We’re here today to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Howard Rothstein, beloved husband, father, grandfather and cherished friend. The truth is that for everything Howie was going through, none of us knew that this was going to happen. As a result, even after a few days, it is hard to grasp that we are here to bury him. Some of us talked to him within a day or even a couple of hours of the end of his life and he was talking and smiling and very much himself. It’s going to take us time just to understand that this has happened.
But here is what is not confusing: Howard Rothstein was a good person, a kind human being, a sociable and positive person, and most of all, a family man. So let’s not focus on his death but on his life.
Howard was born and raised in Brooklyn and went to Tilden High School. He was very bright; as most of us know, he was a member of MENSA because of his high IQ. He skipped a year but it made it hard to be short and the youngest. He was only 16 when he went to Brooklyn College. He graduated City College in Physics.
Judy knew Howie’s cousins before she knew Howie. Howie was very involved in his fraternity and Judy was very involved in her sorority and they met and hit it off and they were married in 1961.
He had a lot of jobs in his life. The first was as a kid; he worked part-time at a family bakery. He would love baking for the rest of his life. He would be famous for a non-dairy chocolate mousse that a French chef wanted the recipe for. His first job when he got older was with the original big computers. He put together baby carriages and bicycles. His first job out of college was working on the Atlas rocket. He worked with Grumman from 1962-68. He then came up here to Connecticut to work at Sikorsky and he worked on the return guidance module of Apollo 13. He did this till 1972. He was a research analyst and loved going into the archives in Washington.
In 1973, he worked with Intertel as the Vice President for sales.
He was in the Medical business and furnished equipment for Temple Medical. He worked at Philips and Pfizer Medical. He had a fantastic job with Novo from Denmark. His had own business Nutmeg Diagnostic Systems.
So in his life he had these and other jobs, but let’s try to talk about his career in general. He was very bright and one of the themes of his life is that he could get a new job and ramp up quickly to be able to do whatever the job demanded. He could pick up anything and do it well. His cousin Janet says it well: “An engineer by training, he had a quick mind and good grasp of concepts.”
The hard truth about his career is that he had ups and downs. He lost his job five times. One of the reasons is that he was talented but that he did not play politics. In a way, this hurt him, but in another way, it is something we should respect; he was no one’s lackey and he had self-respect. And something that I admire even more is that every time, he picked himself up and moved on, and that Howie and Judy always stuck together.
He had a wonderful way with people. He was one salesman customers wanted to see. He had a great sense of humor. He liked to kibbitz and to schmooze.
His daughters Shari Lynn and Lisa will speak for themselves both here and at the shul, but there are many wonderful memories, like of their father reading them Swiss Family Robinson and cracking jokes and squawking in a fake Japanese accent.
He loved to daven, to pray at shul, because there was a child’s connection to his father. In a way, he was never as at ease about showing affection to his wife and daughters as he was at shul. Judy says, with real insight, that the warmth she gave him, and the family she gave him, was something that he appreciated in his core because he had not really had that before in his life because he was raised as an only child and did not see his hard-working father very much.
He was a wonderful husband and father and he was a very dear and nurturing grandfather to Sydney, Isaac and Eli. They will speak for themselves but they have many wonderful memories. Each of them had a different relationship with him which is at it should be.
Howie Rothstein was a very good, very honest, very sensitive human being. He was always thinking about how to help others. He was completely non-judgmental. Janet says: “You can’t think of Howard Rothstein without thinking of someone who was totally devoted to his family. He always had time for the people who mattered most to him as evidenced by the many relationships he had with friendships that spanned many decades.”
I want to give you two pictures, one funny and the other romantic.
The funny story is that when they were lived at Kay Vue, Howie was at the pool and he was talking to a friend and neighbor of his, Bernie Kaplan. Now Bernie, who died, unfortunately a few years ago, was 6”4’ and Howie was, well, not 6”4’. And Howie was talking and talking and eventually Bernie just wanted to swim in the pool. So Bernie kept walking backwards into the deep end but Howie didn’t get it and just kept following him into the deep end. And Bernie could still stand but all of a sudden, Howie was underwater and flailing his arms.
That was Howie: He would be so focused on what he was doing that he didn’t know what was going on or where he was.
Second scene: This is just a few short months ago. We had a social event at the shul and Howie and Judy were out there dancing; so skillfully, effortlessly, such a beautiful couple. That’s the picture I will always keep in my head of this couple.
I would like to say to Judy that Howie always tried to take good care of you, and that you are now facing several challenges without him. Please be kind to yourself. Don’t be afraid to put yourself first. I will never forget visiting you at one hospital a week or so ago and he was at the other hospital and each of you was only concerned about the other. Now you have to be concerned with yourself. I hope that you’ll hear me and do this. The best thing that you can do for Howie is to take care of yourself.
Howard Rothstein was a righteous man and a good guy. May he rest in peace. Let us say Amen.