The Real Man of the Year

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Author’s Note: Thank you Brian and Ernie for letting me publish this here.  My Dad has been suffering from Lewy Body Dementia for quite a while and he took ill 9 days ago.  The family decided he was not strong enough to recover from an operation that would not have given him any sort of comfort and last Friday he was moved to Hospice.  I was able to spend most of the last 48 hours with him as the Hospice allowed me to sleep on a pull-out chair.  I want to thank Hospice By The Sea in Boca for the wonderful way they help to make those last few days so comfortable for him; they are truly angels on earth.

My Dad is survived by my Mom Gemma, my brother Matt and I, three grandkids Alex, Amy and Michael and brother and sister in law Harold and Erica Tencer, with their daughter Mara and her children.

 

In 2014 I received an absolutely wonderful reward when the US Lacrosse South Florida Chapter named me the High School Boys Man of the Year.  Frankly I never expected to be considered for something like this and when I was told it was truly a proud moment.

My Dad passed away at age 86 yesterday and I wanted to find a way to honor his memory since in his profession they don’t give out Man of the Year awards . . . but if they did, he certainly deserved one.  He dedicated 58 years of his life to his profession.  And in more ways than I have he brought joy and happiness to those he helped.

Just like I am now he was a financial advisor.  When the job is done well a client gets to retire without financial worries, the kids go to college without debt; that anniversary vacation becomes the round the world tour and the estate can afford both an inheritance to pass on as well as a bequest to a favored cause . . . or two.

I’ve been a lacrosse fan since I was in college, he was an investment prodigy even longer.  His dad was a Wall Street partner when that was in vogue and his grandfather was a major Wall Street publisher who eventually sold his business to Moody’s, a research and ratings agency that is still going strong today.  An ROTC student at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania he majored in Finance and then he went on to gain his Master’s Degree at the Columbia Business School where he studied under the famous professors Ben Graham and David Dodd.  Just two years in front of him at Columbia a guy named Buffett graduated after following the same path.

He served in Korea after graduating to fulfill the ROTC requirement and I remember him telling me about what it was like to be saluted by those with more experience, only to be told that ‘we are saluting the uniform sir . . . ‘.

He never really told me how he took that . . .

 

December 9th, 1956

December 9th, 1956

 

His first Wall Street job was as a Railroad Analyst.  Today that would be a bit of an eye-raiser but if you read American economic history you would be surprised how important the railroad was to this country . . . probably even more important than the Internet is today . . . I’m sure my younger readers would be stunned by that . . . I recommend An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power by John Steele Gordon if you need the lesson.

He then joined his Dad at Newburger Loeb, a Wall Street partnership that would become known later in the 1960’s when it became the first Wall Street partnership to name an African-American partner, Joseph Searles III, a former Buffalo Bills player.  The firm is also known for giving a young Ben Graham his first Wall Street job as, of all things, a delivery boy!

My Dad was made partner before the age of 40, quite the accomplishment in what was far more of an age/experience based decision approach of that era.  Unfortunately Newburger was a victim of the early 1970’s Wall Street upheaval where many partnerships went out of business and it was on to the next stage.  He served mostly as a Branch Manager for firms like Gruntal, Josephthal, JW Charles, and eventually retired from Summit Brokerage after the 2012 calendar year when his battle with dementia started.

Interestingly, a footnote to that partnership is that my Dad barely outlived the other surviving member of that partnership, Robert Newburger, who died last year at 102 years young, after ‘retiring’ at 98 years of age (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-09-17/robert-newburger-nyse-floor-trader-for-55-years-dies-at-102).  With my Dad’s passing there are no partners left from that rich heritage of a firm that never forgot what the business was supposed to be about.

I reached out to one of the stockbrokers who ‘got their start’ under my Dad as one of his ‘trainees’, Ron Baron.  For those of you who follow the financial world you will recognize him from his many appearances on CNBC and as the founder and main investment strategist of the Baron Funds, a large mutual fund family with a long track record.  He mentioned to me that what impressed him so much about Dad was how honest he was and how much Dad emphasized doing the right thing was for the clients no matter what.  It would work out better for a stockbroker if they treated the client as if it was your own money.

Just these experiences alone are enough to be named Man of the Year.

 

Dad May 1998 RR Mag Feature

May 1998 Registered Representative Feature Profile

 

It’s the other stuff that clinches the title.

He gave me the greatest gift of all . . . unconditional love.

And the second greatest gift any father can give a son . . . he allowed me to make my own mistakes to learn from . . . and was there to clean up the mess left behind without piling on.

I’ve chosen those words very carefully.

And now that I have my own 21-year-old son the hardest thing I find is not piling on when my son screws up.  It’s too easy.  But if you teach your son how to be a man properly a simple look of disapproval usually suffices.

I hope I get to the level he practiced it.  It will make me feel as worthy of the title of Dad as much as he earned it.

 

Dad Superstars Trip

These pictures are by luck.  My folks scheduled their anniversary trip to the Bahamas in December 1979 and it happened to coincide with the Superstars Competition!

They obtained a great group of autographs on the program, including Hank Aaron, Larry Holmes (family lore has it my Mom gave Larry bowling tips before that event!) and so many more.

That’s Reggie Jackson in the top photo and the bottom is the ‘Simon Says’ part of the broadcast with the female athletes.

 

We shared a lot of interests.  Obviously I grew up around the financial world and we could always talk about the markets and what stocks he might be buying and selling.  Sports.  Broadway shows.  Movies like The Red Shoes.  Family dogs.  Gefilte fish and Horseradish and of course bagels, cream cheese and lox.  Even Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda.

My folks spent pretty much all their time together.  My Mom also entered the business.  They played golf and when my brother and I showed an interest we became a foursome at a very early age.  This led to a ‘family moment’ as my Dad was tied going to the 18th hole of a Club Championship semifinal at Timber Point Country Club on Long Island.  I was about 8 or 9 years old and the beach cabana area also looked out over the 18th tee.  As he was swinging I yelled out ‘hit a good one daddy!’ . . . experienced golfers know what happened after that.

 

Well, he did win a Club Championship a few years later.

 

When he turned 60 I was asked to write up a couple of remembrances and that story certainly came up, as did what I laughingly termed Sandy’s Revenge.  About 5 years later we were on a family trip to Bermuda and the family foursome took off for another day of fun and low key competition . . . my Mom couldn’t play with us without some sort of side bet . . . and on a short Par 3 with a deep gully between tee and green I managed to top one into the gully.  As I waited to hit up to the green I heard a rustling in the bushes and when I turned I was confronted with, of all things, a chained Ram looking at me!  I didn’t have a clue that they even were indigenous.  On further examination I saw the chain and calmed down . . . but I could have sworn that next to the ram was a football helmet bearing the University of Pennsylvania logo . . . had to be Penn because by then Columbia had a football team in name only.

Of course my dad swore he had nothing to do with it, but I guess that depends on what the definition of ‘it’ was . . .

 

Dad College and Four Generations

College Graduation on the left and four generations on the right . . . that’a actually me being held.

 

My folks would have celebrated their 60th anniversary this year in December and that also makes one qualified for a Man of the Year award.  I never really asked him what the secret of that was but I suspect he would have said, “Learn the magic words son, Yes Dear”.

They played Bridge together, making that longevity even more of an accomplishment.  Bridge and Golf have a tendency to accentuate . . . let’s call it ‘debate’.  Add me in as a player too, as I kind of taught myself while watching them.  My Dad and I did play one duplicate contract bridge tournament together and that was a fond memory for both of us.

For those who understand, in the 20 hands we played we ended up with 6 Tops and 7 Bottoms and finished third that night and he would always tell the story of my 8-6 finesse over the 7-5 on my left, as the two Life Masters we were paired against on that hand would ask their 19-year old opponent why I had played that only to have me brashly respond ‘that’s the only way to make the hand . . .’.

He was laughing too hard to give me the look of disapproval that night.

It was like he was approving my true move into manhood.

 

Dad With Alex and Sammy

With my son Alex and Sammy, the family Lab

 

Unlike the way we do it in Judaism.  He was a Junior Cantor growing up as his mom was very devout, although my grandfather really wasn’t raised that way.  Of course we Jews celebrate our Bar/Bat Mitzvahs as the ‘path to adulthood’ although the state tends to think 13 is a little young for that.  Of course, those who traveled the Mitzvah route back in the early 70’s remember a little different period of looking the other way, unlike today where you have to watch for a cell phone camera at every turn.  One of those father-son things he did was that I was allowed one adult beverage per Mitzvah party, as long as I drank it quietly in a corner . . . I still will order a whiskey sour once in a while at a bar.

Again, giving me a little taste of the adult world and making me feel part of something special.

 

Another memory like that was the only time I came home drunk, on my first break from college.  Knowing it was inevitable at some point in time he took a look at me as I lied down on the carpet inside the door, looking up at him with a big time apologetic look and similar spoken words, he laughed at me and told me you’ll feel ever sorrier tomorrow.  That had a double meaning and after I slept it off and experiencing what a hangover really felt like, he offered to make me bacon and eggs for breakfast and asked me if I wanted a beer with it . . .

The lesson sunk in pretty good.

Didn’t even get the look . . . certainly didn’t need it with the headache I was experiencing.

 

Dad with Mom and Matt and I

With Mom on top and my brother and I on the bottom

 

So many other memories.  Taking me to the Garden for my first college basketball doubleheader.  UConn-UMass and St. John’s-Notre Dame.  Frankie Alagia rimming it out from 35 feet at the buzzer that would have won the game as we stood in the alleyway so we could dash down the steps to make the train back to Long Island, and just making it by a few minutes . . . it would have been another hour for the next one.

Even the smallest memories stick when you get to do those father-son outings.

 

One final memory that actually was pretty much the last real moment of recognition and communication we shared before he reached that stage of not being able to communicate and that was tied in to the SA-Benjamin broadcast from last year.

Those who watched the broadcast remember that at halftime Wells and I were privileged to interview legendary golfer Jack Nicklaus.  I was able to show him the film clip of the interview and his eyes lit up at the thought of my getting to talk to one of his athletic heroes.  The 1986 Masters was one we all watched and rooted for.

 

Nicklaus Interview 2015 Lee Roggenburg and Wells_opt

 

A smile that will never leave my memory.

A smile of the year for the Man of the Year.

Thank you Dad for everything.

See you on the 1st tee in heaven.