Harry Kamen, who retired in 1998 from his position as chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, known as MetLife, died at home in New York City on Dec. 20 after a long illness. With him were his daughters and caregivers. A summer resident of Wainscott, he was 89.
Mr. Kamen spent almost his entire career at MetLife, starting out as a junior attorney and rising through the company ranks over the course of 40 years. His family said he will be remembered as “a brilliant man and visionary in his field, but even more importantly, as a loving, kind, caring, and gentle human being with a wonderful sense of humor and spirit” that he never lost, “even as he faced an incurable illness.”
He was a lifelong patron of many arts and cultural institutions as well as an advocate for those less fortunate. At various times he served on the board of directors of the American Museum of Natural History, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Guild Hall, the Jewish Museum, the New York Botanical Garden, the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, and Smith College.
Mr. Kamen’s friends and opponents on the courts at the East Hampton Tennis Club, of which he was a founding member, called him “fierce but easygoing,” his family said. He also was passionate about sailing.
Harry P. Kamen was born in Montreal on June 17, 1933, to Benjamin Kamenetsky and the former Manya Manishin. He grew up in Brooklyn, where he attended Abraham Lincoln High School, and later graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard Law School.
In 1958, he married Susan Klein of Brooklyn, with whom he had two daughters. She died in 1996. Mr. Kamen married Barbara Levine of New Jersey in 1997; she died in 2013.
Mr. Kamen’s daughters, Katy Kamen and Abigail Holland, both of Wainscott and Manhattan, survive him. He also leaves two grandchildren, Sam Holland and Lauren Holland; a brother, Albert Kamen of Manhattan and Washington, D.C.; a sister, Esther Eshkol of Tel Aviv, and several nieces and nephews.
Rabbi Joshua Franklin of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons officiated at services for Mr. Kamen on Dec. 20. He was buried at the center’s Shaarey Pardes Accabonac Grove Cemetery in Springs. His family has suggested memorial donations to the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation at alzdiscovery.org.