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LADY LAKE, FL-Memorial services for Harold S. Schwartz, founder of the Villages mixed-use community in northwest Lake County, will be held this week following the developer’s death on Dec. 24 after a lengthy illness. He was 93.

A one-time radio station owner and mail-order home-lots seller from Chicago, Schwartz and one of his two sons, H. Gary Morse, are credited with developing the Villages into a 7,000-acre residential, retail and recreational enclave covering Lake, Sumter and Marion counties.

In 1982 at 72, Schwartz gambled $5,000 on the purchase of Orange Blossom Gardens, a 400-mobile home community set among orange groves and cow pastures along US 441 North in Lady Lake. Over the next 21 years, Schwartz and Morse grew the property to 15,000 homes occupied by an estimated 36,000 residents, largely retirees from the Midwest and the Northeast.

The Villages sells 2,000 homes a year and boasts 2,000 acres of golf courses with a golf cart parked in every home driveway, local brokers tell GlobeSt.com. The community is ranked among the fastest-growing subdivisions of its kind in Florida, according to most area real estate associations.

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