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Burton S. Sperber, FASLA 1929 - 2011




Burton Sperber, ValleyCrest founder, passed away Sept. 30, 2011 at the age of 82.

Burton S. Sperber, FASLA, founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors of ValleyCrest Landscape Companies, passed away September 30, 2011 at the age of 82 of complications from surgery.

"The unexpected passing of my dad came as a complete shock to me, the family and everyone who knew him," said Richard A. Sperber, ValleyCrest President and CEO. "I had the great privilege of working with him side by side every day and saw how he loved nurturing people. Nothing made him happier than watching everyone at ValleyCrest grow and seeing people do great things both inside and outside the company. He always encouraged us to do the right thing and was an amazing family man. I'm taking on the personal responsibility to carry on his legacy and values he instilled in me as I lead the company forward."

Burton Sperber was born May 14, 1929 in Los Angeles. An iconic figure in the landscape industry and respected business and community leader in Los Angeles for decades, he was counted on by titans in business and real estate to bring their projects to life through landscapes. Ultimately, he was revered for having created a world-class organization but preferred more simple recognition for his horticultural expertise as the "head gardener," and a devout family man.

Since founding ValleyCrest in 1949 at the age of 19, he led the family of companies with vision and wisdom through more than six decades of dynamic growth to become the nation's largest, privately-held integrated landscape services firm.

Sperber was a pioneer in establishing high levels of innovation, professionalism and respect within the landscape industry. He was a founding member of several state and national landscape associations and was a Fellow in the American Society of Landscape Architects (FASLA). He served as a Director of Los Angeles Beautiful and was a former Director of the Landscape Architecture Foundation.

Recognized with awards and honors throughout his career as a landscape architect, contractor, business executive and for his involvement in charitable groups, Burt's election into the Green Industry Hall of Fame in 2010, and selection for the Lifetime Achievement Award for Contractor of the Year (1999) and the City of Hope Man of the Year "Spirit of Life" Award (1971) reveal his true legacy to business and the community.

Sperber got his start in the landscape industry early in life. His father owned a retail nursery, and he was a member of the Future Farmers of America at North Hollywood High School. When he was a teenager, he worked after school at the MG Nursery in North Hollywood, Calif., and a Sears, Roebuck and Co. nursery in Los Angeles. In 1949, Sperber purchased the MG Nursery business with his father as a partner when the owner, Mossimo Giannulli passed away. Sixty-two years later ValleyCrest has more than 9,000 employees, operations in more than 150 locations nationwide, and is respected around the world. Even at 82, Sperber came to work every day, revered by employees as the founder and chairman of a landscape services company that earned a spot on Forbes Magazine's 2008 list of America's 500 Largest Private Companies. ValleyCrest is counted on by architects, developers, commercial real estate owners, public agencies, property managers and luxury home builders to help create, build or maintain some of the world's extraordinary natural environments.

Among the hundreds of celebrated landscape projects in which the company has played a role in bringing to fruition include: Walt Disney Concert Hall, The Getty Center, the Palm Garden at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and The Grove in Los Angeles, The Garden of Flowing Fragrance at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino, Calif. Americana at Brand in Glendale, Calif., Fashion Island in Newport Beach, Wynn Encore and Wynn Las Vegas, CityCenter, Cosmopolitan, Caesar's Place, and Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Disney's Animal Kingdom in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Sea World Discovery Cove in Orlando, Four Seasons Hualalai Resort in Kailua-Kona, SoundScape Park at Frank Gehry's New World Symphony in Miami, Salvador Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., Hudson River Park in New York, Dallas Center for the Performing Arts' Winspear Opera House and Wyly Theater in Dallas, Boston's Central Artery (Big Dig), the U.S. Federal Courthouse in San Diego, the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., venues for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games and 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Tex., Florida Marlins Stadium in Miami, AT&T Park in San Francisco, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., and Patriots Place in Foxboro, New England, to name but a few.

Equally passionate and accomplished as a magician, Sperber was inducted as a member of the prestigious Inner Magic Circle of England, the highest degree a magician can earn, and was one of only a few Americans to achieve such elite ranking. He was also named Magician of the Year in 2011. His passion for magic encompassed a lifelong pursuit of collecting and writing magic books. His extensive collection is one of the largest in the country and includes rare books dating back as far as the 1500's.

Over his life Sperber was active in many efforts to build and support the Jewish community in Los Angeles. He helped to build Temple Ramat Zion in Northridge, where he was made a lifetime member. Years later he was instrumental in the building of the University of Judaism, now American Jewish University, located on Mulholland above the 405 freeway. He was also involved in countless community, charitable and educational endeavors including USC's School of Architecture and Cal Poly Pomona's Horticulture program.

Sperber was profiled in the pages of Landscape Architect and Specifier News in 2009 in conjunction with Valley Crest's 60th anniversary. That profile can be viewed at http://www.landscapeonline.com/research/article/12304.

A decorated Army veteran who served as a Master Sergeant in the Korean War, he is survived by his wife Charlene, and their three children, Ellice Sperber, Michelle Sperber and Richard A. Sperber, a sister Deanna Colton, and seven grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Wendie Jo Sperber, and brother, Stuart J. Sperber.


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