Be sure to raise a glass in honor of Richard Aronson this Fourth of July.

Mr. Aronson, a longtime Philadelphian, fought for his country in World War II and later led the company that laid the brickwork for the home of the Liberty Bell during the last part of the 20th century.

Talk about a patriotic parlay.

Mr. Aronson, 94, contracted COVID-19 and died at the Abramson Center for Jewish Life on Monday, May 11. His son said he had been ill for less than a week.

“That was it. Six days,” Howard Aronson said. “That’s what got him in the end. Amazing, huh?”

Mr. Aronson was born in Reading, was raised in the Logan section, went to Olney High School, and graduated from Drexel in 1949 with a degree in mechanical engineering.

He enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was a broadcast member of Armed Forces Radio during the Second World War.

He earned four citations, including the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal and the Good Conduct Medal, before being discharged in 1946.

Mr. Aronson, with future wife Bettina, earned several medals for his military service.
Courtesy of the Aronson Family
Mr. Aronson, with future wife Bettina, earned several medals for his military service.

After the war, Mr. Aronson joined the Jack Casper bricklaying company and eventually became its owner. Its most famous building was the old Liberty Bell Pavilion, which stood on Independence Mall from 1976 to 2003.

Mr. Aronson was a friend and competitor of John B. Kelly Jr., the former Olympic rower and namesake of Kelly Drive, who died suddenly in 1985. He also was a longtime president of the Employing Bricklayers Association, the management arm that negotiated with unions.

His fraternity at Drexel, Sigma Alpha Mu, didn’t have a house when Mr. Aronson attended in the 1940s. But it did by the time his son came to campus in the late 1960s. Mr. Aronson and some of his Dragons classmates provided financing for the house, which was on the 3400 block of Powelton Avenue.

“If he did something, he always dug in and did it all the way,” Howard Aronson said. “You don’t realize it until you get older, but that’s what he did.”

Mr. Aronson founded the Beachcomber Swim Club and the West Oak Lane Jewish Community Center. He was a talented sailor, golfer, and tennis player.

Though Mr. Aronson enjoyed sailing and golf, his family always came first.
Courtesy of the Aronson Family
Though Mr. Aronson enjoyed sailing and golf, his family always came first.

But his greatest accomplishment, his son said, was the family he raised in Mount Airy on Forest Avenue near Vernon Road.

“He was a family man,” his son said.

In addition to his son, Mr. Aronson is survived by daughter Sue, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, Bettina.

— Ed Barkowitz, ebarkowitz@inquirer.com