Nathan Shapell, Acclaimed Home Builder and Philanthropist Passes Away

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., March 12 /PRNewswire/ — Nathan Shapell, renowned real estate developer and prominent philanthropist known throughout California, the United States, and Israel has passed away. He was 85.

Shapell, Chairman & CEO of Shapell Industries, one of the
most successful and highly respected homebuilders in California, died in his sleep on March 11, 2007, while on a vacation cruise.

A Holocaust survivor, Nathan Shapell was a man of integrity and principle, a builder of lives who dedicated his life to helping others less fortunate.

Born in Poland, Nathan Shapell spent World War II as a prisoner of the infamous Buchenwald and Auschwitz Concentration Camps where most of his family members, including his mother, were executed. After Hitler’s reign of terror ended, Shapell emerged from Hitler’s living hell and devoted himself to helping thousands of bewildered and angry Holocaust survivors. His efforts landed him in Munchberg, Germany, in charge of building housing complexes for the displaced war survivors, and representing them before American military panels responsible for ruling on requests to immigrate to America. In 1952, Nathan and Lilly Shapell, along with their daughter Vera, immigrated to the United States. Mrs. Lilly Shapell, his wife of 48 years, passed away in 1994. Mr. Shapell chronicled the early years of his life in his autobiography, Witness to the Truth.

Mr. Shapell dedicated a major portion of his life to public service. He was a past President and Executive Board Member of the American Academy of Achievement and served as a Member of President Reagan’s Private Sector Survey on Cost Control. He founded and Co-Chaired Building a Better Los Angeles, a one-time project which raised over $1 million for the homeless. In 1987, he accepted the position of President of D.A.R.E. America, a renowned drug abuse resistance education program. In 1992, California Governor Pete Wilson appointed him to serve as a member of the California Competitiveness Council and develop recommendations to revitalize California’s economy. In 1998, Senate President Pro-Tem Bill Lockyer appointed him to a special blue ribbon commission to help alleviate California’s overcrowding of prisons.

Mr. Shapell’s greatest public contributions may have been made through his 29 years of service on California’s “Little Hoover Commission”. During his unprecedented 18 year chairmanship, he helped save taxpayers literally billions of dollars and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of Californians in areas that included nursing home operations, children’s services, property management, transportation, the Medi-Cal program, and public education.

Mr. Shapell was a major philanthropist here in America, as well as in Israel. He was a Founder of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and was also a major donor to Yad Vashem, Israel’s official Holocaust museum and memorial.

He was extremely dedicated to the State of Israel. He traveled to the front lines to provide moral support for IDF soldiers during the Sinai War, Six Day War, and Yom Kippur War, and was frequently consulted by the country’s leaders.

Mr. Shapell is survived by his daughter and son-in-law, Vera and Paul Guerin; grand-children, Lisa, Dana, and Michael; and three great-grandchildren, as well as his brother David Shapell and brother-in-law Max Webb.

Services for Nathan Shapell will be held on Tuesday, March 13th at 11:00 am at Hillside Memorial Park & Mortuary located at 6001 West Centinela Avenue, Los Angeles. In lieu of flowers, the Guerin family requests that donations be made to either Friends of the Israel Defense Forces or to Women’s Guild of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Pulmonary Diseases Program.