‘Visionary’ homebuilder Manny Barenholtz dies at 88

Manny Barenholtz
Manny Barenholtz

AURORA – Longtime local resident and homebuilder Manny Barenholtz, who Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin called “truly a visionary,” died March 10 and was buried March 12.

“He truly has made an indelible mark on Aurora in a number of neighborhoods,” said the mayor at City Council’s March 13 meeting. “His legacy certainly will remain strong. I send my deepest condolences to his family and many friends.”

Barenholtz, 88, had developed property in Aurora since the 1960s, beginning with the Four Seasons subdivision, and his signature achievement – Walden – stemmed from his vision of a community designed with nature as the focal point.

Walden celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, having been started in 1972. It was inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond setting.

When local residents Pam Mehallis and her father, Ray Jobin, nominated Barenholtz for the Aurora Chamber of Commerce’s person of the year in 2018, an award he won, she said:

“He has shown great care in maintaining the natural beauty of a vast portion of land in Aurora, which has worked for the betterment of our town. He is a true preservationist.

“He began to build into the natural landscape, disturbing as little vegetation as possible.”

She continued that Club Walden, with its championship golf course and three restaurants, has helped to create a unique atmosphere where people feel a part of something special while finding it easy to maintain privacy.

Barenholtz later developed Walden Farms, which Mehallis said “offers to its residents and those driving by a reminder of Aurora’s rural beginnings and a commitment to preserving our history.”

Mehallis said Barenholtz also built the Walden Country Inn, which was the first — and possibly only — lodging establishment in Ohio to receive the prestigious Five-Diamond rating from the AAA.

“Now, with the addition of a world-class spa, Aurora has become the destination of people from all around the world,” said Mehallis.

“Manny has kept his finger on the pulse of all his accomplishments while maintaining residency in Aurora, thereby showing strong leadership skills and civic awareness.”

Added Jobin in the nomination, “Walden is Manny’s signature achievement as he introduced a completely new way of life for its more than 500 families.

“We can only imagine the financial benefits the city and schools have received through property tax and personal income tax growth because of what Manny has accomplished.”

Chamber Executive Director Karen Bosley noted back then, “It isn’t an easy decision for the awards committee to choose when we get many nominations for each category. We’re lucky to have such dedicated people that have chosen to call Aurora home.”

Barenholtz is survived by his wife, Bonnie (Kane); children Devorah Barenholtz, Brett (Rachel) Barenholtz and Hedva (Don) Levy, and Barrie (Rob) Rosencrans and Bradley Dwork; and grandchildren Sydney and Jeremy Barenholtz, Noah and Jonah Levy, and Reed, Rob and Ryan Rosencrans.

According to some background given to the audience attending Barenholtz’s services, his son Brett noted his father was born in Cleveland, moved to the Bronx, New York, as a child, then back to Cleveland and graduated from Kent State University.

He built his first house at age 17 in Kent, served in the U.S. Army and eventually moved to Streetsboro, where he built homes in the Sunny Slopes subdivision. He then developed Four Seasons in Aurora and later Walden on 1,000 acres formerly owned by some of Aurora’s prominent families.

His son said he was one of the first developers to bury utility lines, use railroad ties for landscaping and build underpasses beneath roads for pedestrians. “Walden has received many awards over the years for its uniqueness and many amenities,” he said.

Services took place at the Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel in Cleveland Heights, with interment in Mount Olive Cemetery.

Contact the newspaper at auroraadvocate@gmail.com.

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: ‘Visionary’ homebuilder Manny Barenholtz dies at 88