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Aug. 5, 1929 - Feb. 11, 2014
Nat Lehrman, 84, died Feb. 11, 2014, at the Glenridge in Sarasota, Fla. He is survived by his companion, Jean Hadden, and was predeceased by his wife, Kazuko (Miyajima) Lehrman.
He was born Aug. 5, 1929, in Brooklyn, N.Y., the son of the late Lena (Goldfarb) and Louis Lehrman.
An accomplished tennis player, a gentle and generous man with a quick wit and a love of New York Jewish culture and cuisine, Lehrman was best known for his work at Playboy magazine, as the man behind Hugh Hefner's Playboy Philosophy and as a creator of the Playboy Foundation, which devoted itself to civil rights, women's rights and other social issues.
Lehrman spent his childhood in Brooklyn, the adored center of an extended network of family members descended from Russian immigrants who arrived here in 1886. His mother worked, and Lehrman was cared for much of the time by his father's sisters, Ruth, Elizabeth (known as Peppy) and Estelle. In addition, his father had five brothers. According to family lore, Lehrman was more carefully tended than the Lindbergh Baby. He was nicknamed "Precious."
He attended Eastern District High School in Brooklyn and then, after a two-year break, entered Brooklyn College. He graduated from there before being drafted into the U.S. Army. The Korean Conflict was going on at the time, and he was assigned to Asia; happily, he ended up in a non-combat zone in Nara, Japan, where he met his future wife.
He returned to the United States after his honorable discharge, got a job writing for the American Automobile Association International Travel Department and found that he could not forget the feisty, beautiful woman he had left behind in Japan. He returned to Nara in 1956 and proposed over a steaming hot bowl of ramen noodles.
Their first homes were in Brooklyn and then New York's Upper West Side. Lehrman worked in publishing and attended night school at New York University, earning a master's degree in literature.
He left AAA and went to work for a travel magazine called Relax, which closed after two issues. He stayed on at the magazine's publishing company and was assigned to work for it's two men's magazines, Dude and Gent. When those two magazines shut down, he was hired as an editor at the relatively new Playboy magazine. Lehrman and his young family moved to Chicago, where the company was based. He remained at Playboy for 22 years, and had many duties including writing answers to reader letters as the Playboy Advisor. He retired as associate publisher and president of the publishing division, and is still known in the industry as one of the rare few who successfully crossed the line from the editorial side to the publishing side.
Lehrman and his wife moved to Sarasota, Fla., first as snowbirds and then full-time. Shortly after celebrating their 50th. wedding anniversary, his wife, Kaz, died in 2008 of pancreatic cancer.
In his last years, his relationship with Jean Hadden was a source of comfort and joy.
In addition to Hadden, he is survived by his son, Jerome Lehrman, and his wife, Makiko, of Irvine, Calif.; his daughter, Cynthia Hochswender, of Salisbury, Conn.; his grandchildren, Daniel Lehrman of Ann Arbor, Mich., and Katharine Lynn Miyajima Hochswender of Salisbury; his brother, Marvin Lehrman, and his wife, Paisha, of San Francisco, Calif.; and many beloved cousins and friends, to whom he was devoted and who are devoted to him. All who knew him will miss him but will know that his death was a release from the disease that limited the independence that was so much a part of who he was.
A memorial service will be held in Chicago at a later date. Memories, stories and messages for the family can be sent to www.nat-lehrman.forevermissed.com
Published in Herald Tribune from Feb. 12 to Feb. 13, 2014