By BEN BAUGH
Mothers are the most amazing people. The gifts they provide are priceless, life, nurturing our souls, giving us maternal guidance that will resonate during the course of our lives. You are blessed if there is one such woman to help shape the course of your life, but imagine having five. Philip Glassman, the publisher of Ocala Magazine, is one such person, having five women whose impact continues to play a large role in his life.
His biological mother, Sharon Glassman; Gloria Oliver, who has known Glassman for the preponderance of his life, and who his mother refers to as her sister, and is the grandmother of Regas Woods (see pg. 38); Diane Curtis, a successful businesswoman and model, who’s now deceased, and was Sharon Glassman’s best friend, Francine Martin, an author, who has known Sharon Glassman since they were both 15 years of age and Jaye Katanick, all have had a profound influence on a man who has forged careers in business and entertainment most would be envious of, and it’s these women, composing a cadre of nurturing and encouraging maternal-figures, who offered support and shelter from a sometimes cruel and unforgiving world.
Sharon Glassman is known for her business acumen, starting her first business at age 17, the Miami-native owns and operates Ocala Family Medical Center. Dr. Robert Panzer, let Glassman take over the clinic, and she built the business into what it is today. She is a self-described workaholic.
“We have really good doctors, really good help and everybody that works there is fantastic,” said Sharon Glassman. “That’s my job to keep everybody happy.”
She owned and operated the second largest pig farm in the State of Florida, when she was living in Romeo, which the Glassman’s had purchased in 1969. Her indefatigable spirit, unflappable nature and outstanding sense of humor are attributes that have helped her succeed, even in the most challenging of environments. Sharon Glassman has been an outstanding role model, not only for her children, but for anyone who hopes to succeed in life.
Sharon Glassman’s business savvy, intellect and judgment have played a large role in her success. She has never been one to shy away from responsibility, possessing the capacity to flourish and thrive in a number of environments. A woman of tremendous strength and courage, Glassman went to court so she could obtain her real estate license at the age of 18, as she had two young children to support, demonstrating it was necessary for her livelihood. Sharon was also one of the originators of the vacation certificate, something that she did in her early 20s. She would meet her future husband when she was 24-years-old, and assumed responsibility of the direct sales force at Royal Palm Beach Colony, a position where she oversaw 300 employees, salesman, solicitors and drivers. Her organization skills and business acumen would be on display again, when she set up Royal Highlands, which was a 44,000-acre project, located on Highway 19, on the west coast of Florida.
In 1974, after leaving the position at Royal Palm Beach Colony, Sharon Glassman would take on the challenge of managing the pig farm in Romeo, one that eventually became the second largest in the state. And although the Glassmans didn’t know much about pig farming, Sharon was undeterred, and went to the University of Florida, studied what to do and then implemented those practices.
The Glassmans developed Cala Hills, adding to her long list of accomplishments.
“My mom was always leading by example,” said Philip Glassman. “My mom was such a shrewd businesswoman, and so successful in her own right. It’s kind of like you aspired to be like her due to her actions, and who she was as a business person and a philanthropist within the community and on the global level with the United Nations.”
Sharon Glassman acknowledged the influence that both Oliver and Curtis had on Philip’s life, the encouragement they gave him, helping to build his character and integrity, while creating a nurturing environment, where he could learn and grow.
“They loved Philip, no matter what he did,” said Sharon Glassman. “He could do no wrong.”
It’s been a life well-lived for Sharon Glassman, whose influence is far reaching, having been involved with projects in the United Nations, in New York City, for a milestone date, including one task that took nearly two years to complete. The experience saw Glassman making trips to New York City and Washington, D.C. on a routine basis.
“They brought me in, this one guy, I met him in Tarrytown (New York), with Bob Schwartz, who’s passed away,” said Sharon Glassman. “He and I go walking around, and he said, ‘You’re going to do the 40th anniversary for the U.N.’ I said, ‘What are you crazy. I live in Ocala.’ He said, ‘I don’t care where you live.’ He has me doing the 40th anniversary of the United Nations. The next thing you know, he said, ‘I want you to go to all of the organizations and reorganize them.’ I’m an organizer, that’s what I really do. I go into every agency and reorganized the whole damn place. Oh God, we had a lot of laughs.”
Glassman, and her husband Jerry, have been married for more than half a century, and she remains as enthusiastic about the relationship today as when they first met, providing their daughter Tammy and son Phillip with an example of the importance of marriage, the strength of commitment, and what it truly means to be in love. They had a daughter Kathy who passed away as a teenager.
“Jerry’s my best friend, and I have to tell you that we’ve been together forever,” said Sharon Glassman. “I’m crazy about him, and still am. We’re married over 50 years and we still like each other. That’s what’s wonderful. We call ourselves two lucky duckies.”
The Glassmans have been inseparable, having had the opportunity to travel all over the world, and have experienced life to the fullest. But their altruism hasn’t been restricted to just the local community.
“We’ve helped out a lot of people all over the world too, in little villages, where the only thing they couldn’t get was water, and they had to carry it five miles,” said Sharon Glassman. “I put in the wells and the pumps for those people. It was everywhere, but we got it done everywhere. If you get the right people, give them a few bucks, they get the work done, and that’s what we did.”
However, Sharon Glassman’s influence can be felt in Ocala, it was while she was the President of the Central Florida Community College Foundation, that her business acuity would forever change the complexion of the area’s landscape.
“The best thing we did over there was that we built the college housing,” said Sharon Glassman. “Nobody wanted to do it, and I got the banks together and was able to get them to commit to give us the money to do it.”
Sharon Glassman’s generosity carries with it a powerful legacy, and those she’s influenced and impacted will resonate with generations to come. She worked closely with Judy Wilson for a number of years making a significant difference in others’ lives. Glassman’s presence was felt almost immediately, taking the foundation from having $500,000 in its coffers and growing it to several hundred million. She served in the capacity of president for nearly a decade, said Philip Glassman. Sharon Glassman has been involved in many charitable endeavors at the local level.
“We did a lot of work for the central Florida community to get the land, and I donated my commissions for the college housing square project with John Curtis, and there were just a lot of philanthropy things that my mom did,” said Philip. “She got me involved, and that’s why I’m so keen in helping charities, the community and the underprivileged people in our own community. There was always a slogan, ‘Think Globally, but Act Locally.’ We help people right here in our own community.”
The Glassmans along with five others, created the Social Venture Network. The organization engendered opportunities by bringing businesses to realize that it was good for them to invest in socially-minded projects, within their communities, with the thought of, ‘Thinking globally and acting locally.’ The idea was embraced by large national companies, as they began to place an emphasis on social responsibility.
The Glassmans were also part of the doughnuts, a group composed of nearly 200 young people who had inherited substantial wealth. People from different organizations who were socially responsible, and wanted to engage in projects to help better humanity around the world, improving urban developments, putting in wells so people could have access to water, providing cataract operations in foreign countries, etc… would then meet with the Doughnuts, to share with them their ideas and the projects they were hoping to have funded by the participating investors, the Doughnuts, who would approve the projects.
Philip Glassman followed in his mother’s footsteps by joining a philanthropic organization, when he was just 19-years-old, starting the process that has found him being a leader within the community for decades.
“When George Albright, Sr. got me in to Kiwanis, we started the College Park Kiwanis Club, which was over in Cala Hills, and then later the Hilton,” said Philip Glassman.
Diane Curtis was a model having appeared on the cover of Vogue, and had a fitness spa in the Fountainbleau Hotel in Miami Beach. She was Sharon Glassman’s best friend.
“She had the first spa, exercise place in Ocala (To Your Health Spa),” said Sharon. “When she died, we all cried over that one.” Curtis passed away Dec. 18, 2009
However, Curtis also played a significant role in Philip Glassman’s life, as an encourager, providing him with emotional support even during the most challenging times
“She was always there for me in a sense, whether it was when I went off to college, or went off to Los Angeles to get my SAG license for acting, she would always send me a note or card that was uplifting,” said Philip. “If I had been turned down for five auditions, she would say, ‘You’re going to get the next one, stay and keep doing it.’ She pushed me through to be able to accomplish the things that I did in Hollywood and in my real estate career for that matter.”
Gloria Oliver and Sharon Glassman are family. Oliver has worked for Glassman for nearly 50 years, and the two are best friends.
“We call each other sisters now, she’s black and I’m white,” said Sharon Glassman. “She’s my older sister. She has 40-acres out by Dunnellon. She has a farm that she lives on, that’s been in her family for years. She has a brother that lives on the farm. She has a nephew who’s right there to help out with whatever she needs. She’s perfect. I talk to her every other day, and even though she’s not here (COVID-19 and social distancing). We still talk all the time because I have to call her to tell her I love her. We fight a lot too. We have good fights, like, ‘Did you leave the broccoli in the microwave?’ Serious stuff.”
Dr. Sheldon Katanick, Jaye’s husband, was like a second father to Philip Glassman, profoundly influencing him, in a way that continues to resonate. It was Katanick’s supportive nature and unwavering encouragement that made a significant impact in Philip Glassman’s life.
Francine Martin has known Philip Glassman since birth, having been friends with Sharon Glassman since the time the two women were 15-years-old. She’s seen Philip evolve into a man, and marvels at how wonderful of a father he is.
“He takes them (his children) everywhere, he’s with them all the time, he spends all the weekends with them.” said Martin. “Phil is like another son. My boyfriend and I hang around with him. He loves to cook, so we exchange recipes. He’s a terrific man and a good guy. He lived with my son Zach (Danny) DiLiberto on the west coast for a year (when the two were involved in the entertainment industry).”
A maternal figure doesn’t necessarily have to be your biological mother, but their nurturing ways, depth of caring and unconditional love are immeasurable, and often play a great role in our future.
“For me, I wouldn’t be the man I am today without my mother and father, and the influences they set for me and the guidance they’ve given me my whole life,” said Philip. “It’s a shame that some kids are born into life without a father or a mother, and aren’t given the guidance to help them along and be steered in the right direction.”