A Mother's Legacy
Strong Women, Generational Support
Strong women run in the Sommer family. A child of immigrants, Naomi Hasler Sommer was born in New Jersey in 1913. When her father died in 1921, her mother, Johanna, moved with her two children to Los Angeles. Though she had little formal education, Johanna had a head for real estate and the stomach for risk. The family prospered and Johanna encouraged her daughter to attend college. Naomi graduated from UCLA in 1934 with a B.A. in art.
Instead of becoming an art teacher, the resourceful Naomi earned money by painting murals in the homes of Hollywood glitterati. Naomi met Bob Sommer in a drawing class during her last year at UCLA. Bob was an adept carpenter and faux finisher.
During WWII Bob and Naomi worked in the shipbuilding industry. Naomi was the only woman in a drafting office with eight men. She taught herself the trade by copying the style of drawings she saw in the office.
After the war, Naomi was confident they could make money by buying, remodeling and reselling houses. She learned about financing and used the home her mother had given them for collateral. Over time, Naomi and Bob turned neglected properties into income-producing rentals, built spec houses and invested in mobile home parks.
Naomi Sommer believed in the power of women to be entrepreneurs and realized that not every woman gets the first hand-up from family that she did. She saw that WEV could provide that hand-up. Before she died, Naomi gave $100,000 to launch WEV's endowment.
Her legacy lives on both through her gift and through her daughter, Tana Sommer-Belin who explains her own legacy gift this way: "I watched my mother build wealth over time starting from very little. I want to continue her work and help other women be able to do the same."