Friends and family of Rochester philanthropist, Realtor and developer Edward Pompeian describe him as a "selfless" man who made an enormous difference in the community he made his home.

Pompeian, a two-time transplant patient who founded the Gift of Life Transplant House in Rochester in 1984, passed away unexpectedly on Saturday. He was 67.

"I cannot begin to tell you what his impact was," said Gift of Life Executive Director Mary Wilder. "We've tried to estimate how many guests we've housed over the last 35 years. It's impossible to say how many people he helped."

However, she does know that the Gift of Life organization housed 12,000 patients in the past four years and it is poised to continue to grow with more expansions in the works.

Pompeian's well-known story is that he arrived in Rochester as a very sick 11-year-old boy in 1964. He received a kidney transplant at Mayo Clinic from his mother in 1973. It saved his life. In 2004, he received a second transplant from his son Aaron.

Visiting other patients as a 21-year-old man, Pompeian realized that there was a great need for affordable and medically safe housing for people staying in Rochester for months as they await and then undergo transplant procedures.

As a Realtor, he purchased a house for patients to use. That led to other houses and has grown to 84 rooms in two facilities on Rochester's Second Street Southwest.

His efforts garnered many local and national awards for him and his wife, Jayne Pompeian, though friends say it was the work that mattered most to Pompeian.

Wilder remembers after a fundraising event last year, she asked Pompeian if, at the outset, he ever thought his vision of the Gift of Life House would grow into such a large operation.

"He told me, 'I had no idea. I was content with just eight beds,'" she said.

Mayo Clinic Chief Development Officer Cheryl Hadaway remembers Pompeian as a "very humble… very committed individual" who truly just wanted to help people.

"It wasn't about how big the building would be, it was about how many people they could help. He was committed to providing a home away from home for patients," she said. "He lived his entire life in service of others."

During his many years as a Realtor, hotelier and restaurant owner, Pompeian often worked with longtime Rochester builder Joe Weis.

"He was an all-around good guy," Weis said of Pompeian. "In business, he was tough, but always fair."

Rochester attorney Allan Witz worked with Pompeian for many years and had an office next to his at Pompeian's successful Realty Growth Inc. commercial brokerage firm.

"He was an amazing human being. He was always kind … always gentle," said Witz. "He understood the need to be involved in the community."

Family, community and God were all very important to Pompeian, Witz said.

"Those were the things that were fundamental to the way he lived his life," he said. 

Despite a lifetime of severe medical problems, his peers say Pompeian never complained. He did often joke that he personally provided job security for many Mayo Clinic doctors.

"He always had such an attitude of joyfulness, despite whatever he was going through," said Wilder, of the Gift of Life House. "All of the guests at Gift of Life are appreciative and have such gratitude. That all started with the example that Ed set with his attitude of gratitude."

Mayo Clinic transplant physician Dr. Tom Schwab remembered his friend's "zest for life."

"He had an appreciation for every day," said Schwab. "He did so much. If I could wave a wand, I'd make him an honorary member of Mayo Clinic."

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Business Reporter

Jeff has worked at newspapers as a reporter, columnist, editor, photographer and copy editor since 1992. He started at the Post Bulletin in 1999. Kiger is the PB's business reporter and writes a daily column, "Heard on the Street."