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Arthur W​illens, 85, Businessman, Teacher and Administrator

July 26, 2007
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Arthur Willens, 85, a South Florida businessman, died May 30 in his Miami Shores home.

Born in Philadelphia, Willens lived on Winfield Avenue, across the street from Har Zion Temple. He moved to Miami Beach during the 1930s and graduated from Miami Beach Senior High School.

After being discharged from the U.S. Army Air Force after World War II, Willens and his older brother, Paul, operated the Miami Beach Auto Rental agency.

The Willens brothers went on to pioneer several manufacturing businesses in the Miami area. They established Donson Corp., makers of aluminum lawn and patio furniture, and then built one of the first production-line fiberglass boats in southern Florida -- called the Vanguard -- through Peninsular Fiberglass.

The boat company lasted for nearly seven years, but was liquidated when Arthur became ill from overexposure to fiberglass and chemicals from the manufacturing process.

Suffering from nephritic syndrome (poisoning of the kidney), Arthur was successfully treated by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.

In the 1970s, Arthur Willens decided to return to the University of Miami. Before the war, he was in business administration, but this time he earned his bachelor's degree in education and then attained a master's degree in special education.

Willens became director of the Haven Center, Florida's first institution dedicated to housing and training for the mentally disabled. After several years there, he returned to the classroom and taught the elementary grades in inner-city schools in Miami-Dade.

He also taught at the religious school of Temple Israel of Greater Miami for 25 years.

Willens is survived by daughter Andrea Willens; sons David Willens, Shane Willens and Dr. Barney Willens; and his cousins and their families. He was predeceased by his wife, Hattie "Sis" Gordon.


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