Edward Attman, founder of the Acme Paper & Supply Co., Inc. and longtime member of Chizuk Amuno Congregation, passed away Feb. 2 at Sinai Hospital. He was 95.
A noted contributor to Jewish communal causes, he was equally devoted to his faith and his family.
“He was the patriarch of the family,” his son, Ron Attman, 68, said. “He set the tone for us, taught us how to live a good and productive life and not only to provide for yourself, but for the people in the community. That’s a big part of his legacy.”
Attman, the son of Attman’s Deli founders Harry and Ida Attman, was the first in his family to attend college, and he cultivated his work and family ethic early in life. Family lore identifies his mother as encouraging him to go into the paper industry because of her interaction with vendors at the deli.
According to Ron, Ida said to her son, “You know the person who sells those paper products, he’s always dressed nice, and he has a product that doesn’t spoil. And everybody needs it.”
Since Attman started the business in 1946, up “until he was 95, he came into the office every day,” another son, Steven Attman, 59, said, adding that his father always arrived early and stayed until some of his last employees left at 5:30 p.m.
But he came in a bit later on “Tuesdays and Thursdays, when he went to the LifeBridge gym and worked out with a trainer,” Ron said.
Attman was also a force to be reckoned with at trade shows, pounding miles of aisles for hours, dressed in a suit but sporting tennis shoes. Even his grandchildren, some of whom work at Acme Paper, had a hard time keeping pace.
“He had a dignity to him that really impressed us,” said another son, Gary Attman, 61. “He was always dressed in a jacket and a tie. He didn’t take short cuts. It wasn’t his way.”
“Yes, he had standards, and he wasn’t shy about expressing what they were,” echoed Steven. “He was a teacher, and he didn’t have any hesitation saying to his kids or grandkids exactly what he was thinking in a way that was coming from his heart and what was in our best interests to learn. And we never took it in a bad way. We understood our father was always trying to make us better men.”
As he grew his company, “my father would work late every night,” during the week, said Steven. “But on Shabbos we’d be all six of us. We’d have dinner together, it was a wonderful time for us. Then every Saturday we’d go to Chizuk Amuno … then we’d all come home for lunch together. So we had a lot of time together as a family.”
Devotion to Judaism as well as instilling a strong sense of faith in his children was important to Attman.
“We all went to Talmudical Academy, then went to Baltimore Hebrew College to extend our Jewish education and foundation. It was important to our parents, and it was one of the greatest things they ever gave to us,” Steven said.
Even after starting his own business, Attman continued to work on Saturday nights at the deli. But being a father and husband was just as important. He always managed to balance work, life and his Jewish faith, his sons said.
“I just remember every Sunday was so special to me because during the week my mother kept us up to see him coming home every night,” Ron said. “But Sunday we really got to spend time with him. He’d bring lox and bagels home, bagels he got right out of the oven” from the deli.
Sunday was also time for daytrip drives and dinners out, said son David Attman, 65.
Like any true Baltimorean, Attman’s devotion extended to sports. At Baltimore Colts games in the 1950s and ’60s, the whole family attended, even though Attman held only four seats, which were conveniently located.
“The usher would have an extra fold-up seat available” at the end of the aisle, Gary recalled. “So there were five chairs and six of us, and my father would carry one of us, either Steven or me, over the turnstile, and you know, he was a local guy; I think he knew the guy at the turnstile and they’d say ‘OK.’ Then we’d have a fantastic lunch — hot chocolate, and it was the best food we ever ate — like tuna sandwiches and Fritos and cookies — we just enjoyed it so much.”
In 1958, “my father took David and me to the All-Star Game — the first time they had a [Major League baseball] All-Star Game [in Baltimore], Ron recalled. “Then later that year, when the Colts played the Giants in the NFL championship game — it was the first sudden-death game and its called the Greatest Game Ever Played — he took us to New York for that game.”
To make up for lost Saturday date nights, Attman would take his wife out on Mondays and Thursdays; they might go bowling or to a movie.
His love of family grew as the family did. He welcomed daughters-in-law with open arms and was particularly devoted to grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“One of his greatest pleasures was we’d go out to lunch (from work) just about every day with three generations of his family,” said Ron. “It was so meaningful for his grandsons to be able to spend that kind that time with their grandfather and know him as a person, not just as a grandfather.”
Attman had an extremely close relationship with his brothers, the late Seymour Attman and also Leonard Attman, who is founder and chairman of the board of FutureCare Health.
I “talked to him virtually every night,” for decades, Leonard, 81, said. “Don’t let the brothers be torn apart by anyone or anything,” Leonard remembers his parents insisting, especially his mother.
“They were so close,” David said. “And we learned what a brother relationship should be by watching my father and his brothers.”
Another gift handed down from Harry and Ida was the importance of tzedakah.
As a businessman, Attman “would get solicitation letters from yeshivas, rabbis, people who might have a medical or financial problem,” Ron said. “A couple of times a year he’d get all the letters together and send each person a check. It may not have been a lot of money, but he sent them all something.”
Attman generously supported The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. He also was a longtime supporter of the Jewish National Fund, Chizuk Amuno, Israel Bonds, Baltimore City College and Talmudical Academy, and there is a scholarship program in memory of his wife at University of Baltimore. Shoresh’s Attman Village is a project sponsored by Attman and his brothers, Seymour and Leonard, to perpetuate “their belief in supporting an opportunity for every Jewish child to learn about their roots,” Steven said. The brothers believed that knowledge of legacy and heritage enriches life to an immeasurable degree.
“Dad was really the conscience of our family,” added David, “and the way he showed it the best was when my mom got sick. Dad took care of her, made sure she was dressed beautifully, had dinner with her every night, always addressed her appropriately and respectfully and that wasn’t easy for him,” physically or emotionally.
Attman was married to his wife, Mildred, for 66 years before she passed away in June 2012. They first met at his parents’ deli but it was in school at the University of Baltimore, where they really began their courtship, his sons said. Attman left to serve in World War II in North Africa, Sardegna and Italy as a sergeant in the Fifth Army Corps and the Signal Corps. Mildred wrote him regularly, and when he returned in June, 1945, Attman immediately called to ask her out.
But her father answered and told Attman that Mildred wasn’t home, Ron said, having heard the story from his father many times. “So my father said, ‘OK, I’ll call back at 6 o’clock.’ Mildred’s father tracked her down and said, “‘Eddie Attman’s going to call you at 6 o’clock, and you better be home!’” Ron said his father would finish the story saying, “He was a smart guy. He knew I would be good to her.”
“And they really were lovers, there was no lack of public displays of affection,” Gary said. “They kissed, they hugged, they held hands, and they taught us what a real marriage was and should be.”
“People say dad was lucky to have four sons and a nice family,” David said. “We always felt we were so very lucky to have him, to have this much time with him and to learn the lessons that he shared with us.”
Edward Attman is survived by sons Ronald (Stephanie) Attman, David (late Bobbi) Attman, Gary (Patricia) Attman and Steven (Lisa) Attman; brother Leonard (Phyllis) Attman; grandchildren Lisa (Adam) Palmer, Scott (Donna) Attman, Andrew (Julie) Attman, Keith (Alissa) Attman, Rachel Attman, Michael (Kori) Attman, Sarah Rose Attman, Carlyn Attman and Shelby Attman; and great-grandchildren Ryan Attman, Sydney Attman, Samuel Attman, Chase Palmer, Alexandra Palmer, Dylan Attman, Mollie Attman and Tyler Attman.
He was preceded in death by Mildred Attman (née Cohen) and brother Seymour Attman.