Leonard Mellman, 96, of Philadelphia, a real estate manager and developer, died Saturday, July 11, of complications from an earlier fall at the Madlyn & Leonard Abramson Center for Jewish Life in North Wales. He had been convalescing there since early May.
Born in Philadelphia to Morris and Luba L. Mellman, he was educated in the city’s public schools.
From 1943 to 1946, Mr. Mellman served in the Army Signal Corps during and after World War II. He trooped across Europe and Japan, setting up telephone relay stations critical to maintaining U.S. Army communications, he said in a 2007 oral history for the Library of Congress Veterans’ History Project.
“I know it sounds strange to say this, but it was a wonderful, exciting time,” he said. “I can’t imagine a 19-year-old today having the kind of experiences I had.” His time in the military, he told the interviewer, “gave me a sense of my value — and the possibilities.”
After being discharged, he returned to Philadelphia and enrolled at Temple University, where he earned a 1949 bachelor’s degree in English under the GI bill.
He took over his father’s general merchandise business, which sold goods on a time-payment basis in North and West Philadelphia. Mr. Mellman used the profits to buy real estate and launched his own real estate development and management company, the L. Mellman Co. in Center City.
“It’s an interesting young-man-does-well story,” said Matthew J. Cunniff, Mr. Mellman’s spouse.
At the same time, he was owner and manager of Mellman Investments, starting in 1960; a principal with Joe Blume in the Mellman/Blume Partnership starting in 1979; a partner with Cunniff in the Cunniff Mellman Company starting in 1982; a general partner in Diamond Acres from 1981 to 1986; and the president of Van Pelt Court Limited from 1985 to 1991.
Another company he created in 2000 was Mellman Limited Partnership. He dissolved it in 2013. He retired from the L. Mellman Co. in 1984 and closed the company. His other properties were sold.
A longtime Center City resident, he was active in the community and a frequent presence on The Inquirer’s society page. He raised money for cultural institutions specializing in music, opera, and the arts.
He was a member of the Philadelphia Board of Realtors and president of the Credit Merchants Association in the early 1970s. He volunteered for the Temple University College of Liberal Arts.
Mr. Mellman received the Philadelphia Award and the Temple University Distinguished Alumni Award, both in 1985.
In 2018, at age 94, he was honored as a distinguished alumnus by the Settlement Music School. He had studied theater at Settlement every Friday night at age 15 and went on to serve as a board member and a school vice president.
“Settlement is like another home to me,” he told the Jewish Exponent in 2018. “It is a world so special that everyone should know it. I have seen [Settlement] as a model for what my life should be like. It has made an unbelievable difference in my life.”
“Leonard forged a highly successful career in real estate, and in the 1970s came back to [the] Settlement Music School as a board member,” the school said in a tribute after his death was made known. “His advice and counsel have been extraordinary through the years, as has his personal generosity.”
He sat on the board of directors of the Singing City Choir and the Philadelphia Opera Guild. “He just adored opera,” Cunniff said.
Mr. Mellman met Cunniff in 1965 at a dinner party. They became friends, then partners, and spouses on June 5, 2014, in Philadelphia. The two enjoyed traveling to the places Mr. Mellman hadn’t seen during World War II.
“We went back to places he couldn’t get to — Paris, Munich, Rome,” Cunniff said. “We’d rent a car and go into the countryside, and then back to the capital city. It was a way to get to know the people and the culture.”
Besides his spouse, Mr. Mellman is survived by three sisters, two brothers, three nieces, and two nephews.
Services and interment were private.