"By Beauty Obsessed" Gilbert Donald "Gil" Waldman, 88, passed away peacefully at his Phoenix home surrounded by family on Saturday, June 6, 2020, following a long battle with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. A businessman, art collector, and philanthropist, he was highly regarded as a man of great character and integrity by all who knew him.
Gil was born September 7, 1931 in Hillside, New Jersey, and was raised in Albany, New York. He was the son of Elsie Brooks Waldman and Irving J. Waldman, who operated a small industrial laundry business in the Albany area. Gil attended Albany High School, then received Bachelor's and Master's degrees in political science from the New York State College for Teachers at Albany (now known as the University at Albany). He taught as a student teacher at several schools including Albany's Milne High School, and began working as an urban planner for the state of New York, while also pursuing a law degree at Albany Law School and serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve.
In 1957, Gil married Nancy Bellin, a graduate of Smith College who also lived in Albany. Immediately after their honeymoon, the couple moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where Gil's father had recently established a new industrial laundry business named Industrial Uniform and Towel Supply. While completing his law studies at the University of Tulsa Law School, Gil worked to build Industrial Uniform into a highly successful enterprise in Oklahoma and neighboring states. He also became active in industry trade organizations: The Institute of Industrial Launderers (IIL) and the Linen Supply Association of America (LSAA) (now known as Textile Rental Services Association (TRSA).
In 1984, Gil sold most of Industrial Uniform's operations to the publicly traded Cintas Corporation, retaining the remaining, relatively small linen supply portion of the business under the name Superior Linen Service. Over time, Superior Linen grew to become a major regional provider of textile rental services for the hospitality and health care industries. Gil's younger son, Douglas, joined Superior Linen in 1996 and now runs the company as its President.
In the meantime, Gil and Nancy became increasingly interested in the arts of the Southwest. They established a winter home in Scottsdale in 1986 and a summer home in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1989. They contributed both time and philanthropy to arts organizations, and provided works from their collection for numerous exhibitions at major museums and galleries. Gil's collecting continued after Nancy's death in 2011, and after his marriage to Phoenix art consultant, Christy Vezolles, in 2014. Gil was a founding trustee at Scottsdale's Museum of the West, and served on the national advisory councils of the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa and the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis.
Gil and Christy traveled throughout the U.S, Mexico and Europe, visiting art museums and collections while pursuing another "quest" tracking down and being photographed with the famous monumental LOVE sculptures. In addition, they continued adding to the collection of historical art of the American West and contemporary American Indian art. His extensive collection has been the subject of museum shows such as Seasons of the Desert at the Gilcrease Museum in Tulsa; focused exhibits of Gustave Baumann woodcuts and Gene Kloss paintings and etchings, both at the Phoenix Art Museum; and an ongoing exhibition of works from Gil's collection at Scottsdale's Museum of the West, bearing the evocative name By Beauty Obsessed: Gilbert Waldman Collects the West.
Gil was predeceased by his parents, Irving and Elsie; his wife, Nancy; and his recently deceased older sister,Adele Siegel of Boynton Beach, Florida. He is survived by two sons, Vince (Cynthia) of Los Angeles and Doug (Carol) of Tulsa and by three grandchildren, Laura, Julia, and Jesse; as well as Gil's current wife, Christy Vezolles; her son, Evan Pope (Katrina) of Springfield, Ohio, and their three children. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations may be made to Scottsdale's Museum of the West, the Heard Museum, Hospice of the Valley in Phoenix, or another charity of the donor's choice.