Esther Massry, 90, matriarch of philanthropic family

Esther Massry, 90, matriarch of philanthropic family

Philanthropists Morris and Esther Massry during the Massry Center for the Arts fifth anniversary celebration at the College of Saint Rose in April 2013. Morris Massry died in 2018. (Photo by Joe Putrock/Special to the Times Union)

Philanthropists Morris and Esther Massry during the Massry Center for the Arts fifth anniversary celebration at the College of Saint Rose in April 2013. Morris Massry died in 2018. (Photo by Joe Putrock/Special to the Times Union)

Joe Putrock

ALBANY — Esther Massry, who along with her late husband became one of the Capital Region's most generous philanthropists, has died at the age of 90.

Massry died Tuesday evening at Samaritan Hospital in Troy after a brief illness, according to her son Norman Massry. 

The widow of Morris "Murray" Massry saw the family's business grow through the 1950s and '60s from a Troy children's clothing store called the Janie Shop — named for one of their five daughters — into Tri-City Rentals, a residential and commercial real estate empire.

"They were a team in the retail business," said Norman Massry. As his father's real estate business developed, Esther Massry turned to raising their six children.

"If you talked to anyone, they would tell you she was instantly loved by anyone," her son said. "She had a way of meeting and being around somebody and devoting herself to that person." 

Born in Brooklyn — and like her future husband the child of Sephardic Jewish immigrants — Esther Massry was courted by her husband in what their son called "a fairy-tale romance" that included a pursuit to Florida. 

"This was the one for him," Norman Massry said of his father's determination. They married in 1949, and initially moved to Saratoga Springs before settling in Troy. The couple moved to Loudonville in their latter years.

The Massry family's giving has supported dozens of organizations and institutions, including Albany Medical Center and St. Peter's Health Partners, Unity House in Troy and the Daughters of Sarah Nursing Center in Albany. Among several regional Jewish organizations they supported, the couple were members of Temple Beth El in Troy.

In 2014, the Massry family donated $5.25 million to the state University at Albany to fund various programs and infrastructure related to its business program — including the Massry Community Fellows program, which supports students' work with regional nonprofits. That gift was the family's largest single donation.

An art gallery at the College of Saint Rose bears her name, and is located within the Massry Center for the Arts.

The family grew to include 11 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren. Norman Massry said that his parents most important legacy was not simply their philanthropy itself, but the continuation of a spirit of giving carried down through future generations.

Morris Massry died in 2018 at age 89 following a cruise to Israel — the sort of globe-trotting that the family took part in annually. 

"Morris and Esther’s partnership and bond served as an example for all to follow," his obituary noted. "Morris did everything for Esther and Esther did everything for Morris."

Norman Massry said his mother remained strong after the loss of her husband of almost seven decades.

"She gave her family the gift of herself," he said.