Martin R. Siegel of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and New Hope, Pennsylvania passed away on December 17, 2019 at Jupiter, Florida. His wife of 63 years, Denise Ulanet Siegel, as well as his four sons were at his side to comfort him.
Born in Trenton, N.J. to Irving and Alice (Novros) Siegel, he attended lower schools in Trenton, the Milford Academy in Connecticut, and Duke University before serving in the US Army Artillery in Germany in 1953-54. Upon his return from the armed services, he joined his father as the second generation of his family to work at the heritage fine jeweler, Hamilton Jewelers.
He was elected President of Hamilton in 1968, and was instrumental in growing the Hamilton brand and business through his creative and innovative merchandising and marketing initiatives throughout his tenure, laying the groundwork for successive generations of the Siegel family to continue his vision.
His business philosophy was based around superior quality, friendly relationship-based business practices, and community leadership, a philosophy that enabled the Hamilton brand to grow from a local store to a nationally recognized industry leader with clients from all 50 states and around the world.
He continued to serve the firm as Chairman from 1994 until his death, a role that allowed him to mentor hundreds of Hamilton employees, never hesitating to share his experience and knowledge. He was also eager to share his stories and experiences with others in the fine jewelry industry, particularly enjoying the chance to attend industry trade shows and events in his later years.
Mr. Siegel had a merchant’s eye and a keen sense for design and value. He loved finding the unusual jewel or timepiece for the Hamilton clientele, and could not keep himself from choosing the most beautiful and finest quality, and was a pioneer in launching new products to the local market.
He was among the first in the United States to order special Rolex timepieces from Switzerland with rare gem-set cases, bezels, and stone dials for the clientele in Palm Beach. And he discovered and launched many fledgling designers before ‘designer jewelry’ was in fashion, and before they became nationally recognized.
He believed in the wonderful and special power of a gift of fine jewelry to commemorate a special occasion in one’s life, and loved helping clients celebrate life’s moments. In keeping with the ways of his father, it was not uncommon for Mr. Siegel to assist a young person looking for an engagement ring, accept no payment, and with a handshake, allow the purchaser to leave the store with the ring and make subsequent payments “whenever they could do so”. Inevitably, he would gain a customer for life.
Mr. Siegel remained in the Mercer County area his entire life, living in Trenton, NJ and Yardley, Pa. for 26 years, Princeton for 33 years, and New Hope, Pa. as well as Palm Beach Gardens. A passionate advocate for all things local, he served and supported hundreds of Mercer, Bucks, and Palm Beach County organizations throughout his life, along with his wife, Denise.
He was an active athlete as well, being an avid soccer and tennis player as a youngster, continuing his passion for tennis and, in later years, golf, which he enjoyed playing with friends and celebrities alike. As a young man, he particularly excelled in tennis, having won the Trenton Junior tennis title in 1951 at age 18, played on the Duke University team, and later served as the chair of the Tennis Committee at Greenacres Country Club for many years.
More than sports and the jewelry trade, perhaps Mr. Siegel’s greatest passion was giving back to his communities. He was a Trustee for 18 years at Helene Fuld Medical Center in Trenton, and a board member of The United Savings and Loan Company for twelve years.
In 1982 Mr. Siegel received the Crusade Citation from the American Cancer Society for his leadership. In 1984 he worked to found the Diabetes educational and informational center at Princeton Hospital, and was recognized for his contributions to the field of diabetes education.
Mr. Siegel received a citation from Trenton’s City Council for his dedication to the Trenton Little League, which he supported for over 50 years. Unbeknownst to anyone except close family, he sponsored foster children in Latin America for over 20 years, and was particularly proud when they graduated from upper school.
In 2003 the Greenwood House Home for the Aged recognized Mr. and Mrs. Siegel for their multi –generational leadership at a gala where President Bill Clinton spoke, and honored them for their long standing involvement with the home.
Also in 2003, the State of New Jersey Senate and General Assembly passed a joint legislative resolution honoring Martin for his “meritorious record of service and leadership”, citing that ‘by his deeds and by his example, he has earned the respect and admiration of all who know him as a man of remarkable character and exceptional determination”.
In 2005, the Martin Siegel Community Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation was established to commemorate Martin’s 50th year at Hamilton Jewelers, in order to benefit local educational, medical, and arts organizations in the region.
In 2011, National Junior Tennis and Learning of Trenton, an organization which creates opportunities for success by enriching the lives of under-resourced youth by combining tennis and education, dedicated a tennis court located at Cadwallader Park in Trenton in Martin’s honor. Earlier this year, Greenwood House once again honored Martin and Denise Siegel for the community leadership at a gala in May.
Martin Siegel was an eternal optimist, and his optimism was contagious. Anyone who knew Martin surely experienced his giant personality, passion for life, and regular practical jokes. Ten years ago, he was diagnosed with advanced squamous cell cancer and given a grim prognosis. He remained unfailingly optimistic, keeping the cancer at bay and relishing in the 10 additional years he lived after his victory over the disease. Martin was able to touch so many more lives as a result. He was able to enjoy the birth of his youngest grandchild, the wedding of his oldest, and so many shared experiences with those he loved, those he met at the Hamilton Jewelers stores, and those whose random interactions with Martin occurred while waiting in line at the deli or the hardware store. Along with Denise, he was also able to continue to be a part of the communities he loved in Mercer County and Palm Beach Gardens, regularly remarking that “I truly can’t believe how fortunate I am to be able to live in such a fantastic community with so many wonderful friends.
And friends he certainly had. He enjoyed the company of people from all cultures and backgrounds, and created an atmosphere around him of warmth, care and concern. One of his favorite pastimes was to walk around town or the community and meet new people, and he always relished having even a small connection with a stranger. He loved new ideas and innovation, which he encouraged with everyone he met.
With all of his life’s accomplishments, and the people he cherished along the way, he loved and cherished his family most of all. The patriarch of the Siegel family, he was the happiest, proudest, and most loving husband, father, and grandfather.
Martin Siegel was predeceased by his sister, Rita Goodman, and is survived by his wife Denise (Ulanet), sons Hank (Lisette), Jeffrey (Heidi), Scott (Lucy), and Peter (Kari), as well as grandchildren Andrew (Betsey), Benjamin, Emily, Ellie, Hannah, Jake, and Abigail.
A service is planned on Friday December 20, 2:00 PM at Adath Israel Congregation, 1958 Lawrenceville Rd, Lawrenceville, NJ, 08648.
The family respectfully conveys Martin’s wishes that in lieu of flowers, those wishing to do so may donate to The Martin Siegel Community Fund of the Princeton Area Community Foundation, or to Greenwood House in Ewing, New Jersey.