The longtime Pikesville resident, who was 66, spent his final hours at Gilchrist Hospice Care of Howard County.
Witman was born in Baltimore and grew up in Baltimore County.
“He never left,” Witman’s wife, Helaine Witman, said with a laugh. “He was just a Baltimore guy. He really liked it here.”
Helaine, Witman’s second wife, made it clear that the loyalty of her husband transcended his passion for his hometown. This was a theme both of various discussions with his friends and work associates, as well as that of the eulogy presented by Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Rabbi Elissa Sachs-Kohen to a packed audience at Sol Levinson and Bros. on Monday, Oct. 10.
“Marc had a wonderful sense about walls and the floors,” Sachs-Kohen proclaimed. “But more importantly, he cared about the people who would come and go, the people who live in the home.”
“His friends, his clients, his work colleagues were family,” Helaine clarified.
“Everybody felt part of that inner circle of love. He devoted himself to service, really. If that was as a husband, father, Jew, friend, confidant or real estate person, he did it 100 percent. And everybody felt that.”
Helaine said she felt lucky to be married to the man she wedded 15 years ago come this Nov. 4. She will always be proud to have been his wife, she added.
Witman earned his bachelor’s in business from the University of Maryland, College Park after graduating from Milford Mill High School in 1968. A member of his high school golf team, Witman was an avid golfer throughout his life.
“He had a lot of happy moments on the golf course,” Helaine said. “And I was happy that he had so much pleasure in that.”
“The last game he played was the best of his career. So he really went off on a high note,” she said.
Marc was probably the most ethical person I’ve ever known.” — Pat Windisch
Though Helaine went on to say Witman’s Saturday morning games of golf were some of the only rare instances in which he took time off from his work — in line with Sachs-Kohen’s loving jibe about Witman’s renown professional ambition — she was sure to explain that “we never felt like he wasn’t around, because he had such a presence.”
“He never took time away from the family,” Helaine said. “He tried to mesh time so nobody felt left out. He made ‘more Marc Witman’ so nobody had less of him. That was some balancing act, I’m sure.”
Witman first became seriously enmeshed in the real estate industry that would become the main passion of his work life in the late 1980s, working at Merrill Lynch, Meredith and Long and Foster real estate firms before co-founding Strata Group in 2007.
He finally ended up a partner at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Homesale Realty in Bare Hills.
Becoming president of the Greater Baltimore Board of Realtors in 1999 and earning enumerable professional awards including the 2016 Greater Baltimore Board’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Witman was forever the consummate gentleman, as fair and worthy a colleague as he was competitor, according to both Sachs-Kohen’s eulogy and testimony by various professional associates.
“He was incredibly honest,” said Berkshire Hathaway partner and longtime friend Michael Yerman. “He never exaggerated. If two people came, it was ‘two.’ It wasn’t ‘20.’ I was really intrigued by his genuine sense of fair play — for everyone. He was a master of it. That’s what you’re going to hear from anyone talking about him.”
His sense of fairness was something that went far beyond Witman’s professional life. Yerman added that “he was a great champion for the downtrodden, for the poor, for the people who didn’t have anything. There wasn’t a cause he didn’t give to or believe in.”
Indeed, Yerman remembers that after Witman was diagnosed in April 2015, “he wasn’t ‘woe is me,’ he wasn’t angry. It was always about fighting this thing. It was an 18-month story of heroics.”
Witman would in fact go on to support the Lustgarten Foundation in helping to find a cure for pancreatic cancer. Witman additionally participated in a fundraising effort through the organization that involved a walk as recently as April 17, 2016 in Westchester, N.Y. Witman and his oldest daughter, Samara Sisserman, helped to personally raise $15,000, with the walk overall raising $500,000.
“He really believed in people; he wanted to help,” Yerman said.
And people certainly believed in Witman too.
“Marc was really loved in the real estate community,” Yerman said. “Everybody wanted to do something with Marc because they knew he would get it done properly.”
“If I could build the perfect member, I would use Marc for the building blocks,” Maryland Association of Realtors CEO Chuck Kasky said. “He was always available. He never missed meetings. He was prepared. He didn’t talk a lot — he listened more than he spoke. And when he spoke, it was always from a place of thoughtfulness and respect, even for people with whom he disagreed.”
“There’s an old saying: ‘We can disagree without being disagreeable.’ Marc embodied that.”
As a member of the association’s semi-independent ad hoc RPAC (Realtors Political Action Committee) for five years and its chairman for two, Witman was tasked with navigating the tempestuous waters of the partisan political sea in support of neither Democrats nor Republicans specifically, but rather those elected officials aiding issues affecting realtors.
“I worked with Marc on this for five years,” Kasky said. “And that’s what I remember best about him: how skillful he was at that.”
“There wasn’t a nicer person around,” Kasky continued. “Never lost his temper, level-headed. All those values you would want. This is a trade association, so these are all volunteers. And Marc always gave of his time and himself.”
Perhaps it’s for such reasons that Sachs-Kohen was sure to quote from Witman’s favorite song, one that continues to stick in the mind of Helaine as she said and which she agreed perfectly encapsulates the heart of this man who loved and was loved by so many.
“Don’t take for granted the love this life gives you,” sings Tim McGraw in his “Humble and Kind.” “When you get where you’re going, don’t forget turn back around/And help the next one in line/Always stay humble and kind.”
“Marc was probably the most ethical person I’ve ever known,” said assistant Pat Windisch. “I learned so many things from him over the course of 22 years. I lost more than just a boss, so to speak. I lost a very dear friend, almost like a brother.”
“Marc was very pleased with his life,” Helaine said. “He said he had a good life, and for someone so young, to have said that, even in the face of this horrible illness, it gives me great comfort. He had no regrets. He loved fully and totally and got it back in return.”
Witman is survived by his wife Helaine Witman (née Boslow); daughters Samara Sisserman and Shana Witman; stepchildren Jane Frankel Sims and Devon Silberstein; and grandchildren Jordan Sisserman, Benjamin, Madeline and Juliet Sims; and Emma and Drew Silberstein.