In his business and professional life, Steven L. Cymrot, was in real estate. He bought and sold houses, and owned and managed rental apartment buildings, commercial and office complexes, mainly on Capitol Hill.
In his public life, he was a community activist. With his wife, Nicky, he was a key player in the restoration of Capitol Hill’s historic Eastern Market after it was gutted by fire in 2007.
He created a charitable foundation to back Capitol Hill community endeavors including educational enrichment and remedial projects for schoolchildren, arts workshops, youth sports programs and dance studios.
He raised money and organized backing for the renovation of the deteriorating 19th-century Old Naval Hospital on Pennsylvania Avenue Southeast and its transformation into a multi-purpose cultural, educational and social community center.
In his avocational life, he owned and operated a secondhand, antiquarian bookstore, Riverby Books, which also served as an unofficial gathering place for afternoon conversations and tea. He prided himself on knowing the rare book market.
He was a graduate of Harvard Law School but never practiced law — “an interesting game for those who like it, but I prefer a good crossword,” he once told a friend. It generally took him 10 to 15 minutes to complete the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle.
Mr. Cymrot died Nov. 29 at a Washington hospital of injuries suffered in a Nov. 19 traffic accident, according to his wife. He was walking near the intersection of 4th and East Capitol Streets when he was hit by a truck. Details of the accident are under investigation by D.C. police. Mr. Cymrot was 72.
“Lots of those who knew Steve considered him a quiet, unassuming person, perhaps even a shy man,” wrote a friend, Richard Rubenstein, in an e-mail reminiscence. “But once a year, at the [annual] dinner for the Capitol Hill Community Foundation, he transformed into an M.C./raconteur/jokester par excellence,/re-surprising everyone with his . . . ability to navigate the delicate line between ‘roast’ and insult.”
Steven Leslie Cymrot was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 10, 1942. He came to Washington as a page in the U.S. House of Representatives when he was in high school. Describing that experience for a Capitol Hill history project, he recalled that one of the critical job requirements was getting to know all of the 435 House members by sight “so that when they said ‘Call my office,’ you knew which office to call.”
Mr. Cymrot graduated from Brown University in 1963 and from Harvard Law School in 1966. He was briefly a schoolteacher in Falls Church, then turned to real estate on Capitol Hill, which was in the early stages of an urban restoration movement.
One of his early house sales was to the late Mary Treadwell, the second wife of former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who died last month.
Later, Mr. Cymrot became president of the Stuart-Hobson Middle School Parent-Teacher Association. He helped found CHAMPS (Capitol Hill Association of Merchants and Professionals) and, as part of it, established the Capitol Hill Community Foundation as a benefactor to charitable and service organizations.
In 1967, he married Mary Ellen Ivancich, known as Nicky. Besides his wife, of Washington, survivors include two children, Paul Nicholas Cymrot of Fredericksburg, Va., and Helen Cymrot of Washington; a brother; and four grandchildren.
It was around the turn of the millennium that Mr. Cymrot founded Riverby Books. He regularly attended the Adam A. Weschler & Son auction house’s Tuesday morning book auctions, a prime source for rare books.
Hilary Benson, a Capitol Hill resident, nurse at Georgetown University Hospital and partaker of afternoon tea at Riverby, remembers mentioning to Mr. Cymrot that she was looking for an original edition of “The Young Visiters,” a book by Daisy Ashford published in the early 20th century. Mr. Cymrot found it at a book auction a few weeks later and delivered it to her. He expected no payment.
“He seemed to do it purely for the satisfaction of putting a good book in appreciative hands,” Benson said.