We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor and cherish the life of Barry Steinberg.
He was born and raised in Brooklyn by his beloved parents Harry and Anne. And a very special part of his life was his beloved Aunt Thelma, Barry’s mother’s sister, who babysat little Barry and who traveled up from Florida to be with us today. Thank you Thelma for everything you’ve done for Barry over the years. And we remember his brother Martin with love and respect today and offer our condolences to Barry’s sister-in law Shirley.
Barry graduated Brooklyn Tech and then he graduated Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He was a licensed professional engineer in Connecticut and New York. He practiced civil engineering for sixty years, the last 25 as owner of Steinberg Associates.
During the oil crisis, Barry was called upon to design and consulted on the building of bridges in Saudi Arabia. And he designed bridges closer to home like North Haven. Invariably, during family trips, he would point and say, “That’s mine.”
I keep thinking about the way he built bridges from North Haven to Saudi Arabia. Those were big achievements, but the bridges that he constructed in his own life were the really important ones. He built bridges in the community. He was actively involved in the JCC of Greater New Haven, B’nai B’rith, and lately developed a deep interest in Tower One, Tower East, New Haven, CT. And he was a part of this synagogue, Temple Beth Sholom.
Eulogies are usually very general, describing the deceased in vague adjectives.
But those of us who knew Barry are sitting here today with specific memories. Some are bits and pieces; some are whole stories. I’d like to tell you two real life, unvarnished anecdotes about Barry in this synagogue that came back to me in the middle of the night after I heard, to my shock and dismay, that he had passed on.
So I’m a really young rabbi, not even 30, and I’m new to the shul and I’ve met Barry Steinberg but I really don’t know him, and he stops by my office to tell me about something that’s been happening. He quietly and logically states some facts and asks me to help. I resolved it on the spot. It didn’t occur to me until afterwards that I never listened to the other side, that I never questioned anything Barry said, that I just took care of it based on what he said. Strangely, I had no doubts about what I did. Barry told me facts, and they were facts, and he presented them respectfully and clearly. I never regretted that decision for a second and it was the right decision.
Many years later, a couple of people came to me to complain about Barry. They told me that he was being controversial and difficult and that since he liked me, I was the one to go tell him to back off. I didn’t even have to hear what it was about. I just said no. I replied that I knew that Barry could be controversial and stubborn but that any position he took was based on facts and was well-thought out and was based on experience and best practices and proper procedures. And I said that they would do well to re-think their positions. By the way, I never heard another word about it.
Barry had a certain kind of mind, and a certain lifetime of experience and my two personal anecdotes reflect his mind and his career.
I related to the Barry who was methodical and logical and sensible.
But that’s not the Barry Steinberg that meant the most to me.
There were times, over the years, bad times, sad times, and joyous and happy times, when Barry let me look into his heart. And what I saw there, down in his core, was a loving, nurturing, warm, kind husband and father and grandfather and friend. I saw Barry at the top of his life, and I saw him when he was in terrible distress, and all of these emotions concerned the people he loved. I saw him patient and understanding when I don’t think I could have been. I saw him being forgiving when I don’t think I could have been.
And there’s another aspect of Barry that I want to mention. If you were, say, at a funeral, and you were standing by yourself, and you were sad and alone, you would find Barry standing next to you, talking and getting you through it or asking you to sit with him. Three people, just in the last couple of days, have told me the same exact thing. He knew what to do and how to do it. He knew how to build and maintain bridges.
In these last months, even to the very end, he never lost hope. He was always positive. He was spared a lot of suffering. He never needed aspirin, never had side effects except that he would get extremely tired.
At the end, he was considering whether to go to rehab or not. He died in dignity and peace, as he deserved. He just sort of stopped breathing.
The most important bridge of his life was with Ruth Ann, whom he met on Nov 6th 1955. There was a party at a fraternity in Albany. It was cold and Ruth Ann wore her camel coat, and needed to find it. She saw an imp who looked like Howdy Doody. He was adorable; freckles, vaguely red hair. He offered to help her find her camel coat. And for the last 62 years, he has been finding everything for her.
For the last 58 years, since Dec. 1, 1957 they have had a wonderful marriage.
10 months and six days later there was Steven, and then there was Howard, and they had their beautiful family.You’ll hear about the kind of father he was in a few minutes. He was proud of his whole family, Howard, Steven and Sindy, and his seven grandchildren Brent, Kimberly, Dylan, Joshua, David, Samantha and Charlie. You’ll hear from the grandchildren in a few minutes as well.
I could keep talking, but I want to give the family a chance to speak. Just one more thought: Barry built a wonderful life, and his marriage and his family were his great achievements. Ruth-Ann was the best and most loyal and most caring wife, and Steven and Wood were perfect and loyal and caring. Barry always thanked you, but I also want to thank you for everything you were to him and everything you did for him.
He was a righteous man.
May he rest in peace.
Let us say Amen.