Mervyn D. Lentz, husband of the late Wilma (Maier) Lentz, passed away Wednesday morning, February 16, 2011 at his home in West Hartford. He was a Director at Brescome Barton Inc., the company he presided over for more than 60 years. Merv was loved and respected by his immediate and business family.
Born in Newark, New Jersey, he received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (1943) and later a bachelor’s in commerce at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1948). He later completed the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Association, distinguished as the chairman of the “Style of Leadership” syndicate (1964). He served as a U.S. Navy Lieutenant and Chief Engineering officer during Word War II on two ships in the Pacific before joining his father in the wine and spirits industry. His father, Sam Lentz, a pioneer distiller and founder of Browne Vintners Company, which later merged with Seagram’s, bought Brescome Distributors in Hartford, in 1949. Upon his father’s retirement, Merv became president of the company in 1967. In 1995 his company merged and he became Chairman of the Board of Brescome Barton Inc. A member of the Wine & Spirits Association of America (WSWA) for over 40 years, he served on its Long Range Planning Committee, and served on the board of the Licensed Beverage Industries, Inc for many years. He also belonged to the Wine & Spirits Association of Connecticut (WSWC). Despite being an aggressive participant in the alcohol beverage industry, Merv was equally aggressive and devoted an enormous amount of time and energy promoting moderation and responsible drinking programs to decrease the incidence of alcohol abuse. As chairman of the “Know Your Limits” program committee of WSWC in 1972, Merv launched the first such program in the U.S.; conceived by the wine and liquor industry to educate the adult public to recognize the danger inherent in driving drunk. Since the Connecticut launch, 24 other states successfully conducted similar programs. For his efforts, Merv accepted an award for outstanding public safety by Governor Meskill. In 1975 he was appointed Commissioner of Connecticut Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission by Governor Grasso. Merv’s association in helping educate the public was a business passion. He was known nationally for his efforts to promote programs with the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), The Century Council, National Association of Beverage Retailers, National License Beverage Association, National Alcohol Beverage Control Association, Training for Intervention Procedure (TIPS), among others. Active in community affairs, Merv was a director and board member of Homeward Bound Foundation, Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce Aviation Commission, Greater Hartford Jewish Community Center, Mount Sinai Hospital Association, Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau, The Blue Ridge Center, Boneski Treatment Center, Jewish Family Service, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai Birth, National Jewish Hospital in Denver, and Brandeis University. He was an original member of the development committee to found the University of Hartford. Awards and accolades too numerous to list are highlighted with, Time Magazine Distinguished Wholesaler Award (1978) and the U.S. Business Administration Small Business Person of the Year (1992). Four scholarships were awarded in Merv’s name by National Distillers Scholarship Foundation.
Merv’s social circle included Congregation Beth Israel, Tumblebrook Country Club, Hartford Tennis Club, and The Hartford Club. Merv’s loves were family, food, politics, tennis, Chapel Hill sports, friends, and photography.
Merv is survived by his two children Steve Lentz and wife Amy of Woodbridge, and Alison Shlien and husband Paul of Farmington, 4 grandchildren: Benjamin Lentz (Boston, MA), Stephanie Lentz (Canton), Zachary Shlien (Boston, MA), and Alexander Shlien (Farmington); and a sister, Rita Freedman of Boca Raton, FL.
Services will be held on Friday, February 18,2011 at 12:00 Noon in the Chapel of the Weinstein Mortuary, 640 Farmington Ave., Hartford with Rabbi Michael Pincus officiating. Interment will follow in the Fairview Cemetery, West Hartford. A memorial period will be observed at his home 34 Avondale Rd., West Hartford immediately following the interment and Saturday from 5-8 p.m. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Greater Hartford Jewish Community Center, 333 Bloomfield Ave., West Hartford 06117. For further information, directions, or to sign the guest book for Merv, please visit online at www.weinsteinmortuary.com/funerals.cfm