Gerald Schuster, founder of Continental Wingate Co. Inc., prominent businessman, philanthropist, and longtime supporter of numerous local and national Democrats on the state and national stage, died on Oct. 17, 2018, at the age of 89 at his home in Boston. At his side were his devoted wife of 66 years, Elaine, and his loving family.
Mr. Schuster, known to all as “Jerry,” led a full life dedicated to his family, his businesses, philanthropy, and political activism across the country. He came from modest beginnings, living his early years with his family in an apartment home on Babcock Street in Brookline, Mass. He was self-made, indefatigable in his work, and loyal to his friends and family to his core. He became a tenacious entrepreneur and instilled in his family the values of excellence through hard work, loyalty, and decency.
In 1965, Mr. Schuster founded Continental Wingate, a holding company specializing in financial services, real estate development, property management, and healthcare. For 50 years, he was the company’s heart and soul. Under the direction of his sons Mark, and Scott, and Todd Schuster, Continental Wingate and its companies have grown into a leader in the areas of multi-family real estate, finance, and healthcare.
Mr. Schuster would often say, “Set the sails for the good times and the bad times, and you’ll see both. But stay the course,” said Scott Schuster. Mr. Schuster referenced this life philsophy often, both in his business and his family life.
A natural leader, Mr. Schuster became a mentor to many inside and outside the his business. Boardrooms often provided the venue for his tireless work ethic and wry sense of humor. Mark Schuster said, “He would look around a crowded meeting and announce that he’d calculated the amount of overhead being wasted by having so many in attendance.”
Mr. Schuster was a consummate family man who treasured time with his wife, children and grandchildren. Known as “Rambi” by his nine grandchildren, Mr. Schuster’s homes in Osterville and Boston, Mass., and Palm Beach, Fla., were never without family, friends, and the grandchildren he adored.
Above all things, Mr. Schuster relished the life he lived and family legacy he created with his wife, Elaine. They first met when in their 20s over a pickle barrel at a shop on Nantasket Beach. For 65 years, they were an inseparable couple, known as an unbreakable partnership team. Mr. Schuster was a devoted husband who unequivocally supported and encouraged his wife in her philanthropic and political endeavors. He was happy to take the back seat and enjoyed giving Mrs. Schuster the spotlight. She was fond of saying, “Jerry was the wind beneath my wings.”
“I wouldn’t give up any part of it, even the tough times,” Mr. Schuster said last year to a crowd of over 300 while celebrating the couple’s 65th wedding anniversary at the Rainbow Room in New York City. “The tough times teach you good lessons. The good times you enjoy. But you learn from your problems and you learn from the challenges. And you grow from those things. And then you become Shakespearean, like me.”
Mr. Schuster’s commitment to giving back to his community is especially visible throughout the City of Boston. He and Mrs. Schuster were longstanding supporters of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. At the Brigham, they established and supported numerous programs, including the Schuster Family Transplant Center. Each day, thousands of Brigham visitors walk through the Elaine and Gerald Schuster Lobby, a recognition from the hospital the Schuster family cherishes.
The couple also founded the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, a first-of-its-kind center committed to in-depth, non-partisan reporting on issues with broad public interest.
Mr. Schuster was not just focused on helping the higher profile, larger institutions of the city but was as committed to helping deserving individuals, many of whom he had never met.
In 1983, Mr. Schuster helped establish Hospitality Homes, a nonprofit organization providing free housing for over 15,000 families and friends of patients receiving medical care in the Boston area. He founded the Gerald and Elaine Schuster Fund to Support Faculty Development and Active Citizenship at Tufts University. To assist families living in Continental Wingate properties, Mr. Schuster established network centers - called Operation PEACE (Partnerships in Education And Community Enrichment) - that provide mentoring, tutoring, and life skill training for inner-city children in both Atlanta and Boston.
The Schusters were well known for their work in Democratic politics. The couple were longtime and early supporters of President Bill Clinton and Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Massachusetts Secretary of State Bill Galvin, the late Boston Mayor Tom Menino, and his successor, Marty Walsh.
The Schusters’ home was a regular gathering spot for fund-raisers and policy discussions with veteran and aspiring political figures. The Schuster family endorsement was coveted by many.
Mr. Schuster used his extraordinary intellect and sense of empathy serving on numerous civic boards and philanthropic ventures.
He served as trustee emeritus to the Board of Trustees at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and was a Third Century member at Harvard Medical School. He served on the Board of Trustees for the Combined Jewish Philanthropies and was a trustee of the Greater Boston YMCA. He also was a trustee of the Clinton Library Foundation, and sat on the boards of the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation and the Palm Beach Civic Association.
Mr. Schuster appeared as a specialist on multifamily interests before various congressional committees and was an advisor on President Lyndon Johnson’s Committee on Inner City Banking. He served as a guest speaker before many university and professional groups, including Harvard Law School, Boston University, and the Harvard/MIT Joint Center for Urban Studies. He was a consultant to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority for inner city multifamily production, and served as chairman of the Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency Advisory Committee on Multi-Family Housing under an appointment from Governor William F. Weld.
Born on June 17, 1929, in the former Harley Hospital in Dorchester, Mr. Schuster was a son of the late Maurice and Rose (Weinbaum) Schuster. He and his late brother, Herb Schuster, were raised in Brookline. A graduate of Brookline High School, Mr. Schuster later earned his bachelor’s degree in Economics at Clark University in Worcester.
Mr. Schuster leaves his wife, Elaine (Seigel) Schuster; their children, Mark S. Schuster and his wife, Audrey, and Scott C. Schuster and his wife, Heidi, all of Boston; Jodi Labourene of Palo Alto, Calif.; and Todd S. Schuster and his wife, Laurie, of Miami, Fla.; as well as nine grandchildren, Lyz, Nikki, and John Schuster; Jessie, Alexandra, and Carly Schuster; Drew Labourene; and Lindsey and Katie Schuster.
He also is survived by his many nieces and nephews.
Family and friends will gather to honor and remember Mr. Schuster’s life at Temple Israel of Boston, 477 Longwood Ave., Boston, at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21. Burial will follow at Mishkan Tefila Cemetery, Centre Street, West Roxbury.
Memorial observances after the burial will be held at the Four Seasons Hotel, 200 Boylston St., Boston.
In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to Operation PEACE, C/o Continental Wingate Co. Inc., attention Julie Butler, 63 Kendrick St., Needham, MA, 02494.