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David Silverberg, who spent 37 years at Wakefern Food Corp., eventually rising to the role of president, died on May 9 at the age of 91.
Born in 1921 in Russia, Silverberg immigrated with his family to New York in 1925. After majoring in city and regional planning at Cornell University and in economics at the University of Michigan, he taught economics at Wayne State University in Detroit. He began his career at Wakefern in 1950 as the assistant to the general manager and within his first year, established retail cooperative’s division for frozen food, then a new grocery category. He held many positions at Wakefern in the course of his career, including director of the special services and research and development divisions, general manager and, from 1971, president.
Silverberg played a key role in introducing electronic data processing, not just to Wakefern but also to the food industry as a whole. As well as establishing the co-op’s communications information services division, he was also the impetus behind the planning and construction of its extensive warehouse distribution center in Elizabeth, N.J. Silverberg also helped establish the health and beauty aid (HABA) and dairy divisions, and was instrumental in decentralizing the organization, a measure the contributed greatly to Wakefern’s long-term success. He retired from the company in 1987.
In addition to his busy tenure at Wakefern, Silverberg authored many articles on management organization and electronic data processing systems and procedures. He was also a guest lecturer at various universities and institutions, among them the Super Market Institute and the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute for Economic and Social Studies in Zurich, Switzerland.
“David’s contributions to Wakefern and to the industry at large are beyond compare,” noted Joe Sheridan, president and COO of Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern, whose members operates stores under the ShopRite banner. “We are where we are today because of the foundation he laid and the innovative ideas he brought to the company. We are and will remain forever indebted to him.”
Added Wakefern chairman and CEO Joe Colalillo: “Those of us who were fortunate enough to have known David over the years can never say enough about what he taught us and what we learned from him. His legacy at Wakefern will continue on.”
Beyond Wakefern, Silverberg supported many charitable causes, particularly Jewish organizations, and was a noted patron of the arts.
Silverberg’s survivors include his sister, Dorothy Silverberg; brother, Benjamin Silverberg; step-daughter, Dr. Sue Shapiro; sister-in-law, Prof. Sheila Kamerman; and several nieces and nephews. He was predeceased by his wife, Prof. Elaine Brody Silverberg, and his brother, Burt I. Sherman.
A memorial service took place May 11 at the Plaza Jewish Community Chapel in New York.