Giving Back

Westfield Remembers Gerald Glasser

Gerald Glasser with his wife, Marlene, at the ribbon cutting ceremony for Imagine on May 6, 2012. Credits: Imagine

WESTFIELD, NJ — The community mourns today upon hearing of the death of philanthropist Gerald Glasser on June 16.

“Gerry Glasser was the ‘heart and soul’ of Westfield,” said Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Emeritus Charles Kroloff. “His contributions to the civic life of Westfield, Union County and the State of New Jersey are nothing less than heroic. He lived his life based on the finest civic values of community life and on the highest moral values of Judaism. He loved Westfield, where he was born and raised. But even more, he loved humanity and has left the world much better than he found it.

“On the front of Temple Emanu-El of Westfield are inscribed these words of the prophet Micah: ‘Do justly; Love Mercy; Walk Humbly with your God.’ That is precisely how Gerry lived—he believed in justice, he supported all acts of mercy and compassion and he was exceedingly humble. He surmounted the tragic loss of his son, Tom, on 9/11 and went on to help sustain Temple Emanu-El, Overlook Hospital, the new Westfield service organization, Imagine and the Westfield Foundation, and a scholarship program, among others.

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“We shall not soon again see the likes of Gerald Glasser.”

“Dr. Glasser was one of the most generous and giving persons it has been my privilege to know,” said Temple Emanu-El Rabbi Doug Sagal. “His concern was for all people, particularly the most vulnerable amongst us. He cared deeply for those who struggled—those in poverty, those battling illness, those in the depths of grief, those who were homeless. The most forgotten of society had a champion in Gerry Glasser.

“His was the kind of giving and loving soul that only appears in a select few—and those of us who were privileged to know him will always recall his memory as a blessing.”

Mary Robinson, executive director of Imagine, a Center for Coping with Loss, told TAP, “I first met Gerry when presenting a proposal to the Overlook Foundation in 2008. We met for lunch the next day when he shared with me his personal interest in grief support because of the death of his son Tom on 9/11. In the summer of 2011 he asked me to come to Westfield and open a grief support center here, to serve the community he loved so much. We met Labor Day weekend 2011 with Keith Hertell, to share with him our vision for Imagine and invited Keith to consider being Chair of the Board. Gerry provided the startup funding for Imagine enabling us to incorporate in October 2011, hire staff and start providing services to children, families and adults on May 7, 2012.

“Gerry was the catalyst for Imagine. It was his vision to have a grief support center located in Westfield for anyone coping with loss. He provided not just funding, but also his guidance, his personal support and friendship, and his connections to leaders who could help make this dream a reality. He was instrumental in coalescing a meeting of community leaders at the James Ward Mansion on November 14, 2011 that was really the start of growing the awareness and support needed for Imagine’s success. I am personally indebted to him for his friendship and mentorship, his belief in me, and for helping ensure that our dream that no child should ever have to grieve alone, would come true.

“We met monthly for lunch, usually at the diner, and I would leave every meeting with a list of leads and ideas. Gerry was humble and smart, fiercely loyal, and a devoted community servant. I don’t think I will ever meet anyone else like him. It was a privilege to know him. I will miss him terribly.”

In March, the Westfield Town Republican Committee honored Glasser as Citizen of the Year.

"Gerry was a kind and warmhearted friend who dedicated his life to helping children and the less fortunate,” said Assemblyman Jon Bramnick. “Westfield has lost a true champion for our community. Patricia and my thoughts go out to Marlene and the entire Glasser family on this tremendous loss.”

Sherry Cronin, executive director of Downtown Westfield Corporation told TAP, “Gerald Glasser was a partner in the Savannah Development Property, head of the Overlook Foundation and a huge philantropist and a monumental help with the Historical Society and most recently the Imagine grief counseling charity. He did do so much good for the town of Westfield and the Community. We are all grateful for his many contributions. He will surely be missed.”

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