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Leonard Lieberman
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Leonard Lieberman

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Leonard Lieberman, 85, of Hoboken died Jan. 3, 2015. He was born in Elizabeth and had lived in West Orange, Short Hills, and Secaucus before moving to Hoboken 20 years ago.

In 1963 Mr. Lieberman left the practice of law to become vice president and general counsel of Supermarkets Operating Company, a group of several stores that were a part of the ShopRite chain. In 1967, the group left the ShopRite chain under the ownership of SGC and named its stores Pathmark, which was to become one of the leading supermarket retail chains in the Northeast. He became president of SGC in the early 1980s and in 1983 became chairman and chief executive officer.

He played a major role in steering Pathmark through several decades of innovation and growth, principally via a strategy of building stores in new markets in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Under his leadership, Pathmark took a bold step counter to the trend of supermarkets closing their stores in urban communities. In 1977, Pathmark opened a new supermarket in a poor section of Brooklyn in partnership with the Bedford Stuyvesant Corporation.He also laid the foundations for similar partnerships, which eventually led to new stores in central areas of Manhattan and Newark. By the mid-1980s, SGC had more than 50,000 employees and ranked among the top 10 largest supermarket chains in the nation.

In the late 1980s, he joined the board of Vestar, a portfolio management company. 

He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Elizabeth. He graduated from Yale University with a history degree in 1950. In 1953, he earned a law degree from Columbia Law School. He also completed a three-month advanced management program at Harvard Business School in 1970. 

A strong civic leader who championed many political campaigns, in 1970, he raised money and worked for the campaign of Kenneth A. Gibson, who was to become Newark’s first African-American mayor. He served as president of the board of trustees of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center from 1973 to 1978, a period during which the institution had undertaken several major building projects. In the 1980s, he was appointed by Gov. Tom Kean to chair a task force to seek improvements in public management. Until his death, he continued as a trustee of the Fund for New Jersey, a private foundation focused on urban, social, and environmental policies.

He served on the boards of 15 nonprofit institutions and was a generous donor to arts and education organizations. He considered the development of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where he was founding trustee and later treasurer, a critical venture to help revive Newark. Last month a gallery at the Newark Museum was dedicated to him and his wife, Arlene.

He served as a member of the board of governors of Hebrew University in Jerusalem, founding chairman of the New Jersey State Aquarium, and vice chairman of the New Jersey Public Broadcasting Authority.

He is survived by his wife of 27 years; three daughters, Betsy Lieberman (Richard Groomer), Nancy Lieberman, and Anne Lieberman; two stepchildren, Elyse Layton (Tom Lee) and Mitchell (Michelle) Layton; three grandchildren; and two step-granddaughters. 

A memorial service was held Jan. 24 at NJPAC. Memorial contributions may be made to Newark Museum or NJPAC.

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