Robert Jefferson Wolfe, the founder of the real estate advisory firm Picus Associates, died on March 31 in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was 72.
Bob died as a result of complications from myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare form of bone marrow cancer that he battled courageously and cheerfully for 15 years.
He is remembered by his family, colleagues, and friends for his wonderful smile, consistently optimistic approach to life, kindness, and generosity.
Born on April 13 of 1947, Bob was raised in South Orange, New Jersey. He attended Columbia High School in South Orange, and served as senior class president. He graduated in 1965 and went on to attend Princeton University, where he participated in crew for two years. Sculling became one of his interests later in life.
After earning his degree in philosophy from Princeton in 1969, Bob joined the U.S. Army Reserves and was on active duty at Fort Sam Houston in Texas from October of 1969 until February of 1970. He then attended the Stanford University Graduate School of Business, where he met fellow student Barbara Burgess, who would become his wife. They were married in December of 1973.
After graduating with an MBA in 1972, Bob worked for Stanford University before returning to New Jersey in 1974 to become the assistant treasurer of Princeton University.
In 1976, Princeton launched a 2,000-plus-acre mixed-use real estate development project, the Princeton Forrestal Center. Bob, as a partner of the consulting firm K. S. Sweet Associates, was instrumental in leading the development of the project throughout his career. In 1993, he formed his own company, Picus Associates, which continues to this day under new ownership to manage the Princeton Forrestal Center on behalf of Princeton University.
Bob enjoyed seeing the physical results of his work materialize over time, and he believed that real estate development should be concentrated in areas with appropriate infrastructure, while rural lands should be protected and the natural environment preserved. He believed in contributing his time and expertise to his community, and he served on the boards of McCarter Theatre in Princeton, the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association, and
Princeton In Community Service, which places undergraduate students in summer internships at non-profit organizations.
At the time of his death, Bob was a member of the board of the New Jersey
Conservation Foundation and served as its treasurer. He enjoyed tennis, travel, photography, and sculling. He also enjoyed spending time with
extended family at a cabin on Garnet Lake in the Adirondacks. Bob was very supportive of Barbara’s equestrian interests and passion for dressage, and they have owned a horse farm outside of Princeton in Ringoes since 1980. They began spending winters in Wellington, Florida in 2000, initially for equestrian activities, until Bob discovered sculling on Lake Wellington. With two partners, he purchased and managed the Florida Rowing Center, a winter sculling school based in Wellington, which continues today. After he retired in 2018, Bob and Barbara became Florida residents.
Bob is predeceased by his parents, Albert Lewis Wolfe and Olga Maurer Wolfe. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Barbara (Burgess); his sister, Susan Wolfe Lauffer (spouse Don Lauffer) of Bartlesville, Oklahoma and Madison, Wisconsin; his brother, William A. Wolfe (spouse Elizabeth West Wolfe) of Princeton; a nephew, Andrew Wolfe, who lives in Paris, France; and
a niece, Amy Powell Burrus, who lives in Muskogee Oklahoma.
An online video memorial service for immediate family members was held on Sunday, April 5. A memorial service for friends and colleagues will be held later this year in Princeton after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided and travel restrictions have been lifted.
Charitable contributions may be made in Bob’s honor to MDS research at Columbia University, where one of his doctors oversees an MDS research program doing cutting-edge research to understand and combat the disease. An alternative for charitable contributions is the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, one of the premier land conservation organizations in the United States. Since 1960, the New Jersey Conservation Foundation has protected more than 125,000 acres of natural areas and farmland in the state.
Trustees of Columbia University, MDS Research Program
℅ Dr. Azra Raza, M.D.
Columbia University Medical Center
Milstein Hospital Building, 6GN-435
177 Fort Washington Avenue
New Jersey Conservation Foundation
℅ Michele Byers, Executive Director
170 Longview Road
Far Hills, NJ 07931