In this series, I’ve often written about people who were “pillars” of the Youngstown community. Many of them are well-known: Joseph Butler, Volney Rogers, Esther Hamilton, and P. Ross Berry are a few who come to mind. In the course of writing about Youngstown, I’ve discovered many others, some whose names I never knew before I came across them, and many lived extraordinary lives of work, community leadership, and service. Marvin H. Itts was such an individual.
One of the ways I get article ideas is to look up Youngtown Vindicators from fifty or more years ago. There was an article in the November 7, 1971 Vindicator titled “Itts Heads Heart Fund Drive.” I was intrigued because one of my junior high school teachers was Mr. Itts, and I was curious if there was any connection but as far as I could tell, there was not. Marvin H. Itts had been tapped to head up the Heart Association funding drive with a goal of raising $151,000. His obituary notes that he was “very successful” in this drive. He was also considered the ideal leader for the campaign as a walking example of the advances in heart surgery. In 1969 he experienced a series of heart attacks and in 1970, underwent a seven hour open-heart surgery considered a “textbook case.” Subsequently he return to complete health and resumed a normal schedule of work and philanthropic activity.
He was born in Youngstown June 15, 1913. His parents were Israel and Esther Sterns Itzkovitz (he obviously shortened his name). I could not find out much about his youth. His obituary suggests he was a lifetime member of Brandeis University, suggesting he may have attended there. He married Sara Lazar and subsequently founded Saramar Aluminum Co. in 1938. The company, of which he was chairman at the time of his death, specialized in aluminum extrusion and aluminum fencing. They eventually moved to Warren, Ohio. In 1964, Governor James Rhodes and 1,000 guests attended an open house for a new 250,000 square foot plant, formerly occupied by Mullins Manufacturing-Youngstown Kitchens. It was noted at the time they had an annual payroll in excess of $2 million.
While Saramar was the business for which he was most known, he was engaged in a number of other ventures including Bel-Park Inc., a medical center on Belmont Avenue, he was a partner in the renovation of the Realty Building, he built Union Square on Belmont, and Marvin Itts & Sons owned several realty firms. Also, he is listed as an incorporator (in 1955) of Prime Windows, Inc. of Youngstown.
Marvin H. Itts was also involved extensively in service both to community causes in Youngstown and with the Jewish community. The photo above represents his appointment to a community college commission to establish a community college within what was then Youngstown University, occupying two buildings. He was one of Esther Hamilton’s “candy butchers,” winning top place in 1954. He served on the St. Elizabeth Hospital board as well as heading up the aforementioned Heart Fund Drive in 1971-72. He participated in Kiwanis, the Youngstown Symphony Society, and raised funds for scholarships and the library at Youngstown State, and for the mental health building at North Side Hospital.
He invested his leadership and philanthropic gifts in both local and national Jewish causes. In 1953, he served as chairman of the building campaign fund of the Youngstown Jewish Federation, leading the effort to raise $65,000 for the new Jewish Community Center. He also led efforts to establish Heritage Manor, a Jewish home for the aged, serving as its first president from 1965 to 1972.
In 1973, the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York awarded Marvin H. Itts and seven other prominent Jewish leaders “prominent in business, civic and Jewish religious affairs” the Louis Marshall Memorial Award. In 1974 he received the B’nai B’rith’s Guardian of the Menorah award. His friend, Attorney Murray A. Nadler noted he was “a great humanitarian whose work knew no barriers of race, creed, or religion, whose titles were meaningful and earned, not empty.”
Marvin H. Itts died at 1:37 a.m. on August 10, 1978 at University Hospital in Cleveland. He once again had suffered heart ailments for which he was undergoing treatments. He lived only to 65 years of age but led a full and useful life, building a number of profitable businesses and leading philanthropic efforts that benefited not only the Jewish community but the wider community in the sectors of culture, education, health care, and social need. He is worthy of the honorific “of blessed memory” not only within the Jewish community but among all of us who call Youngstown home.
To read other posts in the Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown series, just click “On Youngstown.” Enjoy!
6 thoughts on “Growing Up in Working Class Youngstown — Marvin H. Itts”
Great story. He was a pillar of the community. Worked closely with my Father at the Jewish Federation. I worked at Saramar for a couple of summers while in college and then moved on to Youngstown Sheet and Tube for the balance of my college years. Youngstown was a great place to live, work and have fun and you bring that out on a regular basis. Alan
Alan S. Engel 4802 Bilandon Rd. Louisville, KY 40241 502-419-8815 (Cell) 502-228-3982
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Thanks for sharing your personal connection with Marvin Itts and for your kind words!
I met Marvin Itts a time or two when Saramar Aluminum had moved to Warren. He had probably financed the candy sales drive for Warren Little League Baseball. My dad was the president of one of Warren’s four leagues. I remember going to his office to get the candy for the candy sales with my dad. Mr. Itts seemed like a nice man. At this time I was 11 or 12 years old, about 1964 or 65.
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Rick, thanks for sharing your memories!
Marvin Itts was my grandfather. I was only nine years old when he passed, but I still have some wonderful memories of him holding me in his lap singing to me. I know to everyone else in Youngstown he was a great businessman and a wonderful philanthropist, but to me he will always be Grandpa Marv.
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Jonathan, thank you for sharing these special memories. I’ve discovered since I posted this that everyone who knew him describes him as a wonderful and generous person.