SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – The Savannah community is remembering a legendary couple that died last week after testing positive for COVID-19.
Arnold and Lorlee Tenenbaum were fixtures in the community for decades. Their philanthropy helped artistic, cultural, educational and historical organizations throughout the city of Savannah.
“We are known as the Hostess City of the south and it’s because of people like him,” said former Savannah Mayor Edna Branch Jackson, who served with Arnold Tenenbaum on the VISION 20/20 committee.
Jackson says the Tenenbaums were crucial when she taught at Savannah State University and needed money to fund student scholarships.
“He always said ‘yes,'” she said.
Both Tenenbaums have an honorary degree from the Savannah College of Art and Design.
Arnold Tenenbaum was the chair of VISION 20/20. In January 1992, he explained his vision to make Savannah a better place to live, saying “…we have more in common to unite us than differences to separate us.”
Ann Tenenbaum — one of the couple’s four children — says his love for everyone and his zest for life sums him up well.
“I found a little note in one of my dad’s notebooks and it said ‘values,'” she said. “He had written down his values and stuck it in a book and it was: kindness, engagement, civility, and responsibility. It was really sweet.”
Ann Tenenbaum says her father was chair of the Georgia and Savannah Chambers of Commerce. He was also involved in the Savannah Historical Foundation.
He jumpstarted a fundraising effort to open the Jepson Center for the Arts and was a key force in the fight to save the Lucas Theater in the ’90s.
Tenenbaum served as chair of the United Way of the Coastal Empire from 1980-1983. Current Chair Toby Moreau says he left a lasting impact on the organization.
“Those corner stones that they laid out continue today and are very much what we have followed,” said Moreau.
Lorlee Tenenbaum was particularlly proud of her involvement in starting a long-lasting food bank in Savannah, according to her daughter.
The couple passed away about 6 months after their 60th wedding anniversary. Ann Tenenbaum says the couple was close and deeply loved each other.
“We’re all going through feeling okay because it doesn’t feel like anything happened, to feeling stunned by the weirdness of the world we’re living in and the new situation of having no parents anymore,” said Ann Tenenbaum.
She says she will remember her parents now as a rare force of authenticity that lives on in the rest of the family.
“We’re obviously quite sad because there is a big hole in our lives,” said Ann Tenenbaum.
“This community will never see another Arnold Tenenbaum,” said Jackson.
It is unclear whether COVID-19 was the cause of Lorlee Tenenbaum’s death. Ann Tenenbaum says pre-existing medical conditions may have contributed.
Memorial services for the couple have not been finalized.