Economist developed trusted real estate data


POSTED: Thursday, September 10, 2009

When it came to numbers, Harvey Shapiro, the longtime research economist for the Honolulu Board of Realtors, always seemed to have an answer.

But when his own number came up over the weekend, the 63-year-old Shapiro uncharacteristically left friends and family with questions about why a life well-lived was cut short.

Gravesite services for Shapiro, who died unexpectedly of unknown causes on Friday, will be held at 10 a.m. tomorrow at the Emanu-El Jewish Cemetery Grounds at Mililani Memorial Park and Mortuary. Mourners are asked to wear aloha attire as a tribute to Shapiro's vast collection of aloha shirts that he wore along with his trademark driving cap and pipe.

“;He was the kind of colleague and friend that you assume is one of the constants of your universe until you realize that he isn't there,”; said Paul Brewbaker, principal of TZ Economics, who had known Shapiro for about two decades.

; Brewbaker, a fellow member of the Hawaii Economic Association that Shapiro once led as president, credits him with developing much of the economic data on Honolulu's housing market.

“;Somebody will make up for him, but it won't be Harvey,”; he said. “;He was a character in a low-key sort of way. There was just something about his wit and humor that stuck with you.”;

Originally from Michigan, Shapiro began working with the HBR in 1987. He used his passion for technology to develop the monthly residential resales statistics and other research materials. He was a sought-after speaker whose statistics and opinions on real estate trends were quoted across the globe.

“;Harvey Shapiro was a valuable asset to Hawaii's real estate profession, providing analysis and insight regarding the Honolulu market,”; said Rochelle Lee Gregson, HBR's chief executive officer. “;He was loyal and extremely dedicated to the interests of Realtors. I join the real estate community in expressing sadness at the loss of one of Hawaii's leading economists.”;

Gregson, who worked with Shapiro for five years, said that she will fondly remember him for his “;geeky wit”; and his passion for pipe tobacco, the latest technology, decked-out cars and his two cats.

Prior to coming to Hawaii and working in real estate, Shapiro was a labor arbitrator at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C., and the Michigan Employment Relations Committee. He was recently appointed arbitrator for the Hawaii Region of the Social Security Administration.

“;I thoroughly enjoyed him,”; Gregson said. “;He'd been around the block several times so I never knew who was supervising whom, especially when it came to the translation of numbers.”;

Shapiro was known for the accuracy of his data and resisted pressure to spin it, said John Riggins, owner of John Riggins Real Estate.

“;Harvey had great integrity and could always be depended upon to objectively report on the numbers and real estate market,”; Riggins said. “;HBR's membership and Oahu have lost a very gentle giant. “;

Mike Pang, Shapiro's neighbor and real estate colleague, had lunch with him only a few hours before his death.

“;He was in very good spirits,”; Pang said. “;I'm very happy that I got to see him. I'm going to miss him. He was one of those rare people who didn't have any enemies.”;

Shapiro is survived by nieces Sharon Jones and Alison Ellard and two grand-nephews. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Friends of Hanauma Bay.