City leaders, dignitaries honor life of legendary philanthropist Gerry Lenfest

Lenfest was celebrated two months after his death at the Academy of Music.

Paul Kurtz
October 17, 2018 - 5:48 pm
The life of H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest was celebrated Wednesday at the Academy of Music.

Paul Kurtz/KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Two months after his death, thousands of guests packed the Academy of Music Wednesday to celebrate the life of legendary philanthropist and billionaire businessman H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest.

A short documentary preceded a collection of memories from a dozen people who forged close business and personal ties with Lenfest.  

Gail Harrity, president and COO of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, said Lenfest made dreams a reality for the museum.

"When Gerry became chairman, the tenor of the conversation about the museum's future also changed. Suddenly it was turning dreams into plans and plans into reality," she said.

RELATED: H.F. 'Gerry' Lenfest, billionaire Philadelphia philanthropist, dies at 88

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts talked about the complicated relationship between his father, Ralph, and Lenfest.

"They were pretty tenacious competitors. They were real frenemies," he recalled. "They were both self-spoken, well dressed, but fierce negotiators."

Former governor and mayor Ed Rendell reminisced about working with Lenfest on the development of the Museum of the American Revolution and rescuing The Philadelphia Inquirer.

"And he said one day, 'I just figured out how to become a millionaire in the newspaper business. It's easy, you start out as a billionaire and buy a bunch of newspapers,' " he said.

Rendell also reminded the many well-heeled movers and shakers in the audience that Philadelphia has lost its go-to guy, it's philanthropic standard-bearer — and someone needs to step in.