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Jordon Perlmutter 1931-2015

The community’s diadem has left us

They will be telling stories of Jordon Perlmutter for generations to come, and not just because he leaves behind a beautiful and close family of four generations. They will be telling the stories because of the very wide circle of people, from the high and the mighty to the “common man,” whom he touched and treated all the same way. With grace. With quiet dignity. With straightforwardness. With good humor, and consummate professionalism.

When President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia in 1945, he was brought back to Washington via railroad. The tracks all along the way were lined with people crying, weeping — with people from every station of life. In our community, people from every station of life are weeping. Jordon Perlmutter was beloved.

Rare is the individual who can undertake the leadership of a long-term, difficult, complex and controversial project, going through endless meetings and phone calls for years, and end up with the same good name, the same reputation, the same personal standing, with which he began. One thinks, for example, of Jordon Perlmutter and Shalom Park, of the years, the committees, the numerous community actors (some at cross purposes), not to mention the intensive negotiations with an industry that Jordon Perlmutter was not familiar with — the health care industry — and witness how, if anything, his stature was enhanced by the time it all came to fruition. He was driven by compassion, by a vision of the future in which members of the community would, in their elder years, not be left in the lurch. Jordon Perlmutter was the person on whom so many people relied, and for so much more than this project. He received Allied’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2009.

How fitting it is in retrospect that Perlmutter was honored just a month ago by the Loup JCC; and how fitting, how dignified — how perfect the balance between honor and restraint — that evening was. Among the highlights were Perlmutter’s remarks about his roots on the old West Side Jewish community and the JCC there, in the 1940s and 1950s. What came through was more than an institutional or even a neighborhood loyalty, deep and abiding though it was. What came through was Perlmutter’s loyalty to his past, his progenitors, his family, his friends — to all those who preceded him or accompanied him on his way through a life studded with business success, with philanthropic success, with loving siblings and his loving wife and children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren; with, above all, a good name.  Tov shem me-shemen tov: better the reputation that excels than the goods that accumulate.

All this was perceived, and came through, not only in the Jewish community. The same level of appreciation, and the same, understated reciprocal gratitude by Perlmutter, came through when he was honored in 2009 by the Colorado Business Hall of Fame. His enterprises built 22,000 homes, as well as shopping centers, parks, schools, office buildings, the Buell Mansion and “the best planned community in America” (according to Life magazine). Jordon Perlmutter built Denver and its surrounding areas, leaving a lasting impact on our city. Who would have thought, some 65 to 70 years ago, that a young man in a blue collar area of Denver, who loved football and basketball and embraced life with a zest, would end up leaving footprints both in people’s hearts and, quite literally, in the ground around the entire city?

No doubt, the loss falls heaviest on Perlmutter’s family. Above his role in the Jewish and general communities, he was the family patriarch. His parents Abe and Dora Perlmutter put down their roots in Denver and their son Jordon followed through, living his entire life here and transmitting the same commitment to most of his descendants. There was a lot of Denver in Perlmutter’s style — the willingness to innovate, the recoil from hierarchical authority, the salt-of-the-earth honesty of the West, the commitment to and joy in hard work. To all of which Jordon Perlmutter added his own brand of kindness.

The obituary columns of successful people are often truncated at the end, when it comes to listing survivors. Not so in Jordon Perlmutter’s case. His children follow in his footsteps, in their commitment to this community, in their commitment to his business, in their reflection of their father’s style and touch. His wife Essie nurtured her children, now leaders in their own right, while not only supporting her husband in all his endeavors but also nurturing a beautiful career as an artist. May they find at least some consolation in the great sense of loss that so many others feel alongside them.

One imagines how so many people whom Jordon Perlmutter deeply honored — everyone from the late Rabbis Laderman and Goldberger and Willie Wolf, to his parents and siblings, to those of his employees who have passed on —might honor his memory today, if they could. We know this: They would be joined in a long, multigenerational line of those who thank the Alm-ghty for the good fortune of having known Jordon Perlmutter, of having been his friend or employee or family or admirer from afar. Yes, tov shemen mi-shemen tov; a good name excels them all. On this, Jordon Perlmutter set the gold standard.

Copyright © 2015 by the Intermountain Jewish News


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