Howard M. Blankman of Port Washington often joked that he was a “poor man’s Renaissance man.”
Before founding a successful public relations and marketing firm on Long Island, he worked for Johnny Carson, led a big-band orchestra, and composed music for theatrical productions.
Blankman actively promoted the arts on Long Island, volunteered for a host of local civic groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and Boy Scouts and racked up numerous awards for both his professional and personal pursuits.
Blankman died Friday in his home of natural causes, said Donna Blankman, his wife of 50 years. He was 91.
“His mind never stopped,” his wife said. “He was always thinking of something, the next thing to do... He was a dynamo, his brain kept roaring.”
In 1968, Blankman founded The Blankman Group LLC, a public relations and marketing firm whose clients included King Kullen, MasterCard International and Cablevision.
He retired and sold the company in 2004, but not before leaving a mark on Long Island’s public relations community. In 1990, he helped found the Public Relations Professionals of Long Island, a professional development group that would later award him with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.
“He didn’t waste a minute of the day, he had this zest for living,” said Bert Cunningham, his longtime friend and business partner.
Blankman was born June 23, 1925, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to Sadie and Samuel Blankman.
His love for music started early in life — he played piano and trumpet and in high school led a big-band orchestra, his wife said. He enlisted in the Army in 1948 and was stationed for a year in El Paso, Texas. He used his time there to compose musical bits for the troops overseas.
Blankman attended Franklin & Marshall College and West Chester State Teachers College in Pennsylvania before moving to New York City to chase a career in music and entertainment in the 1950s.
He was a writer and associate producer for “Who Do You Trust?” a TV game show that aired from 1957 to 1963, that starred Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon, before the comedic duo left for “The Tonight Show” on NBC.
He wrote the music and lyrics for “By Hex,” an off-Broadway play about the Amish of Lancaster County and for “Cool Off,” a production that starred British actors Stanley Holloway and Hermione Baddeley.
Blankman also devoted much of his life to promoting the arts on Long Island — serving as president of the Great Neck Symphony Society, vice chair of the Nassau Symphony Orchestra and as a member of the boards of the Manhasset Bay Opera and Eglevsky Ballet Company. Blankman also served as a vice president and board member of the Long Island Philharmonic.
Blankman also served on a number of Nassau and Town of North Hempstead boards, and was tapped by Gov. George Pataki to serve on the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council.
In addition to his wife, Blankman is survived by sons Michael of upstate Port Jervis and Matthew of Port Washington; daughters Deborah Blankman of New Canaan, Connecticut, Diana Blankman, of Chatham, New Jersey and Sarah Blankman of Port Washington; three grandchildren; and his ex-wife from his first marriage, the former Daisy Adams.
A memorial service is still being planned. Those seeking to express condolences are asked to consider donating to the Community Chest of Port Washington, or a charity of personal choice.