From Vision to Legacy

Harry Weinberg’s 30-year old parents, Joseph and Sarah Weinberg, set out in 1911 from their home in Sambor, in the Galicia region of the Pale of Settlement (then within the Austro-Hungarian Empire), for the land of opportunity—the United States of America. Harry, then three, was the second of the four children (three boys and one girl) who joined Joseph and Sarah Weinberg on that voyage. Three more boys were born to the couple after they arrived in the U.S. The seven children, in birth order, were Henry, Harry, Betty, William, David, Nathan, and Sidney.

The Weinberg family came to America with extremely modest means. Harry and his siblings grew up knowing firsthand what it was like to have little money, but also, gradually, understood that it took hard work and discipline to escape poverty.

Photo courtesy of Jerry Chong

For Harry, business was a talent learned early in life. At the age of 10, the young entrepreneur could be seen on the streets of downtown Baltimore selling souvenirs to parade-goers celebrating the end of World War I. For several years, Harry worked in his father’s body-and-fender shop, but eager to strike out on his own, he left home in his teens to seek his own fortune.

The rest is a Horatio Alger-like story of ever-increasing wealth accumulation. Although he had no formal education after the sixth grade, the assiduous application of his innate genius and outstanding work ethic allowed him to accumulate a vast fortune. For portions of the 1950s and 1960s, he headed a diverse intra-urban transportation empire, owning mass transit bus lines in New York, Scranton, Dallas, and Honolulu. He accumulated an even larger fortune in securities and real estate. At the time of his death in 1990, he was the largest single real estate investor in Hawaii.

But through it all, Harry Weinberg never forgot his roots as a poor immigrant child in Baltimore. In Harry’s mind, he sought wealth for the benefit of, in his words, “the poor people.” During the late 1930s, while still a young married man with an infant son, he unhesitatingly signed affidavits of support, pledging his then modest assets to enable many German Jews to reach safe haven in America. In 1959, he created The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation as his long-term vehicle for consistent charitable activity that would continue long into the future after he and Jeanette were gone.

Harry Weinberg died on November 4, 1990, little more than a year after his beloved wife, Jeanette, passed away. Jeanette Weinberg had been a talented painter and compassionate philanthropist. Harry and Jeanette are survived by their son, Morton, and four grandchildren. The legacy of Harry and Jeanette Weinberg lives on in the good work of the private foundation they established more than 50 years ago.

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