Norman Leibovitz, who died Sept. 19 at the age of 80, loved to read.
That’s why it seems fitting his family requested that any donations in his memory be made to the Free Library of Philadelphia.
“At the dinner table sometimes he had the paper, and we’d tell him a story and think he wasn’t listening,” said his daughter, Cara. “But then he’d make a comment. And he loved to read to us. My brother, John, and I have a love for reading because of him. My bubbe used to say he was born a little later than he was due because he was in there reading a book.”
Much of the knowledge Leibovitz gained through his extensive reading he put to use during his 54 years at the law firm of Fox Rothschild LLP, where he was a partner. The former head of the taxes and estates department specialized in family business succession planning.
Colleagues said his ability to relate to clients made him effective.
“One thing he taught me was you have to really stand in your client’s shoes,” said Fox Rothschild Chair Mark Silow, who worked with Leibovitz for 37 years. “Understand their motivation. He’d say you can’t just be a clinical practitioner. You need to understand the human side of clients. He was able to combine incredible intellect with a lot of street smarts, which made him a really effective lawyer.”
The son of Russian/Ukrainian immigrants, Leibovitz grew up in South Philadelphia near his parents’ baby clothing store and became a Bar Mitzvah. He and his family later attended Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Center City. He also served on the Legal and Tax Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and as tax counsel to its philanthropic fund. Among his fondest memories was a trip he took to Israel with his friend, Philadelphia Orchestra cellist and native Israeli Ohad Bar-David.
What he enjoyed most, though, was helping others.
“He was sort of everybody’s adviser,” said his wife of 50 years, Gloria. “People would say, ‘Go to Norman and he’ll have an answer. Or he’ll listen and find an answer.’ I heard so many things at the shiva about people he helped that I never knew about. He just did it and kept it to himself.”
In addition to living in town, the family had a summer home in Longport, N.J., where Leibovitz became a bird watcher.
“My father was never much of a beach guy, but he really enjoyed being on the bay at the house with his binoculars and the bird encyclopedia,” his daughter said. “He’d identify all the birds and write them down. The same with butterflies.
“I will miss having him here for me as my compass and best adviser and reassurer to me and my brother. Hearing his voice, even if was over the phone, it was like he was right there.”
Funeral services were at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose. Leibovitz leaves behind his wife Gloria, daughter Cara, son John and six grandchildren.
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