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Carole Meekins: Positively Milwaukee

Remembering Joe Zilber

Milwaukee's Guardian Angel

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Those I instantly know are good. People with compassion, people who care. I have had the pleasure to interview Joseph Zilber twice.

Zilber was 90 when I first interviewed him.

He died last week at the age of 92.

Zilber was more than a real estate mogul, and philanthropist. His spirit was far greater than his wealth. He was a man with a gentle soul, keen observation, and sense of humor. He felt deeply for the less fortunate.

Zilber had a disarming smile that made you feel at ease. When we talked, he spoke freely of a humble childhood. He remembered struggling to pay his tuition when he was a law student at Marquette University.

Though he lived in Hawaii most of the year, Zilber never lost his affection for the city. He grew up near 10th and Meinecke.

Joe Zilber has given more than $110 million to help Milwaukee. And even though he was CEO of Zilber Ltd, he believed his late wife was the smartest person he ever met. He spoke lovingly about a long happy marriage. They made a personal pact to use their good fortune to lift Milwaukee.

It's been said that more is expected of those who are given much. Well, Joe Zilber went far beyond expectations.

After amassing a great deal of wealth in his younger years, Zilber spent his later years giving much of it away. He pledged a $50 million gift to help central city neighborhoods.

He gave $30 million to the Marquette University Law School, and $10 million to UWM for a School of Public Health. Millions more went to other charitable causes.

Zilber also redeveloped the former Pabst Brewery. His list of goodwill contributions is endless.

Zilber's generosity spanned all groups and socio-economic levels. His benevolence will boost families, children, the needy and the homeless. It will help leaders educate, guide, create and discover. His generosity will touch thousands.

Joseph Zilber may have been a business mogul, but he was much more. He's a humanitarian with a huge heart.

Though in his 90's Joseph Zilber was as sharp as men much younger. His gentle soul was endearing and captivating.

God Bless Joseph Zilber for his selfless dedication to improving souls.

Joseph Zilber may be gone, but Milwaukee will feel his spirit for years to come. And tonight, heaven has a new angel.


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