At the dinner table, Herman Silverman loved to make theater legend Oscar Hammerstein laugh.
“He had a fabulous sense of humor,” Leda Molly, Silverman’s daughter, remembered. “He would tell old jokes, and he loved the theater. He was always singing.”
The business magnate and philanthropist died May 31 of heart disease. He was 97.
He started his career in 1947 with Sylvan Landscaping Services and, soon after, Sylvan Pools, which he sold in 1969 at the forefront of swimming pool architecture.
His later Silverman Family Partnerships real estate company remains a family venture and, until shortly preceding his death, Silverman visited its Doylestown office daily.
Daughter Binny Silverman worked with her father at the realty firm.
“He came in every morning singing,” she said. “He taught me how to care about employees. No one ever worked for my dad who didn’t think he was incredible.”
Silverman shaped Pennsylvania realty through his 22-year membership in the state’s Housing Finance Agency. Appointed by three consecutive governors, he molded the bureau into a leading provider of investments for affordable housing.
Despite his business success, Silverman most enjoyed his philanthropic work. Both sisters recalled their parents frequently saying, “The only reason to have money is to give it away.”
The Bucks County community remembers Silverman for his charitable donations. In a former Doylestown prison, he established the James A. Michener Art Museum with his longtime friend and author.
“Jim lived at the house when I was younger,” Molly said, remembering trips to the movies and funny exchanges. She recalled frequent visits from other authors and theater celebrities — such as Hammerstein — in their Danboro home.
With his late wife, Ann, Silverman launched the Free Clinic of Doylestown, now known as the Ann Silverman Community Health Clinic. They also created Doylestown Health’s Richard A. Reif Heart Institute’s predecessor.
Ann (née Arbeter), whom he married in 1942, was Silverman’s foundation.
The couple “very much was involved in Jewish culture, although they were atheists,” Molly noted, remembering frequent celebrations of Jewish holidays growing up.
Following Ann’s death in 2007, Silverman began seeing Elizabeth Serkin, whom he married in 2008.
He is survived by Serkin, daughters Jeffra Nandan, Leda Molly, Binny Silverman and Jenny Silverman, seven grandchildren, five great-grandchildren, four stepchildren and five step-grandchildren.