Joseph Zilber - A Gift To Milwaukee
You could call him a gift to Milwaukee. Ninety-year-old Joseph Zilber has given millions to make the city better.
He's a real estate mogul and a philanthropist.
Now a days he spends most of his time in Hawaii, but Joseph Zilber, who just turned ninety, still has a passion for his hometown.
"Milwaukee has all of the attributes of being a great city. Not only a good city, but a great city," Zilber said
Tthat is just one reason why Zilber has given away $50 million in the last year.
His family approves.
"They said, 'Dad, we know mom would have loved what you're doing.' They said, 'God bless you. Just do it,'" Zilber said.
Zilber's gifts include $30 million to Marquette Law School, $10 million to the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee and $1.5 million to the United Way of Greater Milwaukee.
Zilber is now working on developing the former Pabst Brewery complex north of downtown. He hopes to celebrate birthday number 100 there.
"We're going to see something that's going to be attractive and beautiful to the city," Zilber promises.
The CEO of Towne Reality credits much of his success to his late wife Vera.
Zilber says his marriage of 63 years was successful because he had a great wife and a smart spouse.
"I thought she was the smartest person in the world," Zilber explained. "She was going to be a doctor and she gave it up to marry me."
Vera loved to travel. They took trips all over the world.
"I think when you've been able to travel you get an idea of what the world is like," Zilber said.
Though Zilber enjoys the memories of past, he loves to work, and has no plans to retire.
"If I'd retired...I'd lay down and I'd be dead!" Zilber said.
Zilber believes part of the keys to his success is hiring great people and enjoying his job.
"You have to love what you're doing. You have to see something that you think you can make better," Zilber said.
"The first house I ever built I lost a hundred dollars on. I thought that was the end of the world," Zilber said.
Zilber graduated number one in his class at the Marquette University Law School but he's never practiced law.
"I've never lost a case," he joked, "But I never had one!" Zilber said.
He didn't need one. Zilber's company has left its imprint all over the country, especially Milwaukee.
Zilber is also a doting grandfather doing his part to improve not only their world, but ours.
His commitment, compassion, and generosity will shape Milwaukee for years to come.
"I think if people are happy...if families could be happy...everything would turn out to be good," Zilber said.
There's another Zilber footnote. Remember when Jeffrey Dahmer items were being auctioned off for profit? It was Zilber's wife Vera who suggested they buy them and destroy them, and that's exactly what they did.