Jack Kay, one of the most successful Washington area home builders of the 1950s and ’60s and a philanthropist who gave mostly to educational and Jewish charities, died April 21 at his home in Chevy Chase. He was 87.
He had lymphoma, according to his family.
Mr. Kay followed in the footsteps of his father, Abraham Kay, a Washington grocer who entered the construction business in the 1920s.
In 1947, Mr. Kay and a brother-in-law, Harold Greenberg, took over the family business, Kay Construction Co., and started capitalizing on the post-World War II housing boom.
The company made extensive land purchases near Silver Spring and Wheaton. Its developments included Connecticut Avenue Estates, Kemp Mill Estates and Saratoga Village. Mr. Kay and Greenberg personally handled home sales.
A 1953 Washington Post story headlined “Custom Care Houses for the Mass Market” had this to say about Connecticut Avenue Estates: “Terms are attractive — down payments to GI’s on the most expensive house — $18,950 — are only $1,950.” The all-brick houses came in three styles: rambler, Cape Cod and split-level.
Mr. Kay moved into apartment management, starting Kay Management, in 1962.
“He owned something like [20,000] to 30,000 apartment units,” said Bill Regardie, the former publisher of the business magazine Regardie’s. “Those places were golden because so many people like soldiers live here [in the Washington area] in the short term.”
Mr. Kay’s philanthropies included Technion — Israel Institute of Technology, the Jewish Council for the Aging, the Jewish Social Service Agency and the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington. His generous support is reflected in the names of the Ina and Jack Kay Theater at the University of Maryland and the Kay Spiritual Life Center at American University.
He served on the board of Adas Israel Congregation, a Conservative synagogue in Washington.
Jack Kay was born in Washington on June 19, 1925. He was a graduate of Roosevelt High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Maryland in 1947. He also had a home in Palm Beach, Fla.
His first wife, the former Ina Friedman, died in 2002. Their daughter Shelley Kay died in 2009.
Survivors include his wife of seven years, Barbara Green Kay of Chevy Chase and Palm Beach; a daughter from his first marriage, Lauren Kay Pollin of Barnesville; three stepchildren, Susan Pertnoy of North Palm Beach, Nina Saslove of Aspen, Colo., and David Shulman of Greenwich, Conn.; a sister, Sylvia Greenberg of Washington and Palm Beach; 21 grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren.