Richard M. Lansburgh, a retired clothier, philanthropist and patron of the arts, died of multiple organ failure Tuesday at the Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center, one day before his 92nd birthday. He lived in North Baltimore.
He was born during a record-setting blizzard in 1922 at his parents' Park Heights Avenue home, Terremont. His father, Sidney Lansburgh, was an official of American General Corp., and his mother, Marian Epstein, was the daughter of Jacob Epstein, who created a flourishing wholesale merchandise business, the Baltimore Bargain House.
Mr. Lansburgh was a 1939 Park School graduate and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Dartmouth College, where he played lacrosse. His service in the Navy during World War II caused him to miss his graduation ceremonies.
He was an executive officer aboard a landing craft in the English Channel during the invasion of Normandy in June 1944. He was later assigned to Okinawa, also as the executive officer on a landing craft. He left military service as a lieutenant.
After the war, he joined a family business, Charles Stores, with headquarters in New York. In 1951, he and other relatives purchased the Raleigh Stores, a chain of 17 men's and women's clothing stores on F Street and on Connecticut Avenue in downtown Washington and in Bethesda.
Other family members owned Lansburgh's, a Washington department store that now houses the Shakespeare Theatre.
For many years, his employees attired members of Congress, lobbyists and other customers. Mr. Lansburgh himself dressed formally and rarely appeared without a tie. He remained a Baltimore resident and commuted.
Mr. Lansburgh was active in the local philanthropies and charities favored by his grandfather, Jacob Epstein, who immigrated from Lithuania and was a generous donor to local causes. At The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, Mr. Lansburgh was co-chairman of the 1989 annual campaign and chairman of the 1990 campaign. He was also chairman of its board of directors.
His father was an Associated Jewish Charities and Jewish Welfare Fund president.
"He did not seek personal recognition for himself," said Elizabeth Ferro, his executive assistant for 43 years. "He only wanted to keep his family's philanthropic legacy alive. He had a gracious and warm personality. He was a gentleman and was also impeccably dressed."
Mr. Lansburgh learned to dance as a child. Family members said he loved popular music and jazz, as well as the classics. He also followed baseball, football and lacrosse.
He was a member of Temple Oheb Shalom and served on the board of Sinai Hospital and the Jewish Big Brother-Big Sister League. He also was a board member of the League for the Handicapped, the Epilepsy Association of America, the Park School and the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Mr. Lansburgh retained a strong interest in the art collection begun by his grandfather. The Epstein collection was the inaugural exhibit in 1923 at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
"He was quiet but was persuasive," said Stiles T. Colwill, a former Baltimore Museum of Art board chairman. "His grandfather bought Anthony Van Dyck's 'Rinaldo and Armida,' which is now one of the most important paintings in America. Richard loved to hear others tell the story about how his grandfather bought it [in 1927] and beat out the Mellons and the Fricks."
Mr. Colwill said that Mr. Lansburgh also worked behind the scenes to ensure that other Epstein purchases now owned by his relatives, and himself, will make their way to the Baltimore Museum of Art's Epstein Gallery.
"He was one of the most generous, lively, kind and patrician gentlemen I have ever known," said Mr. Colwill, who lives in Baltimore County. "He was totally dedicated to the Baltimore Museum of Art and his family's multi-generational support of the institution."
In 1959, he married Therese Weil, an advocate for children, social worker and pioneer for day care. She died in 2001.
Services were held Friday at Sol Levinson and Bros.
Survivors include a daughter, Deborah Wolff Adler of Baltimore; a sister, Elizabeth Klee of Washington, D.C.; two grandsons; and three great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by a son, Randolph Wolff.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun