Jerry Blonder 1931- 2006: in memoriam.
Blonder, as Warshaw tells the story, seemed to know the maitre d', waiter and bartender at every fine restaurant he frequented when traveling throughout the country. But during this visit, Blonder felt a bit like a stranger.
Wanting to remedy the situation, Warshaw said, Blonder asked to speak with all three. Warshaw then watched Blonder work his magic.
"He handled the situation perfectly," Warshaw said. "Instead of feeling anonymous, he spoke with the restaurant staff, getting to know them on a personal level. He was so endearing that by the end of the meal, he had made friends for life. One even extended an invitation for Blonder to meet his family."
Blonder's business sense and leadership style shone throughout his career, which included holding the title of NAA President in 1987. In essence, he was in the business of making friends.
John Williams, CEO, Williams Realty Advisors, Atlanta, said Blonder had a "hug you" style. "He genuinely loved people," said Williams, who met Blonder 40 years ago. "He was very loyal, and I will be eternally grateful for that. There wasn't a time when I saw him when we didn't first share a big bear hug."
Gerald Alvin "Jerry" Blonder died Feb. 15 as the result of a two-year battle with leukemia. He was 74 years old.
Born in Portchester, N.Y., Blonder moved to Atlanta in 1955 and graduated from the University of Georgia. He developed, constructed and managed apartment buildings under the Tempo name in Atlanta and later under the Focus name in the Southeast. Jerry Blonder's son, Michael Blonder, currently serves as CEO of Focus Development. Michael served as 2000 President of the Atlanta Apartment Association (AAA).
Jerry Blonder was a two-time President of AAA and was inducted into the Georgia Apartment Association's (GAA) Hall of Fame in 2005. He was the founding father of the GAA Industry Education Foundation, which provides college programs for students interested in careers in the apartment industry.
"He led by example and he was very proactive," said Warshaw, President, Warshaw Properties, Marietta, Ga., and 1990 NAA President. "He was not an optimist or a pessimist. He was a realist. He was aggressive without hostility, had a large ego but with no vanity, and carried a sense of superiority without arrogance."
Rob Johnston, CAPS, CPM, President, First Communities, Atlanta, also marveled at Blonder's people skills and business skills.
"He was at the top of the pyramid in our industry in terms of being successful and powerful both personally and professionally," said Johnston, who served as 1997 NAA President. "He had a great sense of humility and had an appreciation for all types of people. He was beloved, respected and admired by kings and servants. He related to the common man."
In 1975, Blonder founded and then promoted AAA. "He created a healthy, competitive culture among members in our market like I've seen nowhere else," Johnston said.
Blonder became NAA President during a time when NAA was seeking solid footing for its finances and reputation. In 1986, Johnston said AAA was considering joining the National Association of Home Builders.
"But Jerry was the fulcrum that led us to joining NAA instead," Johnston said. "It was his persuasiveness, logic and respect that brought us to NAA. With him and because of him, other great people in our industry came to NAA. He spoke of the greatness of NAA and became its President the next year. He took over NAA when it was in a tough situation and played a pivotal role in straightening out its finances and bylaws." 2001 NAA President Phil Carlock, CAPS, CPM, called Blonder a visionary and a steadying force.
"His experience was valuable in helping our industry understand and solve its problems," said Carlock, CEO, ECI Group, Marietta, Ga. "He saw to it that residents had the best quality of life that we could provide in rental communities. Whenever our industry faced a tough issue, he was there to offer his time and money."
George Lane, CEO, Lane Companies, Atlanta, knew Blonder for 34 years. "He was a great friend, and a great mentor. I already miss him terribly."