Obituaries » Leon "Lee" Permut
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January 3, 1923 - October 30, 2017
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Lee Permut, born in the Bronx, New York, passed away at the age of 94 on October 30, 1923. He will be laid to rest on November 2, 2017, at Hillside Memorial Park, joining his beloved eldest son, Arthur who predeceased him in 1976. Lee is survived by his wife of 67 years, Pearl, son David, daughter Paula (Steven Mines) and his granddaughters Ashley (Brad Moore) and Rebecca (Lee Nunley).
Born to immigrant parents in the Bronx, the first-generation Lee was a model of the entrepreneurial spirit that brought so many to America; his Bronx toughness and street smarts gave him the drive to succeed. When dreaming, it’s said “the sky is the only limit.” But that wasn’t good enough for Lee, so he took up aeronautics at a young age, so that he could reach even beyond the sky. .
Lee’s early fascination with aviation led him to Manhattan Aviation School. After he graduated, he put his skills to use in service to his country, working for the Department of the Navy in Pensacola, Florida; shortly thereafter he enlisted, at the age of 19, to serve in WWII. After the war, he continued to apply his special skills for his country, playing a part in President Kennedy’s Race to Space Program. In the late 1950s, Lee and his business partner formed Aerotest Laboratories, based in New York, a diagnostic and component-testing company that had many government contracts. The company worked on Mercury-Redstone 3, the first manned space mission with Alan Shepard. With that success, the company was acquired by Ogden Corp. in the 1960s, and Lee was installed as the Executive Vice President in charge of aerospace and environmental testing. As Ogden expanded to the West Coast, Lee moved his family from New York to Los Angeles in 1966. The family maintained homes in Holmby Hills and Palm Springs. Lee retired from Ogden in 1980, and began the next phase of his career: entrepreneur. He financed and marketed numerous companies such as Magic Cuts, a low-cost chain of hair salons based in Toronto; Burgle Bungle, one of the first anti-theft device manufacturers for cars; and the National Payphone Co., which owned and operated payphones nationwide. He had a successful career in real estate as well. With his business partner Lance Garver, he formed Hotel Brokers USA, a company that specialized in the sale of hotels.
In addition to his numerous business pursuits, Lee had many leisure and philanthropic passions. He had a lifelong love of tennis, was an active member of the legendary Palm Springs Racquet Club and subsequently the Palm Springs Tennis Club.
Later in life, Lee discovered his passion for art. He learned the fine art of marble sculpture and spent much of his time in Positano, Italy, working on such pieces as the 10-foot-tall white-alabaster marble water sculpture of dolphins, which was exhibited at the La Quinta Sculpture Park and now stands at the entry to the Casa Señora development in Palm Springs. His artwork has been shown in numerous galleries and is currently on display at Classic Artforms Gallery in Los Angeles.
In 1976, Lee and his wife designated the Arthur Permut Memorial Fund at Angel View, for sports activities, in the name of his eldest son, Arthur, who died tragically in a car accident caused by a drunk driver. While living in Palm Springs, he volunteered at the Lifeline Department at Desert Hospital, installing patient-support technology. Lee was an active member in the Rocket Society starting in the 1950s and subsequently was a member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics in the 1960s. In 1995 he began volunteering as a docent at the Palm Springs Aeronautics Museum so he could impart his love of space on to future generations.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles at www.alzgla.org or call Jennifer Holloway at 323.930.6246.