Morton H. Stovroff, a pioneer in the local real estate industry for more than 25 years as co-founder and chairman of Stovroff & Herman Inc., died Wednesday in a Sarasota, Fla., hospital following heart complications from a broken hip. He was 86.
Mr. Stovroff helped turn Stovroff & Herman, which he co-founded in 1959, into the Buffalo area's top residential firm.
"We didn't inherit the business," said his wife, Joan C. "We built it from scratch. We worked morning, noon and night."
Stovroff & Herman sold its first home in the city's Riverside area for $12,000. But the company quickly expanded its borders outside the city limits, growing into a firm that in 1984 sold more than 2,500 homes, with a total sales volume of more than $125 million.
Mr. Stovroff also took a leadership role in the realty industry locally, statewide and nationally. He served as president of the Greater Buffalo Board of Realtors, pushed hard for the board's first office on Franklin Street and was named Realtor of the Year in 1982.
Following his retirement in 1984, the company was sold twice and now operates as Realty USA.
A Buffalo native, Mr. Stovroff graduated from Lafayette High School and earned an engineering degree from Purdue University. During World War II, he served as a lieutenant commander with the Navy's submarine service in the Pacific.
Mr. Stovroff was active with more than a dozen nonprofit organizations in the Buffalo area. As chairman of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library board, he lobbied hard against the closing of library branches in the 1980s.
He also was a trustee at the Park School, Kenmore Mercy Hospital, Jewish Family Service, Camp Lakeland and Westwood Country Club. He served as president of the Purdue Club of Western New York.
Mr. Stovroff always preached a positive attitude, especially on community issues. Once, following huge media coverage of a young convicted killer, Mr. Stovroff wrote a letter to The Buffalo News, suggesting that the media focus its attention on more deserving young people.
"This should not be too difficult, with all of the great young people in our community who are doing so much to enhance our way of life," he wrote.
A Kenmore resident, Mr. Stovroff spent half the year in Longboat Key, Fla., where he mentored teenagers in schools.
Mr. Stovroff was an avid golfer, although the game itself may not have been his favorite pursuit on the links.
"The highlight of his golf game was finding a lost ball with his retriever," close family friend Jacque Taylor said. "He could spot a lost ball 50 feet away at the bottom of the pond. The trunk of his car was filled with golf balls."
Surviving are his wife of almost 54 years, the former Joan Cooper; a son, Dr. Mark; and a daughter, Julie.
A memorial service will be at 11:30 a.m. Thursday in Temple Beth Zion, 805 Delaware Ave., following a service Sunday in Longboat Key.