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Veteran of Valor | Leonard C. Horvitz (1923-2020)

Posted on May 10, 2023

It is said that great privilege comes with great responsibility, and Leonard Horvitz rose to that challenge in everything he did.

When going through his father’s belongings upon his death, Richard Horvitz found a letter his father had sent to his parents dated December 8, 1941. Leonard Horvitz mailed this letter from the University of Pennsylvania to notify his parents that while he was grateful for the opportunities he had been given throughout life, he was dropping out of college to join the war effort. By way of mollification, he laid out his reasons, even preemptively responding to his parents’ rebuttals, for trading the guaranteed opportunity afforded by college and his upbringing for the uncertainty and challenges of joining the United States Army. “I have made this choice from sound reasoning and not out of blowing horns and good-looking uniforms,” he wrote as he concluded his letter.

With this sound reasoning, Horvitz enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942, ultimately joining General George S. Patton’s Third Army at the height of World War II. His letter to his parents proclaimed that Leonard would never feel right” if he did not enlist, wary of feeling “that I had been a slacker.” It was under General Patton that Horvitz’s fears of idleness were extinguished. Fighting in The Battle of the Bulge, storming the beaches of Normandy, and forging ahead with Allied Forces into Nazi occupied Western Europe, Horvitz found his sought-after purpose in the European Theater. Perhaps most poignant to the purpose Horvitz sought and his religious identity was his role in the liberation of Dachau concentration camp. After the war was won, Horvitz earned the World War II Victory Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal and was awarded five bronze stars.

Upon returning home from the life-altering experience of war, Horvitz was a man of affirmed conviction, authenticity, and merit. Back in Cleveland, Horvitz intertwined his distinguished upbringing with his hard-won wisdom, working closely with family to grow the Horvitz’s construction business into the largest heavy highway construction company in Ohio and diversifying their portfolio into media, real estate, and investment ventures. When eulogizing Horvitz, Rabbi Jonathan Cohen of The Temple Tifereth Israel reiterated what everyone around Horvitz knew, i.e., that he was “a person of extraordinary business acumen, smarts […] sheer intelligence, caring, and great drive, ambition, and strength.”

A people person through and through, Horvitz enjoyed caring for and supporting those around him. 12th century scholar and philosopher, Maimonides, posited that Tzedakah (“righteousness”, the Jewish concept of charity) came in eight levels, and Horvitz epitomized the highest of these levels, namely giving to others to allow them to help themselves so that they would become self-sufficient.

In addition to the many individuals he helped, Leonard and his wife, Joan, gave transformative gifts to various local institutions, with the express wishes that their gifts be administered without pomp or circumstance and with the utmost respect for those in need. He was truly committed to helping the less fortunate, not to making himself the center of attention.

More than business success and philanthropic excellence, Horvitz loved his family most of all. The untouchable patriarch of a beautiful, large family, Horvitz was his wife’s beloved partner, his son’s mentor, his grandson’s best friend, and his great-grandchildren’s hero – he was everything each family member needed him to be for them. A wealth of “Leonardisms,” a term coined by his grandchildren to describe his little acts of love, Horvitz was the pinnacle of adoration where it concerned those he held closest. Remembering him fondly, Richard Horvitz says, “My father was a special man. Not only do I think of him when I hear the song My Way, I also do so when I hear Bridge Over Troubled Waters by Simon and Garfunkel. The number of people he quietly helped in their times of need would fill volumes. As tough as he could be when necessary, he had a heart of gold which shined through to those who knew him best.”

“I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way”

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