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James R. Gary, Realtor, Valley Philanthropist, Dies of Heart Attack


James R. Gary, a prominent area realtor who was deeply involved in San Fernando Valley charities and community groups, has died. He was 51.

A resident of Calabasas, Gary died Monday night after suffering a heart attack, a family spokeswoman said.

James R. Gary & Co. Ltd., a residential and commercial firm he founded in 1978, grew to have 250 employees and offices in Woodland Hills, Studio City and Malibu.

Aside from his real estate career, Gary was involved in political circles, served on civic organizations and frequently helped with charity fund-raisers. In 1984, he was chairman of the finance committee for the reelection of state Sen. Ed Davis (R-Santa Clarita), and in 1985 co-chaired Mayor Tom Bradley's reelection committee.

"He was one of the more dynamic leaders in the Valley, especially in the real estate industry," said Hunt Braly, chief of staff for Davis.

"This is a mountain of a man, not an everyday type of person," said Beverlee Ison, the real estate firm's director of marketing. "He lived a 100 years in 51 years."

Gary had said in the past that he ran his operation with high ethical standards. He required buyers to have the homes they were purchasing inspected before closing a sale and also required his agents to disclose when the firm represented both parties in a transaction.

His firm was noted for occupying architecturally distinctive buildings. Its Woodland Hills office, which is known as Glenfinnan Hall, is decorated in Georgian and Victorian period styles and its Studio City office, called the Landmark, is reminiscent of English commercial houses, which handle real estate.

Born in Dallas, Tex., on Sept. 18, 1941, Gary earned a bachelor of science degree in business administration from the University of Denver in 1963 and worked as a stockbroker in Los Angeles before serving in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War. In 1971, he went into the real estate business and opened his own firm seven years later. Since 1984, Gary had owned Glenfinnan Music Ltd., a recording firm specializing in Scottish and Irish folk music.

Gary was involved with numerous charities, such as helping organize fund-raising events for the American Heart Assn., American Cancer Society and March of Dimes. His real estate firm's trademark double-decker English bus has been used throughout the Valley to collect donations for the Food for Life Project. Food donations also were collected at an annual St. Andrew's Day celebration that Gary had sponsored since 1978 in honor of his Scottish ancestry.

Gary co-founded the San Fernando Valley Executive Assn., was a former vice president of the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce, participated as a member of the Los Angeles Commission for the Bicentennial of the Constitution and served on the boards of several organizations including the Los Angeles Business Property Council, We the People of L.A., Warner Center Assn., the San Fernando Valley Community Legal Foundation and Humana-West Hills Hospital.

Gary is survived by his wife and three children.

Funeral services will be private. A memorial service is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Warner Center Hilton, 6360 Canoga Ave. in Woodland Hills. Donations can be made in Gary's name to the American Heart Assn.

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