Today: Joe Lumer, who made a fortune with parking lots and donated much of it to help others.
A European Jewish child, Joe was born in 1948 in a German Displaced Person’s Camp. These Camps were set up after World War ll to provide housing, food and medical care for survivors of the Nazi concentration camps, many of whom were deeply traumatized and fearful.
Most facilities were in military barracks and under military authority which further traumatized and depressed what amounted to inmates, who often had no place to return to and no country to call home. Some were elderly, blind or disabled.
The Lumer family sought refuge in America because they had family there, where they hoped to build new lives. In Joe’s case he lived in Berlin until he was 8 years old and then came to Detroit and later to Los Angeles.
After graduating from the Univ. of California, Santa Barbara with a degree in English Literature, in 1972, Joe moved to Israel and joined an agricultural collective, a kibbutz, where he worked in the fields and shared the benefits of his labor.
There he and his Hebrew teacher Esther fell in love and got married. In 1973, they were blessed with the arrival of Gilad, the first of their three sons. And briefly, they returned to California so Joe could get his Master’s Degree from the Univ. of San Francisco, also in English Literature, in 1974.
Joe was a Renaissance man, whose interest was not in business. But in Los Angeles, his Uncle Joe owned a group of parking lots and Joe’s dad was the CEO, when suddenly in 1984, his dad had a heart attack.
Joe was asked to help run the family business.
It was a tough decision to leave Israel. What finally swayed Joe was his desire for his three sons to get to know their grandfather and also to relieve him of the stress of running the business. He returned to Los Angeles.
Joe learned the business from the bottom up, becoming CEO in 1992. Under his leadership the firm became a giant, owning or managing numerous parking lots, including 85 Joe’s Auto Parks and WallyParks across six states coast to coast. Today, it is one of the nation’s largest parking providers.
How did it grow so fast? A consummate deal maker, Joe closed hundreds of transactions and he became a wealthy man.
One factor above all led to his success: “He was (a good listener),” said Gilad. “He was always fully engaged and had time to spend with everybody, not just other CEO’s. He was never too busy for anybody and he was never too important for anybody.”
With this outlook, a big smile and patience, Joe could convince others to sell their parking lots to his firm or to allow his firm to manage them and he could also motivate employees.
But there was much more to Joe. To comprehend the Holocaust, for years he made research trips to Europe, visiting many of the sites and listening to the people. And by the people, that meant the well-educated professionals, but also it meant the secretaries, bus drivers and others who witnessed the events before, during and after the war.
Learning so much about the Holocaust took him in another direction. Joe’s heart cried out for expression and he became an author, publishing two books. The best known of them is “Noah the Water Carrier,” a series of short stories about Christians and Jews living together in a 1930’s Polish city.
Joe also became a major philanthropist. “He was a very humble person and never materialistic,” said Gilad. “He drove a Camry. His attitude about money was it needed to be shared.”
Shared on what? “Holocaust education,” replied Gilad. “(it was) a big place where he contributed time and money. (He was) passionate about anything related to Israel and (also) to education and medical causes.”
But in December, everything suddenly changed. While on vacation in Buenos Aires with his wife Esther, Joe did not return to their hotel. In desperation she called the police.
They found Joe’s body in the Rio de la Plata, where he had drowned. Gilad said his dad was a strong swimmer and loved a challenge. “He could have swum out too far or got caught in a strong current.”
Joe was 62. His survivors include Esther and their three sons, Gilad 38, Rayee 35 and Nitzan 29.
Joe is also survived by numerous employees and their families and by the readers of his books. He is survived as well by the many recipients of his charitable donations.
What kind of family man was Joe? He and Esther were married nearly 39 years. “(He was) a loving father and husband,” said Gilad.
“We (Gilad and his brothers) were serious soccer players and he was always at our games. We still play and he would be at our games. He would also go snowboarding with us and water skiing.”
In other words, Joe made his family a high priority and devoted himself to their activities. A man who lovingly does this, even if he never makes a lot of money, is very successful.
Success Tip of the Week:
Two of Joe’s remarkable skills were concentrating on what others had to say and in his empathy for them, whether in business, in research or with his family. If you will apply those skills, they will make a huge and wonderful difference in your life.
Thank you to Gilad Lumer for his invaluable help in telling his dad’s story.
In the next KazanToday:
An early rock star who overcame a dark secret to build two more very successful careers.