HGAR Mourns Passing of Longtime Legal Counsel
John Jordan | June 2018
WHITE PLAINS—One of the key people who helped shape the modern-day Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors has passed away at the age of 75.
Longtime Board Legal Counsel Edward I. Sumber died on June 5 in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Real Estate In-Depth talked with association leaders from past and present who were in unison that Sumber was much more than its chief lawyer for 40 years. He was an intelligent, yet humble man who was a conciliator and trusted advisor. Over the years he helped shepherd the organization and its multiple listing service through sometimes difficult and complex mergers with neighboring Realtor associations and multiple listing services. The fruits of his work are evident in the success and growth the association has enjoyed as well as in the positive changes he helped implement in the practice of real estate in the Hudson Valley.
Part of his duties at the association was to author monthly Legal Corner columns in Westchester Realtor and beginning in 1996, Real Estate In-Depth, which was the most widely read article in the newspaper, according to several readership surveys over the years. While Legal Corner columnist and colleague John Dolgetta has paid tribute to his mentor and former law practice partner in his column, this article will focus on Realtor and association executives’ thoughts on Sumber’s tremendous contributions to the organization.
Richard Haggerty, CEO of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors, worked regularly with Legal Counsel Sumber during Haggerty’s nearly 34 years with the Realtor organization.
“Not only was Ed Sumber a tremendously skilled attorney, he was also a deeply compassionate individual,” Haggerty said. “His knowledge about the industry was only surpassed by his passion and devotion to the association and its members.”
2018 HGAR President Barry Kramer also spoke of Sumber’s legal expertise and passion for his work. “You couldn’t find anyone who had more knowledge of real estate and real estate law than Ed Sumber. He had a way of handling issues and matters in a kind and gentle way,” Kramer said. “Ed was a gentleman, and throughout his time with the association was always helpful and understanding on almost every issue.”
Former WCBR and NYSAR President Savo Fries in a telephone conversation from her home in Arizona with Real Estate In-Depth spoke fondly of Sumber and recalled that she first met the affable attorney back in the 1970s when she was first licensed in Putnam County and he was an attorney with Stockfield, Fixler and Sumber. She noted that from the very start, the two developed a very special relationship as Sumber went on to form his own law practice in Carmel and she continued in her real estate brokerage career until her retirement and relocation to Arizona some years back.
“We became such dear friends from that point on,” Fries related. “He was my friend, he was my mentor, and he was my confidant. She also revealed a very personal side of Sumber, recalling that when she was first diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1990, her friend “would talk her through the night” and recount the struggles he dealt with from contracting polio when he was just six years old.
That deep friendship prompted Fries to select Sumber to install her as NYSAR President in 2002. She also recalled their special relationship during her somewhat trying seven-year stint of service between the association and its multiple listing service, including the merger of the Westchester and Putnam multiple listing services in late 1995.
“Without Ed I could not have survived that,” Fries recalled, noting the opposition that existed at the time by some Putnam Realtors to the MLS merger. It was that gift to bring two opposing sides together that made him special, she said.
“He was a spiritual wonder. He just had something about him that gravitated you to him,” Fries said.
P. Gilbert Mercurio, the CEO of the association (Westchester County Board of Realtors and later the Westchester-Putnam Association of Realtors) for 31 years until his retirement at the end of 2011, also spoke fondly of Sumber and the unique talents and dedication he brought to the Legal Counsel position.
“There is a lot to say about Ed Sumber. He was an excellent attorney representing the interest of the Realtor associations. Everyone respected him. He was a great unifier in the Realtor organization, which have a great deal of different interest groups within them. Ed always managed to navigate among them and bring out the best in what these people wanted to do.”
He also spoke of Sumber’s deep knowledge and dedication to real estate law. “I can’t recall a time when he was wrong on a legal issue,” Mercurio said. “He was well regarded at all levels, including the New York State Association of Realtors and even the National Association of Realtors. We really had in this organization one of the finest association attorneys you would find anywhere in the United States.”