Wyndmoor businessman, puzzle maven, 'collector,' dies


Michael Alan Savar, of Wyndmoor, a successful businessman, insatiable “collector” who was able to complete those nearly impossible Sunday New York Times crossword puzzles, and an accomplished athlete who remained close to his Central High School buddies, died peacefully at his home on Jan. 14 at age 81, surrounded by his wife and four children. 

Savar had kidney disease but chose not to have kidney dialysis, according to Art Slomine, a lifelong friend and teammate from Savar’s days playing on Central's varsity basketball team.

“His family traveled from Utah, Costa Rica and Maryland to be with Mike and (his wife) Esther for his final days,” Slomine said. “He and I remained very close over the years and shared many wonderful memories. Mike was a great person, extremely generous with his friends and family. I loved Mike and will miss him very much.”

Another lifelong friend, Phil Kaufman, said, “I was devastated and cried when I heard the news. My last words to Mike several years ago, in person, which at the time I did not realize were my last words to him, were that you were my best friend and will always be my best friend. He replied that he felt the same way. I loved Mike and will miss him. He was a generous and deeply caring person.”

Nelson Cohen, yet another lifelong friend, said, “If any one of my friends can be identified with the iconic words written by Paul Anka and popularized in song by Frank Sinatra, it is my friend, Mike. I have been lucky to be his friend. My thoughts now are with his wonderful family. He did it 'His Way.'”

Having known Mike since high school myself, I can add my own unforgettable memories of him. We kept in touch and exchanged many hundreds of emails and funny videos, often featuring animals, over the last decade. We were in touch at least once a week, and our last email exchange was Jan. 2. He never mentioned any health issues, so I was truly shocked when I learned that he had died of kidney disease.

The first son of Martin Savar and Charlotte Rudick Savar, Mike grew up in Mt. Airy and  graduated from Central in 1959. He was outstanding in basketball, baseball, swimming and diving and was a member of Amity AZA, a Jewish fraternal organization, in which he made so many lifelong friends. He graduated from Temple University with a degree in business administration in 1963 and served in the Army Reserve from 1963 to 1969.

According to his daughter, Heather Castle, Michael began working in the family vending business, Savar Brothers, founded by his father and uncle in 1938, while he was still in high school. “Michael was a born leader with a quick mind,” she said. “Through his dedication and hard work, he grew and operated the business for over 50 years until his retirement in 2013.

“Michael had a lifelong passion to collect,” she added. “He studied and mastered whatever piqued his interest. He had a keen eye for detail and quality, paired with an insatiable curiosity. It all began with a stamp collection at age 8. Among his prized collections were coins, Satsuma pottery, rare bank notes and friends. In his final collection, he turned to nature — planting, nurturing and admiring the beautiful Japanese maples that adorn his yard.”

According to Heather, Mike “loved to complete a New York Times crossword puzzle, meet friends for lunch, engage in political discussions and travel to the Caribbean and Florida with the love of his life, Esther. He was a proud grandpop who adored his eight grandchildren. Usually a man of few words, he became enthusiastic and descriptive when talking about his kids and grandkids. They were his pride and joy … He was a gourmet cook but also appreciated the simple pleasure of a hoagie or cheesesteak while watching the Eagles, Phillies and Sixers play.”

Saver had two children, Dana and Todd, from his first marriage. He married Esther Samuelson Walleck, his second wife, in 1985, becoming a stepfather to her two daughters, Jamie and Heather.

He is survived by his wife Esther; daughter Dana Roche, of Severna Park, Md.; son Todd Savar, of Saratoga Springs, Utah,; stepdaughters, Jamie Masterson, of Erdenheim, and Heather Castle of Mystic, Conn.; and eight grandchildren; brother Louis Savar, of Delray Beach, Fla.,; niece Elizabeth Savar Wardle and nephew Zachary Savar.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Tunnels to Towers, at t2t.org.

 Michael’s love for his family and friends was surpassed only by his love for fine food and drink.  He was a big hit at every dinner table—telling jokes, sharing food and sometimes befriending complete strangers.  In addition to his enthusiasm for dining out, he was a gourmet cook who seized the opportunity to cook for others. He was known for his perfect omelets, delectable osso buco, and amazing Thanksgiving dinners. There was no need for a special occasion. With ease and joy, he would elevate an ordinary meal into a memorable experience. 

He used his wisdom and compassion to help all around him. The clarity he had was rare, and people counted on him for an honest opinion. The advice he gave steered many people to a better course and a more meaningful life.

With dignity and bravery, he chose his final path.  He spent his last days at home in Wyndmoor sharing stories, saying goodbye to friends and family, listening to his favorite music and finding comfort in the love that surrounded him.