Editor's note: Premier realtor and owner of Juner Properties, Stamford's own June Rosenthal will officially receive the Stamford Citizen of the Year award at a ceremony at the Italian Center in Stamford on Wednesday, May 14.
Here’s all you ever need to know about June Rosenthal. When she was 77, and her husband 80, they trekked to Nepal. “Our sherpa took one look at us, and his face fell,” she recalls. “I told him, ‘Don’t worry. When you’re tired at the end of the day, I’ll be there to help you up.’” She was.
In her 83 years, June Rosenthal has ridden elephants, written for Vogue, conducted a love affair with her husband for 58 years, raised two successful children and founded a real estate business that does millions of dollars in revenue every year.
Mrs. Rosenthal frowns when she’s called “superwoman.” “I’ve just worked hard at everything I do,” she says.
She started right out of junior college as assistant to the president of a photo-engraving company. “There were 400 men and two women — the telephone operator and me,” says Mrs. Rosenthal.
It was not the first time she beat the odds. In those days, girls mostly married. “But when I graduated from college, I thought I should do something. I remember being interviewed by my first employer and him asking, ‘What are your goals in money?’ I mentioned a figure, and he said, ‘You’re not going to do that.’” She did.
In January, Mrs. Rosenthal was named Citizen of the Year for 2007 by the Jewish War Veterans Post 142 for her long-time support of the arts in Stamford.
“Most people I have to call when we start looking for sponsors for our sculpture event every summer,” says Sandy Goldstein, president of the Downtown Special Services District in Stamford and a close friend. “June calls me.”
Mrs. Rosenthal has been equally generous to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center, Stamford Theatre Works, the Stamford Historical Society, the Stamford Center for the Arts and many others.
She’s always loved culture. At 24, she went to a big dance with her father. She didn’t know he had arranged a blind date for her. “He had Rolf at the table,” she recalls with a smile. “If I’d known, I’d never have gone. I was rebellious. I didn’t like Rolf. He was older, sophisticated. I was going to tell him off. We had a date two weeks later, and he was completely different!”
So different, two years later they married. “You had to get to know him, not just go out to dinner. We did outdoor things. We were very different, but we liked the same things. If we go now to buy a painting, and the store has them all over —” she holds her arms out “— and we each go off in the opposite direction, we’ll pick the exact same one. We’re very strong, but it worked out for us.”
With her famous sense of humor, she confides her husband’s name means a type of dog in German. “When I want something, I say, ‘Here, Rolf, here, Rolf,’” she says with a mischievous smile and all the best intentions.
Mrs. Rosenthal stayed home for many years with her two children, Reid and Jan. But when Jan, her youngest, went to high school, Mrs. Rosenthal decided it was time to go back. “I thought, what could I do where I can sell but work my hours and be home for Jan? I was always good at selling. Then I got it. Real estate. Little did I know, it’s 24/7.”
That was when she was 45. She worked for many years for a local company and then, at 63, started Juner Properties, one of the most successful real estate firms ever in this area. “Who does that?” says Mrs. Goldstein. “Most people retire. But she goes out and sets the world on fire.”
Juner Properties celebrates its 21st year in business this year. With a classic two-column porch and cupola, tucked in between the crook of Roxbury and Long Ridge roads, this distinctive landmark was the first one-room schoolhouse in Stamford. It’s been there for almost 200 years.
Mrs. Rosenthal grins when she thinks about the school kids who come every year. Inside, it looks very modern, with its turquoise loveseat and terra-cotta walls, high ceiling and spinning fans. But she tells them how, once, there was a tunnel under the house for the cattle to cross the road, and then shows photos of the wooden desks and chairs, how the tiny building looked when it was a schoolhouse.
“I have this photo from 1894 of the teacher, in her long shirtwaist and hair in a bun, and wouldn’t you know, one of the kids looks up at me and says, ‘Is that you?’” She laughs in delight.
Mrs. Rosenthal smiles when she thinks about how her business really got started. “I knew a lot of people. I was very involved in community events and Scouting. In fact, my first two listings were Scout mothers. They said, ‘Because you were so good to our kids.’”
With typical modesty, Mrs. Rosenthal says it was no more complicated than that. But it’s easy to tell why she’s such a success. She loves people. Trim and fit with silver hair and wrapped in turquoise, she runs to get a child a doughnut, then jumps up to take it away when he bites into it and doesn’t like it. “Do you want to try a different one?” she asks, to make sure that the kid is satisfied.
She’s also charmed the city fathers. Her building is a landmark, which means it can’t be changed in any way. But as the business grew, it was just too small. “We needed a kitchen and a conference room. Brokers are nervous. They have to eat.”
So she applied to city government and was granted the rare right to add on to her building. “It’s only 275 feet,” she says, “but the people we used were so good, you can’t tell which is the addition, and which, the original building.”
Her husband initially was against her going back to work. “‘No wife of mine is going to work.’” She grins. “Now he says, ‘Go to work!’”
Her love of turquoise, the Southwest and Native Americans goes way back. As a child growing up in Chappaqua (“I was born, raised and married in the same house”), she was thrilled when an Native American kitchen cave was found on the property. “When I was six, they found all these Indian artifacts in our backyard, and I was the one to lead all the newspapers back to see it. I just picked up on it, and it became a thing.”
In fact, when she was cleaning out the attic to move to a new home, she invited the children to come look for the artwork she’d saved from their school years. “I go up in the attic and they’ve spread out all my stuff, I didn’t even know my mother kept it — and every single thing was Indian . It was ingrained in me.”
Stamford remains one of her true loves. “Stamford has been good to me,” she says. “I have to give back. I love the culture of this city. I don’t have time to go to New York. But everything is here. It’s a great calling card for those who move here.”
She’s probably Stamford’s biggest advocate. “When people complain about the traffic, I say, ‘Avoid rush hour, if you can.’ I had one client say, ‘I’ve lived here 20 years and never been to Cove Island.’ I said, ‘You’re going this week.’ It’s the city’s most precious gem. Stamford is the best place on earth to live.”
Says Mrs. Goldstein, “As a professional, June is a star. As a woman, she’s an extraordinary role model.”
“I always knew I wanted to do the best job for the buyer and the seller,” says Mrs. Rosenthal. “We help people move up, move down, whatever people’s lives are. I want to be the catalyst.”
Mrs. Rosenthal admits the years after 50 have been the best of her life. “It’s better every year. You know more. Life’s easier. I’ve had people ask if this is the beginning of the end. No. It’s the end of the beginning.” ■