PORTLAND – Al Glickman wasn’t one to let obstacles get in his way. Often, he refused to even acknowledge their existence.
“He used to say, ‘No is never really no,’ ” Glickman’s son David said in describing his father’s approach to putting together deals. To maintain the wealth that resulted, Glickman would add, “say ‘no’ a lot.”
Albert Glickman, who died Saturday at 79, was remembered Wednesday as a man who failed to follow his own advice and said “no” rarely, especially when it came to helping others. He was described as a pioneering businessman, a generous philanthropist, a warm and caring friend and a devoted family man.
His funeral at Temple Beth El elicited sorrow but also laughter as about 400 friends and family members recalled a man who amassed millions and gave much of it away and could afford luxuries, but treasured simple pleasures.
For instance, he owned a house in Aspen, Colo., but most enjoyed cajoling ski resort employees into allowing him and a few friends up the mountain early so they could cut the “first tracks.” Glickman acquired expensive classic cars, including a Rolls-Royce and a Jaguar convertible, but delighted in taking his grandchildren to McDonald’s.
And while he rubbed elbows with fellow millionaires and was consulted by presidents, Glickman treasured family time, such as when he, his wife, Judith, their four children and 18 grandchildren would gather at “Camp Albert” on Great Diamond Island.
Glickman was born in Portland in 1933 and lost his father to a car accident three years later. His mother remarried a few years later and the family relocated to California. After college, he got a job at the real estate brokerage Coldwell Banker, which had been “restricted” — the term meant Jews were not welcome, and Glickman was the California branch’s first Jewish employee, Glickman’s son Brenner told the gathering Wednesday.
In Glickman’s first year, his son said, he focused on trying to fashion big deals that didn’t come to fruition. Glickman and his wife were so poor, Brenner Glickman recalled his father saying that even though bread was a nickel a loaf, they couldn’t afford a slice.
The second year, those big deals came through and Glickman set sales and commission records. When he left a year later to start his own firm, Brenner Glickman said, the Coldwell Banker executives asked Glickman if he could “find more Jews” for the company.
Glickman pioneered the concept of community shopping centers — buying a big plot of land on two main avenues and plunking down a Kmart, a grocery story, a drugstore and some local shops and restaurants.
“He was a visionary,” Brenner Glickman said, and in fast-growing California, quickly became a very wealthy man.
Despite his rapidly growing business, he was home for dinner most nights and would take his children on individual weekend getaways, a practice his sons said they continue with their children.
Glickman was a person others naturally gravitated to, said Leonard Lauder, the chairman emeritus of the Estee Lauder Cos., who met Glickman in Aspen and the two became skiing buddies.
“No one was permitted on the gondola without a new joke,” Lauder said. “The only one who was permitted to tell a joke more than one time — or three times or 10 times — was Al Glickman.”
Glickman shared his success with his extended and growing family — on one trip, they had T-shirts printed with “Charge it to Uncle Al,” printed on the back, Brenner Glickman said, but he also shared it with the community. In California, he gave money to his alma mater, UCLA, and to hospitals and the arts.
It was a practice he continued after he moved back to Maine and settled in Cape Elizabeth. Many Maine groups benefited from Glickman’s generosity, including the University of Southern Maine, the Portland Symphony Orchestra and the Portland Museum of Art.
Brenner Glickman said his father was an upbeat, energetic man most of the time, despite a lifelong battle with depression. After Judith accepted his proposal, he said, the couple planned a June wedding, “but Dad moved it up to February to close the deal.”
Glickman’s son said his father dealt with depression and a daughter’s mental illness openly at a time when that was rare. It presaged his later battle with Parkinson’s, a disease he was diagnosed with in the 1990s and which contributed to his death.
Friends said Glickman battled courageously against the disease and in 2004, he teamed up with another person with Parkinson’s — actor Michael J. Fox, who had started a foundation to raise money for research. Glickman contributed money and joined the foundation’s board.
Fox told mourners at Temple Beth El that Glickman became a force on the board, often using his own donations to encourage other board members to ante up.
And he was eager to take charge and move things along, Fox said, noting that he learned that “meetings were never over until Al slapped the table.”
Fox said he called Glickman about 10 days ago, and while Glickman couldn’t talk, Judith Glickman held the phone to her husband’s ear while Fox reminisced about their friendship, which had deepened quickly.
“Judith got back on and said he smiled,” Fox said. “I heard him.”
Staff Writer Edward D. Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at: