Gene Applebaum and David Hermelin

Friends of the Heart

A connection that began in the Russell Woods area of northwest Detroit when both were pupils at Winterhalter Elementary School, the relationship between Eugene Applebaum and David Hermelin transcended friendship, business, and philanthropy. Gene and David’s bond was inextricably woven in each other’s hearts. 

Gene reminisced on their unique friendship:

“We played in the sandbox, were in school plays together. We stayed friends even when David went to military school and summer school in the 6th grade. He ended up graduating (high school) a half year ahead of me. He graduated in June, 1954 and I graduated in January 1955. David went to the University of Michigan and I stayed home and went to Wayne. After college, when we both started our business career, we became very, very close. David started in insurance and I started Civic Drugs. I bought insurance from him.” 

Doreen Hermelin recalled how their friendship remained so close over the years:

“It’s because they started as kids. David went one way and got involved in the insurance business and stuff, and he (Gene) went another way. But they could talk the same talk. They could go back and reminisce the same way. They were kids at the same time. And I think that’s something that you don’t lose.Their hearts spoke to each other.” - Doreen said
Gene and David
“Their hearts spoke to each other.”
-Doreen Hermelin
David, Gene, Spencer

An Irreplaceable Bond

As their individual business careers advanced, so did their mutual symbiosis. David served on the Board of Arbor Drugs and Gene became active in the philanthropies that David was involved in. Gene identified David as the key to his involvement in philanthropy:

“David was the catalyst for my philanthropic involvement and leadership. I recall David inviting me to his house where his parents were being honored and from that moment forward, David always invited me to various events and I would get further involved as David was getting further and further involved. He first got me involved in the Michigan Cancer Foundation.”

Doreen Hermelin recalls how they inspired each other, speaking of their similar upbringing and David’s true admiration for Gene’s intellect:

“They pushed each other….they said ‘that’s fantastic and let’s do it together and figure out how to do it’, from both the business side and the community…they had this intellect and this drive and ambition together to create these things… they used to talk about how their mothers would do the same kind of stuff with them when they were kids. David admired him tremendously. He admired his acumen… he thought he was a very, very brilliant businessman and thought he was terrific…they had this kind of bond.”

Doreen spoke of their true partnership:

“Gene had always been right there with him and had been his partner in so many things and he really cared and loved him. I think he talked to him all the time from Norway. He probably talked to him more than I did.”

Always Having Fun

Most of all, whatever David and Gene did together, they had fun doing it. David’s sense of humor was legendary, and with Gene’s quick wit, it was a perfect match. For close to 60 years, they laughed through life together. Yes, it was because they so enjoyed being in each other’s company; but even more, it was because of their mutual joy and passion for life.

Unfortunately, their time to laugh together was cut short with David’s untimely death in 2000. With David’s passing, Gene lost a best friend and lost a big piece of his heart.

David reminisced on their valuable friendship and Gene’s undeniable qualities:

“I have known Gene since kindergarten. He is one of those people you grow up with that gives your past a sense of quality. Gene always had great instincts. He was one that was able to see the important from the less important. He was action oriented to not only visualize something, but he has the ability to execute. He is an expert in interpersonal relations and brings people together in a way that allows them to achieve their very best. Although he was interested in building a fine chain of stores, he was more interested in building a fine name. If the story of the three crowns had one person in mind, it would have been Eugene Applebaum.”

Friends Forever

"David and I had an extraordinary friendship that began in kindergarten and grew stronger every year thereafter. He defined what a true friend is all about — caring, giving and sharing. His devotion to his family, his loved ones and this community had no boundaries.” – Gene Applebaum
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Applebaum Family Office

480 Pierce Street, Suite 200

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Applebaum Family Philanthropy

Andrew Echt

Director, Applebaum Family Philanthropy