IF YOU HAPPENED to be in the same room with Allen Harberg when something struck his funny bone, you would have been advised to duck.
His laugh could shake a room.
"He had a great sense of humor," said his son, Allen Jr. "But a lot of times he would be laughing at himself."
Allen Harberg, a financial consultant and real estate developer whose guiding philosophy was to give back to the community, especially to its underserved members, and a loving family patriarch, died Monday of heart failure. He was 81 and was a longtime resident of Chestnut Hill.
"He firmly believed in giving back, to make a contribution to the community," his son said.
Following this philosophy, his father was involved in numerous projects of benefit to the needy members of society.
He became associated with the late Rev. Leon Sullivan in his Opportunities Industrialization Center, which trains young people to hold meaningful jobs, and the Rev. Gus Roman, retired pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Germantown, and a community activist.
Allen served as a volunteer staff member of OIC.
He also was involved with Sullivan in the development of Progress Plaza on North Broad Street, the nation's oldest shopping center built and run by African-Americans, in 1968.
He also took part in the development in 1964 of Zion Gardens, the first apartment complex in Philadelphia developed and owned by African-Americans.
In addition to these projects, Allen dedicated countless hours to the Urban Finance Corp., and the Advocate Community Development Corp., which provides capital and financial services to low- and moderate-income individuals.
For his work with these organizations, the Pennsylvania Senate passed a resolution in 1995 paying tribute to his commitment.
Among real estate projects Allen was involved in were the Philadelphia Marine Center, the city's first marina project; a joint venture between Delaware County Memorial Hospital and Presbyterian-University of Pennsylvania to expand into nursing homes in Wayne, Havertown and Paoli.
Clients for his financial and real estate consulting expertise included Thomas Jefferson University Medical College, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Abington Memorial Hospital and various non-profit institutions, including the YWCA, Philadelphia College of Art and Temple University.
In fact, Allen was a consultant to Temple University on urban planning for 11 years before he started his own business as the school sought ways to establish its blueprint in the city.
Allen Harberg was born in Philadelphia to Sidney and Lenore Harberg. He was a graduate of the Haverford School and Washington & Lee University.
He married the former Hannah Nilon in 1969.
The marine center at Penn's Landing was one of the first projects Allen was involved in. He partnered with Malcolm Lazin, a Center City lawyer who headed the corporation building the $20-million marina just north of the Ben Franklin Bridge and marine trade center.
Another early project was the Gateway Care Center, which provides rehabilitative care in Germantown.
Besides his wife and son, a lawyer and former assistant U.S. attorney, he is survived by a daughter, Amanda; a sister, Ruth DuBois, wife of U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois; and two grandchildren.