N.J. builder J.S. Hovnanian dies

An Iraqi immigrant whose firm constructed thousands of homes in South Jersey, he was 80.

NEWARK, N.J. - Jirair S. Hovnanian, 80, an immigrant who founded two building companies, died Tuesday at his home in Mount Laurel, said his grandson Garo Hovnanian, a member of the third generation involved with J.S. Hovnanian & Sons, of Mount Laurel.

He had been in and out of the hospital recently for small ailments and because he had been outside in the heat recently watching his company build a house in Pennsauken for ABC's television show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, his grandson said yesterday.

In a statement, the family said Mr. Hovnanian "gave his life to nurturing his loved ones, expanding opportunities for future generations, and pursuing the American Dream. We take comfort in knowing that his legacy lives on in the people he touched so deeply with his generosity, his love, and his passion for life."

Mr. Hovnanian started the company in 1964 after splitting from a company he had started with his three brothers.

Over the last four decades, J.S. Hovnanian & Sons built more than 6,000 homes, mainly in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties, the company said.

Mr. Hovnanian was born in Kirkuk, Iraq, where his father, Stepan K. Hovnanian, an Armenian refugee, was a builder.

Mr. Hovnanian came to the United States in 1948 and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School in 1952.

He and his brothers formed Hovnanian Brothers Corp. in 1959 and built homes in New Jersey before starting separate companies about five years later.