Eulogies for Al Goldstein
I want to thank everyone for coming out to honor my Dad. My name is Lois Goldstein, and I am Al's only daughter. Other than my brother Phil and my Uncle Larry, I knew Dad longer than anyone else – over 70 years. I grew up here, and attended Lincoln HS and Brooklyn College. Then my parents encouraged me to head off to graduate school in Illinois, where I eventually ended up teaching for 30 years, before my husband and I retired to northern Michigan.
My Dad was an inspiration to thousands of people during his lifetime, and I feel lucky that he raised me. He was a major influence on the person I am today. Last spring, I asked him what his proudest lifetime accomplishments were. His response revolved around his athletic achievements, but I see things differently. To me, it's the long-lasting effects he had on the lives of other people. My niece Alison hit it on the head when she wrote, "The best way to describe him is as a person who lived his whole life making other lives better."
He encouraged numerous people to continue their educations, and he offered to pay for college for lots of friends and family. For all of my 12 years of schooling in the NYC public schools, he never missed a parent-teacher conference. When I was in elementary school, Dad spent years preparing for the assistant and principal's exams, studying every night after supper. So Phil and I learned early on that if you were persistent, working hard would produce results. In the middle of 4th grade, we moved, and I had to change schools. Because of that, I missed the entire unit on fractions. So every night for a few months, we sat at the kitchen table and he taught me the four basic operations, and everything there was to know about numerators and denominators. It obviously paid off, since I have spent my entire working career as a math teacher. When I won a fellowship for graduate school, he said he would pay for my room and board, since the award was a prize I had earned by studying hard in college.
Early on, Dad taught us to accept all people based on their character, not their skin color. I often wondered how he formulated those attitudes. As you know, Dad was always a sports guy, and his primary ones were basketball, handball and running. Other than his famous full-court field goal shot in Madison Square Garden, not many people know about his other basketball accomplishments. I am wearing a little basketball charm that he gave me on the day of my mother's funeral in 1986. It says "City Champs 1935", and I asked him if his team had won during his junior or senior year. "Well, we won both years!" How did that happen? At that time, in the 1930s, all the schools in NYC were all black or all white. My grandpa was the coach at Textile HS, and was able to recruit players from all over the city. He figured out that if he got some tall black players who could jump, and some shorter Jewish guys who were really fast, then he'd be able to have a winning team. So Dad had friends who were a diverse group, which apparently was quite unusual in that era. It's one of my favorite stories and shows that diversity was something he embraced.
Even though he was only 5"10", Dad won a scholarship to play college basketball in Arizona. So off he went, planning to get an education out west. But the coach would not let a Jewish guy play in games, so after one year of sitting on the bench, he transferred back to CCNY, where he thrived. During World War ll, he was a PE instructor for all the men on the navy base, and then after the war, he was offered a job playing for the NY Knicks. But he had another job offer – teaching for the NYC school system, and it paid more. With a growing family, he took that position and never looked back. Wouldn't it be nice if teachers nowadays would be paid more than professional athletes? I am sure that Dad would have approved of that!
Some of my fondest childhood memories related to snowstorms. Two incidents stand out: I particularly loved it when Dad would load up Phillip and me on the "Flexible Flyer" sled, and tow us down 21st Avenue from 70th Street all the way to 86th Street. That sled had belonged to his family when Dad was a kid, and it had springs between the wooden slats and the runners. I often asked him to pull us faster, so we could get to enjoy the bumps more. There was one incident that was not as much fun for him. You see, Dad was a real stickler for washing and waxing his car, every weekend. It was a shiny 1950 Nash, like a big version of a VW Bug. We had had a substantial amount of snow on a school day, and while he was taking the subway home from his gym teacher job, I decided to do him a favor and clear the snow off the entire car. I was about 5 years old, and used the only thing that seemed reasonable to accomplish the task, namely a little metal shovel that we used to play in the sand at Coney Island. When Dad got home, I couldn't wait to tell him about how helpful I had been, and then he saw the car. Apparently I had not chosen the right tool, since the car ended up with a whole lot of scratches all over it! He didn't get angry at me – how he controlled his feelings is beyond me – but merely let me know that the next time, I should wait until he got home to have me help!
Not many of you know it, but our Mom suffered from debilitating depression for many years. I am so grateful that Dad took care of her when she couldn't take care of Phil and me. Dad took on all the household chores, from shopping to cooking to laundry, and in particular, making sure I was up and out of bed before he left for work. I never needed an alarm clock.
My Dad's brother, Uncle Larry. also played basketball as a young man. If you look carefully at the photos that are being displayed today, you will see that even as they aged, both Al and Larry continued their shared passion for sports. But that interest soon evolved from being mere spectators into competitive napping. You can thank my cousin Tammy for capturing that moment.
As I mentioned earlier, Dad instilled a passion in me (and in his colleagues) for teaching, and for showing by example that helping others should be a major life-long goal. I feel that I have passed on that passion to thousands of my own students, and it's something that I am really proud of. The most important thing is to share your talents and resources with others, and to be willing to do it for free. Dad demonstrated to everyone, especially to young people, that staying physically and mentally active will improve your quality of life. I am reminded of a quote from Sydney Harris, about a professor who had passed away: "A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops". I ask that you continue that legacy in memory of Al Goldstein by sharing your talents – everyone is good at something.
And parents, feel free to honor my Dad, and re-use those delightful words that he always said to me when I complained about our car being stuck in traffic jams: "What do you want me to do, drive over them?" I had an image of us someday having a car with a slide-out ramp, and we could indeed perform such a miracle. Dad, you were a miraculous gift to us all!
In closing, I want to thank Phil and Alison. Your attention to Dad has allowed John and me to know that he was in good hands when we couldn't be here. Nydia, thank you for being a caring wife and companion for over two decades; you will never know how much we appreciate you.
Larry Gould’s Remarks, read by John Heiam
I’m John Heiam, Lois’ husband. Larry Gould, Al’s brother, could not be here because of illness so he asked me to read his remarks. Allow me to editorialize. Larry and Al were cast from the same mold. Both were intelligent, athletic, generous, and inveterate story tellers. I think you will hear a lot of Al in Larry’s words.
Albert Goldstein, an extraordinary brother
Remembering Al’s beautiful eulogies of our father, mother and sister 48, 42 and 27 years ago, I often wondered whether he or I would eventually give this eulogy for the other.
Tragically, but with profound respect for the life of my brother for 92 years, it’s my turn.
What an inspiration he was for me, and what a legacy he was for all whose lives he touched!
We were young members of a close family living in Brooklyn during the great depression. Our father was a high school gym teacher who insisted that his children do their homework before going out to play. Al did so, and I followed in his footsteps.
Unfortunately he was 6.5 years older than me. So I never had the pleasure of playing basketball with him in school yards, in high school where our dad was the coach and taught both of us how to play defense, nor in college, where he was coached by one of the sport’s greatest coaches, Nat Holman.
I watched him play many games and learned from him what Holman taught. There were two incidents in his college career that were unforgettable. In a game against Brooklyn College at the old Madison Square Garden, with a few seconds left in the half, one of Al’s teammates passed the ball from under the CCNY basket to Al near the foul line. Al took one step to near the circle above the foul line and with two hands shot the ball at the other basket 68 feet away.
Three seconds after the end of the half, the ball went in. The fans erupted in applause after witnessing that remarkable shot.
Sitting in the bleachers, I shouted out, “That’s my brother!” I get chills when I recall that electrifying moment over 75 years ago.
In a game at the City College gym, Al made a unique pass that I’ve never seen since while playing in and watching thousands of college and pro games. With his back to the basket above the foul line, Al must have heard his teammate, Red Phillips under the basket shout, “Throw me the ball.”
Without looking, with two hands Al threw the ball past his waist to Phillips, who made a layup.
Many great shots have been made in basketball. But little recognized has been the passes that set them up as Al did that night.
Al raised two fine children, Phillip and Lois, each of whom has contributed much to our nation. Like her grandfather and father, Lois was a teacher for decades who impacted the lives of thousands of children in positive ways to become useful citizens of our nation. There is no way of measuring the value of teachers who give students the foundation to become good parents and workers that our nation needs to remain leader of the world’s democracies.
Phillip, starting near the age of 50 using unique investment concepts, has become a leader in the hedge fund industry.
When Phil left engineering to start his hedge fund, Al showed his confidence in Phil by investing a substantial portion of his life savings at the age of 73 in the initial funds Phil and his partner invested. During the last 25 years Al’s account has done well under Phil’s leadership.
Like his father, Al was a teacher in Manhattan for 8 years, then an assistant principal in Staten Island for another 8 years. While he was a principal for the next 27 years at a grade school in the Williamsburg area, his contribution to education of thousands of poor Hispanic and Black children was extraordinary. This was a Brooklyn neighborhood where our family lived that was mainly Jewish, but changed over the decades.
Al instituted many original concepts to improve the education of the children. For example, when he learned that Hispanic children who entered kindergarten had limited knowledge of English, he obtained permission of the Department of Education to hire parents to become teacher’s aides to help the young students learn to read, write and speak English.
When the teachers went out on strike a few years later, he paid the aides himself for fear they would obtain employment elsewhere to replace the lost income they needed. When he asked the Department of Education to reimburse him, they refused.
One morning a young mother came to his office with her first grade daughter. In Spanish she told Al that she had to work overtime that day and wouldn’t be there to take her child home at three o’clock when school ended. She asked Al to please take her daughter home. When Al agreed, she told her daughter that Al would be at her classroom to take her home because she had told her daughter often, in their tough neighborhood, never to trust strange men.
When Al went to the classroom to take the child home, she had forgotten what her mother has told her and refused to go with him. Realizing that she couldn’t stay in school, Al took her by the hand and pulled the kicking and screaming child out of the school.
As he was walking by the schoolyard, dragging the protesting child, Al noticed that a large truck was following him. The driver, stopped the truck and jumped out with a baseball bat with the intention of rescuing the child from her molester.
Fortunately Al was able to explain to him in Spanish why he was taking the little girl home and why she was resisting. Thus did Al avoid serious injury.
The above is one of many stories Al told me about his life as a principal of close to 2,000 children in a neighborhood where many of the children lived with only their mothers.
There was no way of measuring the value of Al’s contribution to their education as responsible future adults.
Al told me many stories of how he helped Nydia’s children and grandchildren.
Al was one of a kind in so many ways. He has left me with a legacy I will never forget.