Katz remembered with humor and admiration

Bill Cosby speaks speaks at the Lewis Katz memorial service at Temple University on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )
Bill Cosby speaks speaks at the Lewis Katz memorial service at Temple University on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )
President William Clinton speaks at the Lewis Katz memorial service at Temple University's Performing Arts Center. ( DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer )GALLERY: President William Clinton speaks at the Lewis Katz memorial…
Posted: June 06, 2014

With humor and words of admiration, philanthropist Lewis Katz was remembered Wednesday at his beloved Temple University for his loyalty, wide-ranging generosity and devotion to his family.

During a more than 2 1/2-hour memorial service at Temple's Peformance Arts Center, mourners laughed, applauded and wiped away tears at reminisces of Katz - funny, moving, sad.

The message over and over again was to keep Katz's memory and work alive.

"You will never be a distant memory," his daughter Melissa Silver vowed.

His son Drew told the mourners that if all he did but weep as he stood before them, that would be more than he could say.

"My father prepared me for everything in life except for this," he said.

"Life was always interesting with Lewis Katz," Drew Katz said, "Death can end a life, but it can never end a love."

Speakers had mourners - a who's who of sports, politics and media - laughing as they recounted anecdotes of times spent with Katz and his mischievous sense of humor. But they also told of the $100 tips he left for college students working summer jobs or how he quietly helped the poor mother who had no where else turn and the promising student who could not afford tuition.

Former President Bill Clinton said the first time he met Katz was with former Gov. Ed Rendell and they "had me play nerf basketball in the Oval office."

"I lost," Clinton said.

He went on to tell how at another time, Katz asked him at a fund-raiser to whisper in his ear.

When asked why, Katz replied, "If you whisper in my ear, they'll think we're close and I can raise more money."

"Lew, you're a putz," Clinton said he whispered, adding, Katz then acted as if he had been given "the nuclear code."

But on a serious note, Clinton recalled some of Katz's many works and said: "He took a trip we couldn't imagine. His life force was such that we thought he'd be around forever."

"If more of us acted on our better impulses . . . what a different world we'd be living in today." Clinton said.

Former Gov. Rendell recounted the laughs he had with Katz and called him a "great man" who demonstrated it daily through his friendship, generosity and love of his family.

He recalled Katz's spontaneity, telling of an impromptu flight to Mount Rushmore and saying "If you were a friend of Lewis Katz, you used the phrase 'He did what?'"

Rendell choked back tears as he told of talking to Katz' personal assistant the day after his death.

"She said, 'I'm lost. He was my champion," he said. "I said . . . 'you are not alone.'"

After he sat down, Gov. Corbett reached over to comfort Rendell as he wiped tears from his eyes.

Patrick O'Connor, chair of Temple's board of trustees, said Katz was a man who "lived his dreams."

"Lewis' primary joy is his family," said O'Connor. "Your father, your poppy, left you a great legacy - not of money or power, but of love."

U.S. Sen. Cory A. Booker, D-N.J., said Katz had given him much good advice, including not to think he was special just because he won a Senate seat.

"Any idiot" can win an election, he said Katz told him. "In fact most idiots do."

The lesson, Booker said, was that "titles don't make men. Men make titles."

Mayor Nutter, who was more somber than earlier speakers, said Katz had a "kind soul."

His sudden death, the mayor said, was "a wake up call for so many of us, so many of us who are not doing something today because we can do it tomorrow."

Inquirer editor Bill Marimow said Katz treated everyone with "dignity, respect and, most of all, warmth."

Bill Cosby, who caused some concern when he stumbled on the stage after Clinton spoke, stood before the mourners wearing a T-shirt that said, "Self Made, Philly Made, Temple Made."

Pacing like a preacher, Cosby recounted how Katz grew up poor in Camden and how much he had given back to the city, including two Boys and Girls Clubs.

Addressing the people of Camden, he said they had to make sure they care for what Katz gave.

"You better not let it drop. You better not let it fall," Cosby said.

"Lewis Katz lives in what you do to the gifts that were given to you," he said. ". . . You will treat these gifts as gifts - not something to be thrown in the trash."

Ed Snider, the Flyers owner, said not only was Katz his best friend and best man, he was "the best man I've ever known."

He said the memorial service was a testimonial unlike any he had ever attended.

Even before the doors opened at 10 a.m. at Temple's Performing Arts Center, a long line of mourners formed on North Broad Street to honor the philanthropist, killed with six others in a plane crash over the weekend outside Boston.

The center - the former Baptist Temple, which can hold 1,200 people - was filled to capacity.

Among those attending was Shane Victorino, the former Phillies centerfielder who now plays for the Boston Red Sox.

"It was no brainer for me to be here," said Victorino, who described Katz as like a father to him.

Former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier expressed gratitude for the support he had received from Katz.

"In my adversity over the last couple years, Lewis held me even closer," said Spanier, facing charges in the Penn State's handling of Jerry Sandusky scandal.

Inside the center, photos from Katz's life were projected on a large screen. A Temple University string quartet played somberly as Katz's family took their seats.

Katz, a co-owner of The Inquirer, and three friends had attended an education fund-raising event in Concord at the home of the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin before the crash Saturday night at an airfield outside Boston. The plane's three crew members also died.

Goodwin told mourners it was both her misfortune and good fortune to spend time with Katz during his last hours.

"Lewis Katz surely lived life to its fullest," she said, adding the name of her friend of 20 years would live on in schools and buildings but mostly in memory.

In opening the service for what he called "an extraordinary man," Temple President Neil Theobald recalled the names of the six others who died and asked that they be remembered as well.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating to determine the cause of the crash of the Gulfstream IV private jet.

Katz, a Camden native and 1963 Temple grad, was the largest donor in the school's history, most recently pledging $25 million for its medical school, which will be named for him. He had served on the board of trustees since 1998.

Rabbi Aaron Krupnick, of Congregation Beth El in Voorhees, who praised Temple for "giving Lewis a chance" and a scholarship, earned a laugh from the mourners at the service when he said, "dollar for dollar that's the best investment Temple ever made."

The last word at the service was given to Katz via video of the address he gave to Temple graduates last month, when he was made an honorary doctor of law.

"It's never a perfect day," he told them, "unless you help someone who can never hope to repay you."

A private family service was held Tuesday.

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