In Memoriam: Albert ‘Sonny’ Abramson, 1917-2012

Inside Tower is being brought to you to keep you informed on the happenings inside and outside the company. I would like to thank my sister-in-law, Anne Abramson for her idea and Gina Beckmann and Linda Schoengold who organized our year end celebration.

Our first edition of Inside Tower brings news of joy, achievement and sadness. Achievements and joys for the company and for our employees, and, at the same time, sadness that our company founder, and my father, Albert Abramson, known to the outside world as “Sonny,” passed away on March 6.

Needless to say, there has been an outpouring from all who knew or wished to know him in his capacity as a father, grandfather, business owner, philanthropist and veteran. He was a great man and certainly left a lasting legacy in many of his signature developments, such as The Blairs or Washington Square, the latter which he co-developed with his life-long friend, Ted Lerner. But one truly outstanding legacy is his contribution to the building of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Later, you will read the message sent by former President Bill Clinton.

I would like to begin by sharing part of my eulogy in my dad’s honor.

“When someone lives as long as my father did with such strength, power and love for living, it’s hard to imagine a time without him. It is not easy to capture the essence of our lifelong relationship. But, if I had to sum it up, I would say the last nine months gave the finest expression and experience of it.

What an immense honor to see my father pass through the evolving stages of the lifecycle and be there to support him, give back some of that priceless wisdom that he graced me with and more than anything, just to love him for who was, and who he had become.

To see his enormous intellect give way to a softer, emotional side and to allow him in his own pace and in his own sweet way, share his love and bring closure to his beautiful life, was touching.

My father as many of you know, was an independent man. As the Washington Post stated, he started his business with a five hundred dollar contract in his hand and to that I would add, an empty bank account and gut instinct. He loved the game of the deal and built a business that spanned over 60 years and was founded on trust and a handshake—his lifelong friendship with Ted Lerner was the finest example of that.

He raised his sons with our dear Mother Ruth, as she would say: “to make men of their boys.” They did so with courage and relentless attention to every aspect of our lives, and Dad, managing to skillfully guide us without closing in and always upholding our individuality while maintaining family unity—nothing was more important than that. He was a skillful guide, a loving, and ultimately, deeply compassionate father.

I think I learned as much—and perhaps more—from his silence as from the things he said. It was not uncommon for him to sit quietly, above the fray of a spirited discussion, leaving you wondering in the car ride home, what was he thinking about, what was going through his mind, and trying to sort through his observations by to seeing it through his eyes and piecing it all together.

This kind of second guessing evolved over time, into an attunement to his inner world and deeper thoughts, much of which would come to be confirmed in due time and under the perfect circumstances, in the relaxed calm of his library at home, where we gathered more times then we will ever be able to count.

As everyone knows, Dad loved the discussion. There was no topic off limits, the feistier and more heated the debate; the happier he was. “Jeffrey and I had a good fight tonight!” he would nudge Rona as he walked us to the door… and we would laugh and give him a pinch on the cheek and a kiss… and he would give us a smile that was pure mischief!

This endless ritual of debate, reflection, and action became the pattern upon which he cultivated his relationship with us and gave us a formula to grab hold of his deep, introspective style. This produced a family culture that in its essence, is harmonizing, trusting, and respectful. I believe this is the heart of his legacy and one that we will always be proud of.

I think from all of his affirming expressions of love, support and votes of confidence in the past year, we can feel confident that he passed on his lifework to us with happiness, an easy heart, clear conscience and more than anything, with a heart full of love and pride for his family.

As long as I can remember, I always loved speaking to others about my father. Because of this, he was known to so many that he never even met.

Last week when Dad and I were having a chat, I asked him what he was thinking about, and he said; “I didn’t change the world.” I told him he was wrong and listed many of his numerous achievements, and he reiterated; “but, I didn’t change the world.” But Dad, I said, you inspired so many who will continue to change the world.”

It showed what a high standard he had set for himself and how deeply introspective he was about his life in his last days.

However, Dad, in a rare instance, I would like to prove you wrong, and share with you some of the sentiments that have come from friends from around the world, who were moved by you and who prove that you have indeed inspired and changed your world.

“I feel fortunate to have met Mr. Abramson. He was truly a gem of a human being, who lived his life and met all of its challenges with such great dignity and graciousness. He was a good, good man and the world is a better place for him being here.”

“Every moment with him was uplifting and brought forth our best selves. He embodied a deep wisdom and aliveness, the essence of the true American spirit.”

“He was a person of immeasurable intellect, unshakable integrity, enormous vision and courage, and with a charm that endeared everyone to him, particularly his very close and loving family.

Mr. Abramson will be missed by many, but his legacy will endure for generations to come through his family and the enormous impact he has had on the people and places throughout the Washington DC area and the world.”

“It is so beautiful to think back on the very first time Jeffrey, you told me about your incredible dad, walking along Lake Lucerne- in 1975, your heart filled with love, pride and respect—then– and always.”

May we all be inspired by my father and my father’s life and continue the work to change the world.

With best regards,
Jeffrey S. Abramson

Leave a Reply