With our deepest sympathy, we’d like to share that long-time NCoC chairman Joseph H. Kanter passed away peacefully last week at the age of 97. He joined NCoC as the board chairman in the 1970’s, succeeding former Supreme Court Justice Tom Clark, and continued his involvement for decades. 

He demonstrated his commitment in multiple ways including extraordinary philanthropic efforts – Joe was the largest individual donor to NCoC in its history.

It is an honor to carry out his legacy through the Joseph H. Kanter Citizen of the Year award which was given to all first-time poll workers last week for their efforts in the 2020 Election.

He led an extraordinary life. During World War II, he served in the 102nd infantry and landed on Omaha Beach. Then he fought through France, Holland, and Germany. After his father’s death while Kanter was serving overseas, he returned to his native Alabama and ran his family’s general store. He formed a company to build veterans’ housing and became one of the largest apartment builders and “new town” developers in the United States.

In 1953, he married singer/songwriter Nancy Reed. They settled in Cincinnati and later developed the city of Forest Park, Ohio. Joe entered the banking business as the owner of the National Bank of Florida; he later purchased and ran Guarantee Savings and Loan financial operations throughout California. 

He also started a movie production company; among other films, he produced Academy Award nominated “Ironweed,” starring Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep. Joe was also a lifelong amateur tennis player – winning several singles tournaments in the United States and in Europe. 

His patriotic vision catalyzed the National Conference on Citizenship in the 1970’s and beyond. As a philanthropist, Kanter was a longtime advocate of efforts to improve public health and civic engagement. In 1964, he established the Joseph H. Kanter Family Foundation; since then, it has supported educational institutions, physical fitness initiatives, health outcomes research, and other charitable endeavors. 

He is survived by his sister, Shirley Osband; by his wife of over 67 years, Nancy; by his children, Harry, Hillary (married William), Mary, and John (married Staci); and by his five grandchildren. NCoC will deeply miss Joseph H. Kanter and his work to make our communities and country thrive. We look forward to continuing his legacy through the Citizen of the Year award and advancing civic engagement in America. Years after he stepped down as NCoC Chairman, he participating in a board meeting to discuss various programs. Introducing himself to new board members, he said he was often described as a businessman, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and movie producer. But, he told the board, he liked a simpler description — “Patriot.”

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