We’re here today, in the sanctuary that he loved, in the shul where he was so important and so respected, to honor the life and mourn the passing of Milton Caplan, beloved husband, father, brother, grandfather and cherished friend. As most of us know, Milt has battled sickness, and he has been very brave, but now it was just too much and he has succumbed. We respect him for the way he fought but even more for the life that he lived.
He was raised by his parents Morris and Diana, whom he always praised. Milt grew up with his younger brother Lawrence who has so many wonderful memories of Milt. One of my favorites is the origin of the nickname Mickey for Milt. It turns out that one of Milt’s first possessions was a baby spoon with Mickey Mouse on it. So one of Milt’s first words was Mickey. And that’s the origin of Milt’s nickname. The two brothers slept in the same room and Milt taught him how to drive. Lawrence and Helene have been important people in Milt’s life and he and Patti have been important in theirs. We wish Lawrence the best of health. There are a number of people here today who have known Milt since elementary school or high school. Thank you for being such good friends for a lifetime.
Milt was a self-made man. He was very bright and went to Yale University and received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1955. He had to work his way through school and was a waiter at a summer resort and a photographer and a translator. He put the money together and he graduated Yale and then went on to the University of Connecticut School of Law where he got his degree in 1958. Milt practiced law for forty years. He was a partner in the firm that became Caplan and Hecht from 1965 to 1997. He was loved and admired by his clients but even more he was completely trusted. His word was his bond. His confidentiality was solid. He was cautious and took it as his role to make sure that his clients understood everything, all the fine print, all the possible implications of their actions. He was a long-time member of several Bar Associations and held positions in those organizations. He was well respected and very appreciated. He was admitted to practice before the United States Supreme Court in1965.
But for all the legal work he did, he could have become rich on all the free legal advice he gave out.
Another attorney wrote that Milt was the classic model of a Connecticut attorney: honest, wise and careful.
Milt was cautious but then when he decided something, he was firm in his convictions. He loved the quote from Bertrand Russell, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves and wiser people so full of doubt.”
He was elected as State Representative from 1967 to 1971. He did very fine work but found that his good intentions were often stymied by people who were too quick to compromise their principles and by people who had questionable interests.
Milt was liberal on some issues and conservative on others. He thought out each matter for himself.
The obituary says that he was a past officer & director of Temple Beth Sholom. But he was so much more than that. If I could sum up what Milt was to this synagogue in one word, it was that he was our conscience. He emphasized, correctly, that democratic processes and openness and transparency and fiscal rectitude must be the operating principles of everything we do. Milt lived by a strong moral code and lived the way he thought everyone should be doing things. He was the opposite of a hypocrite. He made an extra point of not doing what he thought others should not do. And his vision of living by a code is something to which our synagogue always aspires.
He was a passionate advocate for Israel. One of our congregational trips to Israel happened because Milt and Patti pushed me that it was the right time. And in these last years Milt has been outspoken in his concerns and fears about certain trends that have emerged in the world around us.
Could Milt be stubborn? Sure. But he was logical and consistent. There was one time, many years ago, when he nearly caused a big problem for me. But I never ever held it against him, not for a second, because I understood that he was coming from a very logical, well-thought-out place and even though it turned out that he was wrong, he was working from a consistent principle and I always respected him for that.
Milt was one of those rare intelligent people who understand wit and banter and appreciate a really bad pun. Even on the bed in the hospital or the nursing home, even when he couldn’t talk, he always winced and cringed at just the right moment when I told a joke.
Patti and Milt were married for 57 years. They were a great couple who talked things through and thought things out together and were a united front in all sorts of situations. And those who have been around know that Patti has been there every step of the way during the hard physical times. When people would tell her to give herself a break, she simply didn’t. And it’s very simple: She wanted to be with him every second she could. She knew things were going from bad to worse and she wanted to be with the love of her life as long as she could. There are lots of songs and poems but that is the definition of love.
We mourn today with Deborah and John, Mark and Linda, and David and Rose. We thank them for being such devoted and loyal children. Milt loved and enjoyed and was extremely proud of his seven grandchildren Deanna, Mathew, Hannah, Leah, Jay, Reena and Thea. He loved each of them as people. As sad as I know they are, his grandchildren were lucky to have known him this long. Medical science may not have solved his recent problems but it kept him alive for many years in good health.
We also mourn today with Stan and Barbara, who have always been there for Milt and Patti and have really shared life with them, in good times like vacations and bad times like the nursing home.
Milton Caplan was a gentleman, he was a a real mensch in the best sense of the word; he was a very fine man. To say that we’ll miss him is an understatement. But life wasn’t life any more and it’s not a platitude to say that he is no longer suffering. And the fact is that in any situation, we will l be able to hear his voice, strongly advising us as to what we should do. If we will ask, “What would Milt say?” the answer will be clear.
To Patti and Deborah and Mark and David and the whole family, we wish you G-d’s comfort at this difficult time. He was a righteous man. May he rest in peace. Let us say Amen.