Plane crash tragedy hits Downbeach hard (UPDATE)

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UPDATE: Services set for Anne T. Leeds

Services have been set for Anne T. Leeds, who was tragically killed in a plane crash May 31. Visitation will be held from 9-11 a.m. Thursday, June 5 at Holy Trinity Parish, Church of the Epiphany, 29th and Ventnor avenues, Longport, followed by Mass of Christian Burial. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Holy Trinity Parish, Epiphany Campus, 11 N. Kenyon Ave., Margate, NJ 08402. Burial will take place at a later date.

Katz, Leeds shared interest in ‘children, education and community’

Anne T. Leeds of Longport Anne T. Leeds of Longport LONGPORT – The borough is in shock following the news that two prominent citizens, a part-time resident of neighboring Margate and another South Jersey businesswoman were killed in a plane crash Saturday in Massachusetts.

Lewis Katz, 72, a longtime summer resident of Longport, lawyer and world renowned business leader; Anne T. Leeds, 74, retired teacher, homemaker and wife of Borough Commissioner James P. Leeds Sr.; Susan Asbell, 68, mother of two and a part-time summer resident of Margate; and Marcella M. Dalsey, 59, of Haddonfield, a mother of four, president of the KATZ Charter School and executive director of the Drew A. Katz Foundation, were killed when Katz’s Gulfstream IV crashed at 9:40 p.m. Saturday, May 31 as it took off to return to Atlantic City International Airport from Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass.

Katz, a founding partner in the Katz, Ettin and Levine law firm in Cherry Hill, was the co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and, Longport Media of Atlantic and Cape May counties, and the former owner of the New Jersey Nets and the New Jersey Devils, Kinney Parking Systems, and Interstate Outdoor Advertising.

The jet never got airborne, but crashed into an antenna and a fence before bursting into flames. All seven occupants onboard, including the four friends and the crew, still unnamed, were killed in the explosion. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what went wrong.

Katz, a wealthy man who was friends with presidents, governors, movie stars and corporate giants, never forgot that he had a rough start growing up in Camden. He lived life to give a hand up to children of the less fortunate, looked out for their education and supported every community he touched, including his alma mater, Temple University.

Katz went to Massachusetts with his entourage to attend a fundraiser and learn more about an educational program he wanted to bring to children in this area. He was a generous contributor to the Boys and Girls Clubs in Camden and Atlantic City, and helped build the Jewish Community Centers in Cherry Hill and Margate, which were named for his parents, Milton and Betty Katz.

According to Longport Mayor Nicholas Russo, Commissioner Leeds texted his wife that evening about her flight home, and Katz’s housekeeper later informed Leeds that there was a crash at the same airport Katz used when he went north. It was an uneasy night for Leeds, who learned of his wife’s death via a 3:20 a.m. telephone call, Russo said.

“He’s in shock. Mrs. Leeds was a very nice, but quiet person. She was always attending children’s and patriotic events. I sat behind her in church at a funeral Mass the night before,” Russo said. “I never heard anyone say one negative thing about her. Everyone loved her and she will be sorely missed.”

Anne Leeds, a grandmother of four, lived on 36th Avenue across the street from her good friend Katz, and was asked to go on the trip on the spur of the moment.

Katz was instrumental in building a playground in Longport and would give generously to any community project that would benefit children, Russo said.

“I remember when we built the playground, Lewis wanted to write the wording for the sign, which was dedicated to his children. When I heard him speak, I could tell that he had a genuine interest in people, especially children,” Russo said.

The mayor said he was impressed to know that Katz cared deeply not only about children, but also about freedom of the press.

“It hit me soon after his death that he was interested in print media, he was interested in radio media, and in his association with young people, he really believed in the First Amendment and our four freedoms and wanted young people to be well informed. I drew a nexis between the two,” Russo said.

As completely different as the two Longport residents were, they were very much the same, Russo said.

“Even though they were two different lives, and they each lived life in different ways, both had the same objectives – their interest in children, education and community,” Russo said.

In a tribute story in the Inquirer on Monday, staff writers Jeff Gammage and Melissa Dribben summarized Katz in this way: “Smart, decisive, kind, loyal, savvy, creative, eccentric, empathetic, inimitable, a brilliant advisor, the best friend, a fierce advocate. Mr. Katz embraced his wealth and the power that came with it, while at times seeming surprised and amused that a kid from Camden could walk with presidents.”

Longport has cancelled its June 4 Board of Commissioners meeting out of respect for Commissioner Leeds and his family.

A public memorial service for Lewis Katz will be held 11 a.m., Wednesday at Temple University Performing Arts Center in Philadelphia.

A service for Anne Leeds will be held at Holy Trinity Parish. However, the details are pending information from investigators.




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