Orchard Beach, and finally bought a place on Great Diamond Island in Portland, where he renovated a big, old house. The family assembles there for a couple of weeks or more every summer, including his wife, Judith; their four children plus spouses; their 18 grandchildren, who knew him as “Grampa Al,” along with their assorted boyfriends and girlfriends; and in later years, Glickman’s caregivers.
“He was a phenomenal father,” said his son Jeffrey. Glickman moved back to Maine permanently while he was in his 50s, taking up residence on Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth. He started spending his money on new college buildings, the arts scene and the medical field, both in Maine and across the country.
“Coming back to Maine, my dad really began a life of true authenticity and of feeling at home and grounded,” said Brenner Glickman.
Philanthropy was a tradition in Glickman’s family. His grandfather Joseph Brenner founded the Jewish Home for the Aged, now called The Cedars on Ocean Avenue. His mother, Mildred Brenner Glickman, was the first woman to chair a division of the Jewish Federation and served as a field director for the USO during World War II.
He was a longtime Republican supporter, and friendly with some of Maine’s most influential leaders.
“Al Glickman was a dear and cherished friend, and a true titan of philanthropy,” former Republican U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe and her husband, former Gov. John R. McKernan, said in a prepared statement Sunday. “His generosity of spirit has reverberated throughout Maine and the nation, touching countless lives and enriching innumerable communities. Al measured success in terms of the opportunities he could secure for others, especially in the fields of education, art and civic contributions. Maine has lost a great figure, and during this most difficult of times, our hearts go out to Judy and Al’s entire family.”
“Al loved Maine and left a wonderful legacy,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a statement released by her office. “He was so generous to so many causes, especially the University of Southern Maine, where the library’s name reflects the generosity of the Glickman family.”
Collins said her mother, Pat Collins, served with Glickman on the University of Maine System board of trustees. Collins said that is how she met Glickman, who became a “good friend and valued adviser” over the years.
“Most recently, Al’s son and grandson visited with me in Washington to discuss the U.S.-Israeli relationship,” Collins said. “I know how proud Al was of his entire family and of his loving wife. My prayers and thoughts are with his entire family during this difficult time.”
Glickman also served on the Advisory Council of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, and on the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.
When Glickman received the Spurwink Institute’s Humanitarian of the Year award in 1998, hundreds gathered to fete the philanthropist, including then-U.S. Rep. John Baldacci and then-Gov. Angus King, who joked how Glickman was a mentor to outspoken Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, a former professional wrestler.
Tributes from senators, congressmen, a former secretary of defense and even former President George H.W. Bush were read by friends before a crowd of more than 500 at the charitable event, which raised $650,000.
“I knew him well and I loved the guy,” King, now a U.S. senator, said Sunday evening in a telephone interview. “He always wanted to do the right thing.”
King said Glickman was one of the first people to contact him to encourage him to run for the Senate after Snowe said she would not run for re-election.
King said Glickman took a “vital interest” in government, and accompanied him on a trade mission in the mid-1990s to Great Britain.
“He was just interested in seeing Maine thrive,” King recalled. “He was a terrific guy.”
“The reason I felt so connected to Al was he just had a huge heart,” said Joe Wishcamper of Freeport, a longtime friend and fellow University of Maine System trustee.
Glickman’s donations have for decades supported artistic, civic and educational groups across the country and in Maine. He was a contributing founder of the Los Angeles Music Center and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. He was a trustee at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
Nelson, the philanthropist’s close friend, said Glickman spoke with Fox last Monday by phone.
In Maine, Glickman’s contributions were frequent and are ongoing. The Albert B. Glickman Family Foundation continues to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to scores of local causes and organizations.
Much of his philanthropy benefited the art world. His wife, a photographer whose work focuses on the Holocaust, has shown her photographs at exhibitions around the world.
Glickman also served on the boards of the Portland Museum of Art and the Portland Symphony Orchestra, organizations he supported financially for years. He also was a trustee of the Waynflete School in Portland and the University of New England.
His most well-known local contributions, however, were to USM. He donated $1 million in 1997 to support the completion of the top three floors of the university’s library on Forest Avenue, which is named in his honor.
In 2007, Glickman and his wife gave another $1 million to Spring Harbor Hospital in Westbrook. The money supported the creation of The Glickman Family Center for Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, which combined the nonprofit youth mental-health programs at Spring Harbor and the Maine Medical Center Department of Psychiatry.
But his son said the family may remember him most for his wonderful understanding of people.
“He made tremendous friendships. I can’t even count how many people who say he was their best friend,” Jeffrey Glickman said.
Staff Writers Matt Byrne and Dennis Hoey contributed to this report.
Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: