Mr. Kanztler was born in Grantz, Austria in 1883. At age 7 he came with his mother and two siblings to join his father in Bay City. Leopold attended Bay City schools and graduated from the University of Michigan's School of Engineering in 1910.

By that time, his father had purchased the International Mill & Timber Co., a lumber salvage operation along the Saginaw River. Leopold joined the business, and for more than fifty years the family owned and operated the mill along with another highly successful enterprise, John Kantzler & Sons.

At age 33, Leopold married postal employee Cecilia Szperski. Together, they parented two foster children. Cecilia ran the household, held positions within the companies, and was active in the community. Ever the quiet, meticulous businessman, Leopold remained in the background of community life.

Around 1919, Leopold established companies that engaged in production of pre-cut housing units and real estate development. After the close of WW II, his company, Sterling Homes, delivered affordable housing across the nation to returning GI's. Although Kantzler was the last of the area's big lumber mill operators, the majority of his fortune came through wise stock market investments.

Mr. Kantzler survived his wife, father, and brothers and remained active in the businesses up to the time of his death on February 21, 1974, at the age of ninety. Prior to his death, Mr. Kantzler engaged Mr. Robert Sarow, a young visionary attorney, to help him plan his estate. Sarow encouraged Kantzler to establish a charitable foundation that would receive his assets at the time of his death and distribute the earnings on those assets to worthwhile causes within the Bay Area Community. Mr. Kantzler approved Sarow's plan. In his will, he provided that the bulk of his estate should be used to establish "a perpetual charitable and educational trustee corporation to be known as the Kantzler Foundation," to provide financial support "for charitable, educational, scientific or artistic programs and purposes" beneficial to the people of the greater Bay County Community.

Mr. Sarow then prepared organizational documents that established an appointed board of community-minded trustees and provided clear direction regarding the operation, distribution, and focus of the foundation. While the organizational documents provide flexibility to address and respond to changing circumstances, the board continues to rely on those original documents for guidance in its ongoing mission.

Community Impact

testimonial author Peg Rowley

"Kantzler started it all. In 1983 The Kantzler Foundation approached me to start up the Bay Area Community Foundation. It funded our operating expenses for several years and worked with us in partnership as we implemented a number of community involvement projects, like the Riverwalk and Pier. When I reflect on great programs and projects like the Community Foundation, Studio 23, The State Theatre, BaySail, the facilities at Wenonah Park, The Civic Arena, The Wirt Library, The Dow Family Y, Playscape at the State Park and so much more, I have to think, 'Where would we be without The Kantzler Foundation?'"

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The Kantzler Foundation provides financial support for charitable projects and programs that directly benefit the residents of Bay County in areas such as: education, science, arts, culture, human services, conservation, beautification and recreation.

Office Location

Pere Marquette Depot

1000 Adams St., Suite 200
Bay City, MI 48708
Phone: (989) 893-4438