Stuart D. Appel, a prominent landscape architect and licensed planner whose work as president and managing principal of Wells Appel was acknowledged for its groundbreaking artistry and integration of history and purpose — symbolized by the just dedicated memorial to 9/11 he designed for the city — died Sept. 20 of a heart attack while biking in Maryland.
The Elkins Park resident,
58, also devoted a considerable amount of time to Jewish causes, including the Perelman Jewish Day School, the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation.
With Wells Appel, which he joined 30 years ago, Appel put into sharp focus the training and talent he had honed at both La Salle University, where he had received his MBA, and, before that, the State University of New York’s College of Environmental Science and Forestry in Syracuse, where he earned dual bachelor’s degrees in landscape architecture and environmental science.
He was long committed to the synthesis of content and history in his work to provide perspective while designing sustainable eco-landscapes. His projects included Longwood Gardens, Rutgers University, the Albert Einstein Healthcare Network and Fairmount Park.
His memorial to Sept. 11, unveiled at the Schuylkill River Trail on the 11th anniversary of the tragedy, incorporated a beam of steel recovered from the World Trade Center site, positioned at an incongruous angle to symbolize, as he told a reporter, the earth-shattering impact of the attacks that made Americans feel off-kilter with the life they had known prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
Appel felt a commitment to giving back through education. To that end, Apppel, a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, served as an adjunct professor at the School of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture at Temple University, where he was also head of the school’s senior design studio.
For his landscape work, he was awarded numerous honors.
As for his Jewish involvement, he was former president of the Perelman Jewish Day School, helping oversee the closing and then consolidation of the Richboro campus with the Forman Center in Melrose Park in 2006.
He also served on the board of the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation, which he joined last year on its mission to Holocaust-related sites in Poland and Germany led by historian Michael Berenbaum.
Berenbaum recalls the graciousness of his friend, whom he got to know through their work with the foundation. “I was impressed with his sweetness and gentleness, but I also experienced his enormous talent and creativity, his vision and his capacity to imagine and to dream,” he says of this “original thinker and planner with a genuine understanding and respect for a community’s values history and context.”
His activities on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia were many, serv-ing as a member of its board of trustees and, some years back, on its Young Leadership Council, which gave him its Young Leadership Award in 1992.
Appel was a founding member and former president of Congregation Kol Ami, and was an active member of Beth Sholom Congregation, both in Elkins Park.
Jay Leberman, the head of school at Perelman, eulogized his friend at his funeral on Sunday as “dedicated, hard-working, fair, caring, deliberate, honest and understanding,” as a man who “had the uncanny ability to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, to recognize the special in the mundane” and whose “altruistic commitment to Perelman as well as to the other community endeavors that he was so involved in, is reflected in the words that he wrote to me the morning after we honored him for his many years of service to the school on the evening of June 19th of this year.
“Stuart wrote, ‘My service was only out of love for the school and our Jewish community.’ ”
He is survived by his wife, Ruth Bluethenthal-Appel; his father, Irving; daughters Jessie and Sarah; son Benjamin; and sister Susan.