Seymour "Sy" Levin, a retired Baltimore advertising executive and sculptor, died of heart failure Monday at Gilchrist Center for Hospice Care. The former Owings Mills resident was 83.
Mr. Levin was born in Springfield, Mass., and moved to Baltimore with his family in 1931. He was a 1940 graduate of City College and studied at the University of Maryland until he was drafted into the Army in 1942.
He attained the rank of sergeant and served during the war years at Los Alamos, N.M., managing a warehouse.
"When he was at Los Alamos, he recalled seeing the orange flash from an atomic bomb test. He was sitting on a bus waiting to go to the train when he saw it," said a daughter, Donna L. Siegel of Sudbrook Park. "He had no idea what it was, but a friend sitting in a jeep looked up and gave him a thumbs up."
After being discharged in 1946, he enrolled at New York University and earned a bachelor's degree in advertising in 1948.
Mr. Levin began his career as a $29-a-week copywriter for the old Arnold Constable & Co. department store in New York. In 1949, he returned to Baltimore and went to work for Joseph Katz Co. at 10 W. Chase St., and remained there as a copywriter until 1951, when he joined VanSant Dugdale. He worked in the creative department until he was promoted to senior vice president and associate creative director.
"We worked together for 40 years and he was the ideal creative man to have in an agency," said Kenneth E. Mayhorne, a former VanSant Dugdale chief executive who retired as chairman of Gray Kirk VanSant Advertising Inc. in 1994.
"He brought to it a business sense as well as the creative. He took time to dig into a client's business, which helped build their confidence and allowed him to do really good work," Mr. Mayhorne said. "He always had a close rapport with his clients."
Mr. Levin handled such clients as Black & Decker Corp., Glenn L. Martin Co., United States Fidelity & Guaranty Co., Marriott Corp. and Gravely Tractors.
Mr. Mayhorne described him as being "a quick study" and gifted with a "facile mind."
"You really couldn't find a nicer guy. He was a good writer, boss, and knew how to manage," said Tom Mallonee, a former VanSant copywriter who owns Advertising Concepts in Severna Park.
"Sy specialized in business and industrial accounts. They were his forte. His clients loved him. If he wrote something in Sanskrit, they would have bought it," Mr. Mallonee said. "He was also an excellent salesman and always used a low-key pitch, and when he was finished with you, you bought his concept."
Mr. Levin was senior vice president of creative services when he retired in 1985.
In his younger days, Mr. Levin had been an accomplished fencer. Between 1939 and 1950, he won seven fencing medals in foil and saber from Maryland Division A of the American Fencing League.
In retirement, Mr. Levin studied sculpting at the Jewish Community Center.
"He sculpted mothers and children, couples, men thinking and animals," his daughter said. "He worked in bronze, clay and stone."
Mr. Levin was also an avid reader of murder mysteries and biographies.
Also surviving are his wife of 61 years, the former Shirley Mermelstein; a son, Robert Levin of Pikesville; two other daughters, Lise Levin of York, Pa., and Jan Levin of Geneva, Switzerland; and 10 grandchildren.
Services were Wednesday.