|Walter and his wife, Edie, co-founded the Museum in 1992|
|January 29, 2019 [St. Petersburg, FL] — The Florida Holocaust Museum (The FHM) is incredibly saddened to announce the passing of its founder, Walter P. Loebenberg. The FHM was established by Walter and his wife, Edie, with the help of businessmen and community leaders. The Museum is the result of Loebenberg’s remarkable journey and vision. |
“Walter Loebenberg was loved and highly respected by everyone he met and by the community. He was private and strong, but possessed a deep, abiding kindness and selflessness. His children and grandchildren adored him, his peers held him in high esteem, and the community was proud to call him its own,” said Elizabeth Gelman, Executive Director of The Florida Holocaust Museum.
Walter was born on May 22, 1924 in Waechterbach, Germany and died in his sleep at home on January 29, 2019 in St. Petersburg, Florida.
As a Jewish child in Pre-World War II Germany, Walter’s education was cut short by the Nazi antisemitic policies forcing him to apprentice for a trade as a baker which was where he was on Kristallnacht in November of 1938. He arrived at Ellis Island on May 22, 1939, his 15th birthday.
Walter served in the European theater in WWII where his service during the Battle of the Bulge was recognized with the award of the Bronze Star presented personally by General Dwight D. Eisenhower. After the war, Walter settled in Chicago, courted his future wife and true love Edie, and began a business career spanning seven decades. Edith and Walter settled in St. Petersburg in 1969, where they devoted themselves to family and community. Of all their many accomplishments together, the one most dear to Walter’s heart was the founding of The Florida Holocaust Museum.
In 1989, Walter had a dream to provide quality Holocaust and human rights education to adults and students. In 1992, the Museum rented a space it would soon outgrow, on the grounds of the Jewish Community Center of Pinellas County in Madeira Beach, Florida. In 1998, The FHM relocated to its current location in the heart of downtown St. Petersburg, FL in a 27,000 square foot building specifically designed for visitor enrichment, artifact preservation, and educational purposes. In 2017, the Museum proudly celebrated its 25th Anniversary. “It’s very poignant that Walter passed just one day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day,” said Michael Igel, Board Chair of The Florida Holocaust Museum. “It is because of people like Walter that we can be certain that those who suffered and died in the Holocaust will always be remembered.”
Through his philanthropic efforts, Walter provided generously to several worthy organizations and private individuals. He has supported more than fifteen organizations in the Tampa Bay area, though he has typically given privately, sharing the details of his philanthropy only with his family.
Over the years, Walter has been nominated for multiple community philanthropic awards, and has received several in recognition of his philanthropic efforts within the community, including the Key to the City of St. Petersburg, the Tree of Life Award from the Jewish National Fund, the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the JCC, and the Tampa Bay Business Committee for the Arts Award.
The fortitude to survive his early years helped Walter achieve success, but he never forgot those who did not survive. Through his efforts, a living memorial to those who suffered and perished became today’s The Florida Holocaust Museum. For over twenty-seven years, The FHM, thanks to Walter’s dedication and vision, has used the lessons of the past to help create a better future for all.
Walter was predeceased by his wife of almost sixty-two years, Edith Lowengard Loebenberg and is survived by his three children, Sandy L. Mermelstein and her husband Kent “Scooter” Bontly, Michael J. Loebenberg and his wife Terry, and David A. Loebenberg; eight grandchildren, Kenneth Loebenberg and wife Priscilla, Joshua Loebenberg and wife Jennifer, Jacob Loebenberg, Angelica Loebenberg and husband James Sweat, Ari Mermelstein and his wife Carrie, Eric Loebenberg and wife Andee, Jared Mermelstein, and Zachary Loebenberg; seven great grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at the Museum at a date to be soon announced. In honor of Walter and his beloved wife Edie, the family requests that, in lieu of flowers, remembrances should be made to The Florida Holocaust Museum, St. Petersburg, Florida.
The Florida Holocaust Museum is located at 55 5th Street S., St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
About The Florida Holocaust MuseumOne of the largest Holocaust museums in the country, and one of three nationally accredited Holocaust museums, The Florida Holocaust Museum honors the memory of millions of men, women and children who suffered of died in the Holocaust. The FHM is dedicated to teaching members of all races and cultures the inherent worth and dignity of human life in order to prevent future genocides. For additional information, please visit www.TheFHM.org.