The Great Philadelphia Families
Think of what Mark Twain said: “In Boston, they ask, how much does he know? In New York, how much is he worth? In Philadelphia, who were his parents?” Brotherly love, sisterly affection: There’s no denying that certain bloodlines have shaped — and are still shaping — this city and our lives.
In 1990, Italian immigrants Danny and Joe Di Bruno were ready to sell the grocery-turned-cheese-emporium they’d founded on 9th Street in 1939. Their grandsons had other ideas; Bill Mignucci Jr. and his cousins Billy and Emilio decided instead to take the business to the next level. Their grandparents and other relatives helped them get off the ground, but according to Emilio, responsibility for the transformation of Di Bruno Bros. into the city’s premier specialty food retailer lies with the customers themselves. “We didn’t say, ‘The City of Philadelphia is ready for this,’” he says. “The City of Philadelphia told us it was ready for this. We had the same customers come in every day, and we would ask them what they were interested in. They would talk to us about where they’d been, and we started to take trips up to New York. Our customers told us about these unique places, so we took a look at what they were doing and decided to see if we could do it better.” They’ve done just that, expanding beyond the Italian Market to five locations serving food lovers from the Main Line to Rittenhouse Square, and beyond via their online store. family that works together: “Food is in our blood,” says Emilio. “Once you’re in, you’re in.”
Our other cable empire
In Comcast City, it’s hard to imagine another cable company having real impact, but that’s what makes the Daniel family and their business, Wilco Electronic Systems, Inc., so remarkable. (Well, one of the things.) The son of a North Carolina sharecropper, Will F. Daniel settled in Philly after a stint in the Army, went to trade school, then worked in electronics for two decades before starting his own company in 1977, with an eye toward the city’s underserved communities. “He was providing cable to the poor and black neighborhoods nobody else would go into,” says daughter Brigitte Daniel Corbin, Wilco’s executive vice president. (Her cousin Perry is CFO.) Today, Wilco is one of the only African-American-owned cable companies in the country, and it’s still serving low-income clients — but its partners include Comcast and the PHA, and its impact hasn’t just grown; it’s exploded, as its affordable wireless Internet access, digital literacy programs and even security systems bridge the city’s digital divide. The family is also known for its civic, arts and philanthropic engagement. shared roots: Former mayor Wilson Goode (see page 181), also the son of a tenant farmer, grew up one town over from Will’s North Carolina hometown.
The Kellys/Le Vines
The closest we’ll get to the Kennedys
Even if Grace Kelly hadn’t become a princess, her extended family would still be considered Philly royalty. There’s the glitz, of course: Kelly was an Oscar-winning movie star who brought the world’s attention—and much-needed sparkle—to the city; her uncle, Walter, was a vaudeville star; her other uncle, George, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright. There’s the athletic domination: Her father, John B. Kelly Sr. (known as Jack), was a heralded competitive rower, nabbing three Olympic gold medals; his wife, Margaret, was the first coach for women’s athletics at Penn; their son, John Jr. (Kell), was a four-time rowing Olympian. And there’s politics: Jack was a Democratic city chairman who just barely lost the 1935 mayoral election; Kell was a City Councilman and member of the Fairmount Park Commission. Taking up the legacy: the Le Vines (Grace’s sister Lizanne’s family), who have linked up with another local power clan—Lizanne’s son Chris married Victoria McNeil, of the Tylenol family (see page 181). Says Chris: “Our grandparents, John B. Kelly Sr. and Margaret, set the standard for their children as far as hard work and devotion to Philadelphia.” in the press: Lizanne was one of the first female athletes ever to be featured in Sports Illustrated; she appeared in a 1955 issue as a Penn hockey player.
Medicine, media and money
When Walter P. Lomax Jr. passed away in 2013, the city lost a renaissance man of remarkable range. An accomplished doctor, media magnate, activist and businessman, Walter left a legacy both altruistic and entrepreneurial: He established Correctional Healthcare Solutions Inc., a medical provider for thousands of prisoners in more than 10 states; he ran clinics and meds for underserved neighborhoods in Philly; he got into real estate and tech and eventually (with Beverly, his wife of 55 years) bought WURD, which became the only black-owned radio station in Pennsylvania. Today, six Lomax children continue that legacy, through a family foundation focused on giving to African-American organizations; with the enterprising Lomax Companies; and by serving on a who’s who of boards. “My father really believed in empowering the African-American community,” says Walter’s daughter, Sara Lomax-Reese, who now runs WURD. “Not having capital in this capitalistic society renders you somewhat powerless.” bragging rights: Walter’s patients included Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fattah family.
Power, prestige and Penn
More than 70 years after patriarch Raymond Perelman graduated from Wharton and made a killing in finance, manufacturing and mining, his family’s money and name are everywhere, from the Art Museum to the Kimmel Center to Penn, where he and his wife Ruth (who died in 2011) made an unprecedented $225 million donation in 2011. The couple’s two sons, Ronald and Jeffrey, also Wharton grads, have continued the family’s philanthropic efforts, but both men have also seen their share of tabloid headlines — Jeffrey for a long, bitter feud with his father, and Ronald with a string of scandalous divorces (including one from actress Ellen Barkin). Then there’s Jeffrey’s daughter, Alison “Ali” Perelman, executive director of nonprofit/PAC Philadelphia 3.0, which seeks to reform the way City Hall operates. “I identify more strongly as a Philadelphian than anything else, and that is entirely due to my family’s commitment to this city,” she says. “I hope to drive political reform at the local level, which is essential if we want this city to capitalize on its progress and promise.” follow the money: While Jeffrey and Raymond have largely steered clear of political donations in the most recent election cycle, Ronald gave more than $1 million to Republican super PACs.
You have Benny Lai to thank for that banh mi you had for lunch. For the pho you had last week, too, and for the chefs who know how to use lemongrass without making everything taste like floor polish. In 1982 — at a time when Chinese was (nearly) the only option when it came to Asian dining — Nhu Lai and his wife Thuyen Luu, recent immigrants from Vietnam with eight kids, opened Fu Wah Market on 47th Street with $10,000 they’d borrowed and saved. “It was only the second Asian market in all of Philadelphia,” Benny said in a 2015 interview. It was followed shortly by Vietnam Restaurant in Chinatown, then by Vietnam Café in West Philly. In 1989, at age 22, Benny took over the family business and saw it through expansions and remodels. The Lais remain the founding family of Vietnamese cuisine in Philly — their restaurants packed, their market buzzing. And Benny’s sons are waiting in the wings. family ties: The 2013 marriage of Benny’s sister Tina to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie seemed to bring together the two warring sides of the Philly psyche — its love of sports and its love of food — into one joyous whole.
Where Philly sleeps
How’s this for a good American Dream story? Hyman Korman emigrates from Eastern Europe, toils away in the garment industry for eight years, gets hold of some farmland, builds houses on it, and winds up launching a full-fledged real estate dynasty. (That farmland is now Roosevelt Boulevard in Oxford Circle.) In the ’60s, Hyman’s son Samuel built the storied Palace Hotel on the Parkway; these days, Hyman’s grandsons and great-grandsons run their own (separate) Korman-branded behemoths covering all aspects of real estate, from commercial properties to suburban apartment complexes to single-family homes. Sam’s grandkids Larry and Brad, with help from brother Mark, also run the high-end, extended-stay AKA properties in Philly, NYC, Beverly Hills and London; all three boys and their father Steven are highly involved in Project HOME and built the MANNA headquarters. It’s no surprise the Korman name graces plaques and buildings almost everywhere you look — Drexel, Temple University, Einstein Health and Jefferson Hospital, for starters. family tree: Hyman’s granddaughter Lynne (Steven’s sister) married Harold Honickman, who, with a gift from Lynne’s dad Samuel, built a cutting-edge soda-bottling plant in 1957. It worked out well: With a recent estimated net worth of $850 million, the Honickmans are among Philly’s richest families.
They’ll cop to it
Tom Nestel III, SEPTA’s social-media-savvy police chief, likes to say police work is his family business. It’s no joke: His relatives have been signing up to protect and serve in Philly for four generations. John Judge, Nestel’s maternal great-grandfather, was the first to take the plunge, joining the Philadelphia police department in the early 1900s—back when tools like DNA evidence and handheld radios would have sounded like science fiction. As many as a dozen members of Nestel’s family have been on the force at the same time, including his uncles, his brother, and his father, Tom Jr., who served as a deputy police commissioner in the 1990s. “We all should’ve gone to the same district just to confuse people,” Nestel laughs. next in line: The fifth generation of crime fighters is here: Nestel’s son, Thomas Daniel Nestel, has applied to the Philly department, while a younger cousin, Kevin Judge, is already a cop in West Philly’s 18th District.
All together now
For 29 years, Philly knew and loved Gene Hart as the voice of the Flyers, as he boomed his signature “He shoots, he scores, for a case of Tastykakes!” and wished NHL fans “Good night and good hockey.” After Gene’s death in 1999, it was another Hart who took up the Flyers mantle: Daughter Lauren, a singer, performs the National Anthem before home games. (She’s also written music for TV and film, co-hosted a TV show, and won the American Cancer Society Friends Humanitarian of the Year award, and is about to release her seventh album.) In 2005, Hart married famed adventurer and La Colombe co-founder Todd Carmichael; their four kids, who were adopted from Ethiopia, range in age from five to 14. “It’s an incredible legacy to be able to take them to Flyers games,” Lauren says. “I can see myself at their age, going with my father. I know exactly what they’re feeling and how exciting it is, and what terrific bonding time it is for the family. It’s their favorite thing.” family tribute: Lauren’s Flyers jersey bears the number 68 — the age her dad was when he died.
The Brandywine’s best friends
In 1939, six years before his death, renowned illustrator and painter N.C. Wyeth wrote in a letter to his daughter Henriette, “I believe … that we, as a group, have got something.” Fair enough: N.C., who settled in Chadds Ford in 1907, begat four generations of artists, solidifying the Brandywine Valley as a hotbed of realist American art. He’s also the reason Chadds Ford remains a rural hamlet: The Brandywine River Museum of Art and Conservancy preserved the Wyeth stomping grounds as homage to the family’s artistic legacy. While N.C.’s son, Andrew, is perhaps the most famous Wyeth, grandson Jamie has won acclaim with works depicting everything from farm animals to a shirtless Arnold Schwarzenegger. “He left this enormous vacuum,” Jamie says of N.C. “It was his legacy of a single focus and feverish work ethic that was passed from my grandfather to my father and from my father to me.” Family friends: The Wyeths and du Ponts (see page 183) were great pals, says Jamie, “despite the du Pont family’s notorious disinterest in the arts.” Jamie married Phyllis Mills, whose mother was a du Pont, and N.C.’s middle child, Nathaniel, worked for DuPont as an engineer and inventor.
Charity begins at home
If the only thing Otto Haas ever did was co-found the globally successful chemical company Rohm and Haas, he’d already have left his mark. But in 1945 Otto and his wife, Phoebe, created the philanthropy that became the William Penn Foundation, one of the wealthiest grant-making charities in the country. Otto and Phoebe’s sons, John C. and F. Otto, held leadership roles in both the company and the philanthropy, which supports education, arts and culture, and water-quality initiatives. (It’s run by physician Janet Haas, F. Otto’s daughter-in-law.) The sale of Rohm and Haas to Dow Chemical in 2009 led to the establishment of the Wyncote Foundation, which is directed by John’s children and supports a variety of causes, from historic preservation to public-interest journalism. David Haas, John’s son, is on the board of the nonprofit that now owns the Inquirer, the Daily News and Philly.com. Naming rights: The Rohm and Haas building, a modernist landmark on Independence Mall, may soon be certified historic.
Knitting a community together
Sure, Blanca Nellys Herrera could have made her mark as a fashion designer. After emigrating from Cuba to Miami in 1961, she moved north to attend Philadelphia College of Textiles & Science (now Philly U.), then spent seven years as a designer for the now-defunct Clover Knitting Mills. But it’s her role as beloved connector of Philly’s Latino community that’s changed the city’s fabric. She and her husband Joaquín, whose parents migrated to Cuba from Spain, are founding members of Philly’s Cuban Club (one of many groups they belong to) and have been instrumental in creating local Latino events. Their involvement stretches to the Catholic Church, too: Blanca is the education programs coordinator for the Hispanic Catholic Institute and has helped to develop such highlights as the annual Hispanic Heritage Mass; Joaquín, now retired, is an active member of the Cursillos de Cristiandad. “They help keep the Latino community together,” says daughter Mónica, one of their two children. “It keeps the culture alive in us.” fancy feet: The Herreras’ passion for sharing their culture is multi-generational: Mónica is a professional flamenco dancer and teacher in Philly.
Who you callin’ Shorti?
Dick Wood, Wawa chairman and reigning Wood, says Wawa’s success is due to his family’s Quaker roots and his ancestors’ drive to constantly innovate. It was his great-grandfather, George Wood, who first got into the dairy business, in 1902; George’s grandson, Grahame, grew that into the first brick-and-mortar Wawa store in 1964. The rest is hoagie history. (Those came along in 1970, actually.) Despite Wawa’s massive size—there are now more than 700 stores—it’s still very much a family operation: family members own about half of the business, and hundreds of Woods still gather on Wawa land in Delco for reunions. “The family business really keeps the family together. I know all my second cousins on the Wood side, and my kids know their third cousins,” says Dick. “It’s an amazing thing to have an institution that holds us together.” brush with history: In the early 1800s, Abraham Lincoln worked for the Woods as corporate counsel for the family’s dry-goods company, a business that predated Wawa.
The Sound and the fury
With partner Leon Huff, Kenny Gamble was the driving force behind “The Sound of Philadelphia” and a long string of hit records in the 1960s and ’70s. A political activist, he became the leader of the South Philly community improvement nonprofit Universal Companies, which does development, education, and health-and-wellness programs. His wife, Faatimah, founded The Wellness of You, which helps introduce healthy lifestyles into underserved communities. (It’s now part of Universal.) Gamble’s son Caliph is a filmmaker; Caliph’s wife Deana is the communications director for the Mayor’s Office of Education. Caliph’s mother is Dyana Williams, a legendary DJ who runs a consulting firm that has coached musicians ranging from Rihanna to Dave Matthews. Monumental: A 45-story hotel and condo building is planned for the former site of Gamble and Huff’s Philadelphia International Records on the Avenue of the Arts. Its name: the International at SLS Lux Philadelphia Hotel & Residences.
Politics as theater
Give siblings roughly the same DNA, zip code and bedtime stories, and they still grow up to be wildly different. Brothers John and Milton Street got into politics in the 1970s as Bernie-esque outsiders scolding the establishment for failing North Philly’s poor. John soon transformed into the ultimate insider, going from Council president to mayor to scandal-plagued politician. Milton’s always been happier on the fringe; he’s handed out pornography to highlight Porngate and sung over a coffin to protest violence. Milton says the brothers did this intentionally: “You need to have somebody on the inside. It’s a mandatory. But you also have to have somebody on the outside to raise the issues.” Next in line: John’s son Sharif is following in his father’s footsteps — this year, the city’s Democratic machine bequeathed him a state Senate seat.
One, two, three, four …
Ever since Philadelphia became a Democratic stronghold in the 1950s, somebody named Bill Green has loomed large in local politics. The original Bill Green was a Republican, but he got the ball rolling when he asked a Democratic ward leader to lend a guiding hand to his son. Bill Green Jr. later served 16 years in Congress and a decade as boss of the local Democratic Party. Bill III took over his father’s seat in Congress after Dad died in 1963, and served one term as mayor in the early 1980s (appointing Wilson Goode (see next page), who later became the city’s first black mayor, as managing director). Bill IV waited until his early 40s to enter politics. Halfway through his second term as a Democratic City Councilman, he was appointed chair of the School Reform Commission by Republican Tom Corbett. Now registered as an Independent, Green IV has been ousted from the chairmanship and is less openly ambitious. But is it just a matter of time until his son, Bill V, enters the family business? “We all have to follow our own path,” says Bill IV. “But if there was a gene for it, they’d probably find it in our DNA.” Naming rights: The Bill Greens are in Philly’s DNA now, too, with a federal building at 6th and Arch named for Jr.
Yes, there’s a doctor in the house
The Schnall clan could staff a hospital all on their own. Brothers Charles (now deceased) and Nathan (now retired) both trained at Temple Med. Their brother David was a pediatrician at CHOP; his son Stephen is a doctor in L.A. Charles’s son Robert and daughter Sandra are a urologist and an oncologist, respectively. Charles, David and Nathan’s brother Abe wasn’t a doctor, but his two sons are: Mitchell chairs the radiology department at HUP; Bruce is an ophthalmologist at Wills Eye. Their niece Sari, meanwhile, went to Temple Med and is doing a pediatric fellowship at Mount Sinai. Charles, David, Nathan and Abe’s brother Sol’s son Barry is a physiatrist in Jenkintown. Sandra’s daughter Jennifer is just starting out at Jeff Med. Oh, and another niece, Rachel, is doing her residency at Temple. It’s never been about the money for these physicians with firm Philly roots, says Nathan: “I can take such pleasure in being from a family where everyone’s so caring. I’m so proud!” black sheep: Billie, Charles’s daughter and Rachel’s mother, is (shh!) a lawyer.
A city treasure goes global
In 1805, an English print-seller named Tristram Bampfylde Freeman opened a Philly auction house, Freeman’s, that would eventually survive the Civil War, two world wars, the Depression, even the rise of eBay. Seven generations (and counting) of Freemans have collected and sold heirlooms, estates, art and antiques of astonishing historical and monetary value, from the Philadelphia Post Office (for a record-breaking $425,000, in the early 1880s) to valuables stolen by the Nazis (at public auction in 1948, “for the resettlement and rehabilitation of the victims of Nazi action”) to furniture from the estate of Civil War general George Meade (in 2010). An alliance with Scottish auction house Lyon & Turnbull in 2000 took the oldest running auction house in America from regional to global player. As senior vice president Sam — son of Beau, the company’s chairman, and great-great-great-great-grandson of Tristram — says, “Tristram was offered one of the six auctioneer licenses in Philly. He took it, and from that point, the Freemans haven’t looked back.” Tragedy strikes: In 1960, Addison B. Freeman was one of 62 people killed in a Boston Harbor air crash after their plane crossed paths with a flock of starlings.
The full Spectrum
There’s not enough space here to even scratch the surface of the achievements that made the late Ed Snider a Philly icon. The son of a supermarket-chain owner, Snider co-founded the Flyers, owned the 76ers, was a part owner of the Eagles, and served as chairman of Comcast Spectacor, amassing a $2.5 billion fortune along the way. But to his children — Lindy, Jay, Craig, Tina, Sarena and Samuel — and 15 grandchildren (including the 20-year-old It Boy of the Philly charity circuit, Garrett Getlin Snider), Snider stressed the importance of perpetually giving back to the less fortunate through the family’s multiple charitable foundations. “The fact that we can make a difference in the lives of others within our lifetime is so motivating,” Lindy Snider says. New ventures: Entrepreneur and newly dubbed “pot tycoon” Lindy is an investor in two local marijuana financing firms as well as an official adviser for Greenhouse Ventures, a business accelerator for cannabis and hemp start-ups.
A condensed family saga
The Dorrance family’s billions began, famously, with John T. Dorrance’s invention of condensed soup in 1897; he then bought his uncle’s Campbell Preserve Company and built his fortune. Many of his five kids and nine grandkids became major philanthropists, including the Colkets (daughter Ethel’s family) and Van Beurens (granddaughter Hope’s family). Forbes ranks the family as the 13th richest in America. Locally, the best-known member is probably John’s eldest granddaughter, Dorrance “Dodo” Hamilton: She and her late husband, Samuel Hamilton, gave big-time bucks to a host of cultural and educational institutions (the Zoo, Jefferson Hospital, PAFA, the Franklin Institute … ) and started the Hamilton Family Foundation, focused on education for underserved kids. (Dodo, her children Matt, Peter and Margaret H. Duprey, and seven of her nine grandkids are still heavily involved.) Says Matt: “Mom and Dad, when we were young, instilled in us that it’s a good thing to give back, to give people a lift. And we’ve tried to instill that in our kids. I think they get it.” family feud: After John’s son Jack died in 1989, the nine grandchildren argued over whether to sell the company, a years-long rift breathlessly covered by the Inky and New York Times. No sale yet: Family members still own more than 50 percent of the $8 billion company.
From pharma to philanthropy
Robert McNeil bought a pharmacy in Kensington in 1879; son Robert Lincoln joined him in the business in the early 1900s, and they set up a drug-manufacturing lab. The latter’s son, Robert Lincoln Jr., joined as a research chemist in 1938 and created Tylenol, a pain reliever that didn’t irritate the stomach. Jr. and brother Henry sold their company to Johnson & Johnson in 1959, and Jr. ran it as a division of J&J until he retired in 1964 and launched a second career as a philanthropist. Jr.’s daughter Joanna has carried on her father’s tradition, supporting arts, cultural and educational institutions. The family avoids the spotlight, but Joanna’s service on high-profile boards (the Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Zoo) has kept her name in the papers. family tree: Joanna’s husband, Andrew L. Lewis IV, is the son of former GOP kingmaker and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Drew Lewis.
In service to the city
Though Wilson Goode’s legacy will always be tarnished by the MOVE bombing, which occurred 16 months into his tenure as mayor, his trajectory has been nothing short of extraordinary — the son of North Carolina sharecroppers, he became Philadelphia’s first African-American mayor. After leaving office in 1992 having served two terms, Goode, an ordained Baptist minister, founded Amachi, a faith-based nonprofit that mentors the children of incarcerated parents. “We are a family committed to public service,” he says. “We want to bring about fundamental change.” His son, Wilson Goode Jr., served 16 years on City Council before losing his reelection bid last year. Now he’s an adviser to Council president Darrell Clarke. Mayor Goode’s two daughters have chosen to make lives for themselves elsewhere: Muriel Goode-Trufant is the managing attorney for the City of New York; Natasha Goode is a senior manager for Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta. Behind every goode man: Sr.’s wife of 56 years, Velma, once called in to the Mary Mason show on WHAT-AM to berate the host for things said on the air about her man.
Bringing the next generation along
When your dad is Hardy Williams, a celebrated civil rights activist who made history as the first African-American to run for mayor in Philly and, later, as a long-serving state senator, you’ve got big shoes to fill. “Some people would go to a ballgame with their dads. I would go to political meetings or campaign,” son Anthony says of his now-deceased father. Despite the lineage, Anthony, a former PepsiCo exec, didn’t join the family business until the MOVE bombing spurred his successful bid for the State House of Representatives in 1988. A decade later, his dad, in a move befitting Philly politics, retired from the state Senate mere hours before the nomination deadline, essentially bequeathing his son the seat — which he’s held ever since. Though other members of the Williams clan aren’t involved in politics (Anthony’s siblings, Lisa, Clifford and Lanna, and his children, Asia and Autumn, avoid the spotlight), Hardy and Anthony both mentored the next crop of the city’s black politicos, including Kenyatta Johnson. Family ties: Hardy’s responsible for more than one political legacy: Jannie and Lucien Blackwell worked on his campaign together, married the next year, and went on to hold posts in City Council and Congress, respectively.
Ding, ding, ding go their trolleys
Ever wonder why New York grew upward but Philly spread outward? Thank Peter Arrell Brown Widener, a butcher whose great-grandpater emigrated from Germany in 1752. With his friend William Elkins (as in Elkins Park), PAB invested $50,000 he made selling mutton to the Union Army in newfangled streetcars. It was PAB who laid the city’s trolley lines and developed the surrounding real estate, expanding the city west and north via rowhomes. The fortune he amassed led to stuff like Harvard’s Widener Library and his 300-acre Lynnewood Hall estate. PAB’s son married Elkins’s daughter; their daughter married Fitz Eugene Dixon Sr., and Dixon Sr.’s son, Fitz Dixon Jr., owned pieces of the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies, Wings and 76ers, plus Montco’s Erdenheim Farm. (Jr. also brought the LOVE statue to town.) The family is très horsy; PAB’s son Joseph owned Belmont and Hialeah parks. tragedy strikes: PAB’s son George and grandson Harry went down on the Titanic; Dixon Jr.’s daughter still wears George’s emerald ring.
Still flexing legal muscle
Longtime U.S. Senator Arlen Specter died four years ago, but his family legacy continues. From 1953 until his death, Arlen was married to Joan, a Republican on Philadelphia City Council from 1980 to 1996. The couple had two sons, Shanin and Stephen (who goes by S.E.). Shanin, of Lower Merion, has law degrees from Penn and Cambridge and is a founding partner in Kline & Specter, a high-profile Center City law firm that won a then-record $153 million against Ford in a product-liability lawsuit in the late 1990s. S.E., a practicing psychiatrist and an assistant professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences, lives in L.A. The family has firm ties to Penn; Arlen, Stephen and Shanin all have degrees from the school, and Silvi, daughter of Shanin and wife Traci (also an alum), graduated earlier this year. Sweet story: In the 1980s, Joan Specter became famous for her line of frozen gourmet pies in flavors like chocolate mousse and candied apple walnut.
The Wyeths of West Philly
With their family compound/art studio/museum in Powelton Village, the Tiberinos were proud West Philadelphians before that was hip. Joseph and his wife, Ellen Powell, both now deceased, were a force in the urban art scene, responsible for dozens of exhibits and murals around the city as well as gathering spots for the creative community, such as the now-shuttered club Bacchanal at 13th and South. Joseph memorialized his wife by refashioning a portion of their home into the Ellen Powell Tiberino Museum. Their children inherited their artistic inclinations: Raphael is a painter, Gabriel is a muralist, and Ellen is a sculptor. (Son Latif does sales for his brothers and sister.) In 2013, the siblings, with their father and 14 other artists associated with the family, gathered their works for “The Unflinching Eye,” an exhibit at the African American Museum celebrating the Tiberinos’ impact in Philadelphia. Family friends: Joseph told the Inquirer in 2014 that he and Andrew Wyeth had “heartfelt conversations … about raising our children.”
Philly’s real first family
Though this family has singlehandedly shaped the way millions of Americans connect to the Web and watch cable TV, they’ve also quietly immersed themselves in philanthropic projects with grand visions — and price tags. One of the latest endeavors from the Comcast clan is the Roberts Collaborative for Genetics and Individualized Medicine, a $50 million research initiative at CHOP that will pursue breakthrough cures for childhood diseases. Now-deceased patriarch Ralph, his widow Suzanne, son Brian and other family members are linked to a host of Philadelphia arts and medical causes, from the Philadelphia Theatre Company and Penn Medicine to the Charter High School for Architecture + Design and the Barnes Foundation. Building Philadelphia into a world-class city remains their priority; the second Comcast tower opens in 2018. The family faces constant pressure to move their business out of town but refuses: “We have always loved Philadelphia. It is our home,” says Brian. Staying power: At 95, Suzanne is still producing public-health spots via Seeking Solutions with Suzanne, her Emmy-winning television show for senior citizens.
Driven to succeed
In 1899, Charles F. Kerbeck started selling tricked-out stagecoaches to affluent Philadelphians. Today, his three grandchildren — Charles, Frank and George — do much the same, except now it’s Lamborghinis and Maseratis. What hasn’t changed with F.C. Kerbeck, over all these years, is a devotion to rarefied tastes. The brotherly trio who own the empire (they boast over a dozen local franchises) are regular boosters at the Philly Auto Show. They’re also ubiquitous on television, with a Saturday-morning car show and relentless advertisements for their used Cadillacs. Part of their success can be chalked up to their unique chemistry; “We’re brothers, business partners, and we’re best friends,” Charles Kerbeck has said. With a slew of nephews and nieces established in the business already, the Kerbeck brand shows no signs of slowing down. Bragging rights: Actor Tyrese Gibson once hit Frank Kerbeck up for a test drive after spotting his white Bentley GT dream car parked outside Capital Grille.
Read all about it
Robert W. Bogle is — first and foremost — CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest and region’s largest newspaper serving the African-American community, founded in 1884. He’s stood at the helm there since 1989 but wears many hats, and his clout stretches far beyond the Tribune; he’s held a number of prestigious board positions, including affiliations with the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Mann Music Center, the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association and the PNC advisory board. He also serves as a chairman of the trustees at Cheyney University, where he earned his B.A. in urban studies. Bogle’s late wife Marie was a distinguished schoolteacher in Philadelphia for 33 years. Their daughter, Mariska, is executive director of the nonprofit Philadelphia Hospitality, and their son, Robert Jr., is a manager at nursing facility HCR ManorCare. Family tree: Robert is a descendant of 19th-century caterer Robert Bogle, credited by W.E.B. Du Bois with having “virtually created the business of catering,” an industry dominated by blacks in Philadelphia in his day. (Nicholas Biddle — see page 69 — celebrated Robert’s serving demeanor in verse.)
The du Ponts
It started with a spark
Technically speaking, the du Ponts don’t belong to Philadelphia proper. Founded along the banks of the Brandywine in 1802, E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company grew from a gunpowder mill into one of the world’s great chemical concerns. The family’s cultural legacy, though, goes far beyond Wilmington’s Hagley Museum (site of the original powder works): The du Ponts are also responsible for the historical Winterthur mansion, nationally renowned Longwood Gardens, and decades of multigenerational support for the Philadelphia Orchestra, among other philanthropic causes. (Elise, wife of Pete, the two-term Delaware governor who ran for president in 1988, sits on the Orchestra board. Also of note: Her son, Eleuthère “Thère” du Pont, served as CFO and president of Wawa for a time.) As a group, the family’s fortune is valued at $14.3 billion. Family drama: The most infamous du Pont, John, shot and killed Olympic wrestler Dave Schultz in 1996 at his estate in Newtown Square; he was played by Steve Carell in the 2014 film Foxcatcher.
Published as “Dynasties” in the December 2016 issue of Philadelphia magazine.