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Remembering Sumner Winebaum

Sumner’s philanthropic legacy includes helping to establish the Foundation’s presence in the Piscataqua region

Sumner Winebaum
1928 – 2019

Director and Chairman, Piscataqua Region, 1983-1991

Sumner Winebaum grew up in Portsmouth and started his career delivering magazines and newspapers north of Boston as an as-yet-unlicensed 15-year-old driver. He worked his way to the highest echelons of television advertising, shuttling between offices in New York, Milan, and Paris; married Helen Auerbach, a well-known television and stage actress — and came home, settling in York, Maine.

His father had emigrated from Russia in 1916, and achieved the American Dream: a family and a thriving business in a free land and a reputation as civic leader and person of great generosity. Sumner assumed the family business, Winebaum News, when he returned to Portsmouth — and followed in his father’s tradition of generosity and community service. He helped found the Piscataqua Region of the Charitable Foundation in 1983 and served as chair from 1986 to 1991. He was a key figure in the Wentworth Coolidge Commission, the Bow St. Theatre Trust, Theatre-by-the-Sea, the Portsmouth Athenaeum, Temple Israel, Strawbery Banke Museum, and the Museums of Old York.


Sumner Winebaum and wife, Helen.

“It was too hard to get into politics and charitable work in places like Paris and New York,” he said in an interview in 2008. “In New Hampshire, it’s just the opposite!”

His involvement in politics included organizing Bobby Kennedy’s statewide presidential campaign in Maine.

Helen Winebaum, who died last year, matched her husband’s passion for the Charitable Foundation and Theatre-by-the-Sea, and was instrumental in conserving thousands of acres of land through the York Land Trust.

Sumner and Helen Winebaum created numerous charitable funds at the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation over the years, giving to support the arts, education, the environment, adult literacy and historic preservation in the Piscataqua region and beyond.

After he retired, Sumner mounted a third career as an accomplished sculptor whose work would be displayed in museums and galleries around New England.

At the 25th anniversary celebration of the Piscataqua Region in 2008, Sumner Winebaum received the inaugural Joseph Sawtelle Leadership Award in honor of his creative philanthropy and charitable work.

Sumner Winebaum’s obituary can be viewed here. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for memorial gifts to be sent to the Seacoast Repertory Theater or Strawberry Banke’s Shapiro House.