Lewis Katz, co-owner of the Philadelphia Inquirer, Anne Leeds, wife of Longport Commissioner James P. Leeds Sr., and part-time Margate resident Susan K. Asbell died Saturday night in a plane crash in Bedford, Mass.
“Longport just lost two beautiful people,” said Joseph DiLorenzo, 58, a Longport resident and real estate developer who knew Katz since childhood.
Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said Sunday that a Gulfstream IV aircraft apparently ran off the end of Runway 11 at Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., at 9:40 p.m.
It plunged down an embankment and erupted in a fireball during a takeoff attempt Saturday night at Hanscom Field outside Boston, authorities said. Officials report that it caught fire.
Katz’s corporate jet was departing for Atlantic City International Airport. Seven people were aboard the plane, including three crew members. There were no survivors.
DiLorenzo said he and Katz took a long walk Saturday morning around Longport and reminisced about Camden politics, family stories and Katz’s love of basketball.
“He was in an incredibly jovial mood yesterday, laughing and joking,” DiLorenzo said.
The two men spoke of basketball and Katz even offered to fly DiLorenzo to New York to see a doctor about a birthmark near DiLorenzo’s eye, something Katz said his late wife had been concerned about.
“It was always, “What do you need? What can I do for you?’ That was the epitome of who he was,” DiLorenzo said.
Katz, a well-known Philadelphia businessman, was among several supporters who recently donated funds to keep the Atlantic City’s Boys & Girls Club operating this summer. Katz, with Harold H.F. Lenfest, recently took majority ownership of the Inquirer, The Daily News and Philly.com.
Anne Leeds, 74, a mother of four and grandmother to nine children, was a well-known member of the Longport community. Her son, Ted Leeds, said his mother was a nursery school teacher for 25 years in Pennsylvania and was especially involved with her church. She served as a trustee at Holy Trinity Parish in Longport.
“My wife was very, very active in things,” Commissioner Leeds said Sunday morning.
Commissioner Leeds said his wife and Katz, who was his neighbor in Longport, traveled to the Boston area Saturday at 2 p.m.
“They went up there to see about an educational program. Lewis asked her if she would fly up with him,” Commissioner Leeds said, noting his wife was once a teacher.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that Asbell, 68, of Cherry Hill and Margate also died in the crash. She was a member of the planning committee of the Boys & Girls Club of Camden County, as well as the wife of former Camden County Prosecutor Samuel Asbell.
The Inquirer also identified Marcella M. Dalsey, 59, of Haddonfield, as the fourth passenger. She was the executive director of the Drew A. Katz Foundation and president of the KATZ Academy Charter School.
The Boston Globe, www.boston.com, reported that Katz attended an event Saturday at the home of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and her husband, Richard Goodwin.
The event was to promote an educational program created by Michael Goodwin.
Ed Rendell, former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor, had been invited by Katz onto the flight, but he declined because of another commitment. Rendell said Katz had been thrilled by the Inquirer deal and died at "maybe the high point of his life."
Leeds said he last saw his wife Saturday morning and that the two exchanged some text messages not long before the crash.
“We don’t know much. We’re waiting to hear back from the state police,” Leeds said of the crash investigation.
Leeds also spoke fondly of Katz. “Lewis was a great guy and he did a lot of things for others,” he said.
DiLorenzo said he is good friends with Leeds’ sons. “She was just great, always a smile, always a kind word,” DiLorenzo said.
Radio host Pinky Kravitz said he had known Katz, 72, for about 10 or 15 years. “He’s one of the most philanthropic individuals you will find,” Kravitz said.
He credited Katz with being a longtime supporter of Boys & Girls clubs around the country.
Ralph Hunter, president of the African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey, first met Katz through Democratic politics in the 1970s. Hunter said he was shocked by the death of his “dear friend.”
Hunter said the museum organized a traveling exhibit earlier this spring for the Katz Academies. Katz wanted the students, many of African-American heritage, to know more of their history, Hunter said.
Atlantic City Mayor Don Guardian and Atlantic City Councilman Marty Small both offered condolences to the families and credited Katz with providing invaluable aid to the Boys & Girls Club.
“His contribution to save the summer program for the children of Atlantic City is something that no one will ever forget,” Small said.
Katz, 72, who grew up in Camden, made his fortune investing in the Kinney Parking empire and the Yankees Entertainment and Sports Network in New York. He once owned the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and was a major donor to Temple University, his alma mater. He became a minority investor of the Inquirer in 2012.
The fight over the future of the city’s two major newspapers was sparked last year by a decision to fire Editor Bill Marimow. Katz and Lenfest wanted a judge to block the firing. Katz sued a fellow owner, powerful Democratic powerbroker George Norcross, saying his ownership rights had been trampled. The dispute culminated last week when Katz and Lenfest, a former cable magnate-turned-philanthropist, bought out their partners.
He was also an owner of Longport Media.
George Miller, Katz’s partner at Longport Media, said in a written statement that Katz’s friednship would be greatly missed.
“We mourn the loss of a business partner, a friend and most importantly an incredibly caring individual who touched an unprecedented number of lives in his quest to make the world a better place,” Miller said.
Katz is survived by two children and several grandchildren.
The Associated Press and Staff Writers Lynda Cohen and Derek Harper contributed to this report.
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