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1966-1983: The Footprints of a Peerless Philantrhopist

Al would begin his second career in real estate, specifically building and leasing through Herzstein Investments and between 1965 and 1997. After a visit with his personal banker who urged Al to donate his money in a big way, the Foundation was started so that he could leave his footprints behind.

Al would begin his second career in real estate, specifically building and leasing through Herzstein Investments and between 1965 through 1997 he acquired over one million square feet of warehouse space, all of it debt free.

During a visit with his personal banker, Pete Rayrauer, he was told, “Herzstein, you have no children, and you are going to have a lot of money. Don’t give or throw away $1,000 here and $1,000 there, but do it big and put your name on it, and that will be your footsteps that you will leave behind.” Mr. Herzstein later said, “It made a dent in my head, and I remembered it.” In giving, his guideline was, “If you’re going to do something, make it big and make it count.” “I had no children,” Mr. Herzstein often explained, and the Foundation was started so that he could leave his footprints behind.

Throughout their marriage, Al maintained his ties to Temple Emanu El while Ethel remained a member of the congregation of Fulshear United Methodist Church from 1910 until her death in 1983. Mr. Herzstein once reported that “We went to religious services twice a year. Once a year Ethel made us go to church at Christmas, and once a year Ethel made us go to Temple!” In 1974, after seeing her termite-infested church in disrepair, she approached Al and said that she wanted to build a new church for the congregation. Mr. Herzstein met with the pastor about putting up a church. “The pastor was delighted, his face full of smiles.” When Mr. Herzstein said he wanted their name put on the church, the smile left the pastor’s face. “We can’t do that,” the pastor told Al. “That is no problem. No name, no church.” Later, the pastor’s supervisor asked Al to lunch. The famous conversation went, “I understand you’d like to build a church.” “That is right,” Mr. Herzstein replied to the pastor's supervisor. “I understand that you want to have your name on it.” “That is right.” Today, a plaque hanging in the vestibule of the Fulshear United Methodist Church bears the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Charitable Foundation inscription.

Ethel and Al enjoyed themselves, but did not live a jet set life in Houston’s society pages. When they were first married, they’d set out in a Model T for a camping trip, driving through Colorado and New Mexico, and pitching their tent in someone’s pasture. Later in life they would enjoy travel again, particularly cruises.

Ethel passed away in her sleep on May 6, 1983. The Herzsteins had been married for 56 years. It was an unexpected loss that Mr. Herzstein took very hard. Until his death, Mr. Herzstein would pull her picture out of his wallet, exclaiming, “This is finest woman that ever lived.” It was this love story that served as the catalyst for the work of The Herzstein Foundation. Pastor Garry Masterson reports that Mr. Herzstein, who lovingly referred to him as “Rabbi,” built two more church buildings in memory of Ethel.

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