2007-10-19 / Columnists

Notes from the High C's

Rockaway Music and Arts Council
Commentary by Sharon Gabriel

I lost a friend today.....Rockaway lost a friend today....and we will never be the same. Barbara Eisenstadt passed away early this morning, Sunday, October 14, after an illness of over two years.

Barbara was a special person, first and foremost, a lady. In her quiet way, she made Rockaway a better place to live and in doing so changed the life of many people. Barbara was involved in many community projects, from Peninsula Hospital to the Garden Club to her many years with the National Council of Jewish Women to The Rockaway Music & Arts Council, to name just a few.

I have known Barbara from the first day she joined the RMAC approximately 25 years ago. She was asked to come to a meeting and immediately fit right in and the Music Council could not have asked for a better member. From the first, she had many ideas to bring the Council to the forefront in Rockaway. The Summer Picnic Concerts were her idea, the Fall Festival was her idea. Bringing the Richmond Symphony to Rockaway in the form of our Music Memory Program, which is run in several of our elementary schools, was her idea. Providing the music at the Tribute Park events was her idea. Our Museum Trips were her idea. Barbara would have an idea and then would engage others to work with her to make her idea a reality. Sitting around the table in her kitchen with a cup of hot cider or some fresh strawberries and cookies and discussing the next project that she would envision, I can just hear myself saying to her, "Barbara, how in the world do you expect us to manage that," and she would say, "Oh Sharon, you'll see, it will work," and she was right and I was always happy to work on the project with her....I must say, whatever the project was, we all put in our two cents to make it happen because Barbara could be very persuasive. If she had an idea there was almost no stopping her....and she was usually right. At the last, she was elected our first Chairman of The Board.

While we really didn't socialize a lot, I remember that when Barbara was attending Cooper-Hewitt to obtain her degree in decorative arts, there were many evenings I would receive a call from her wanting to know if I was going to work in the city the next day and could she hitch a ride. We would arrange to meet in the Waldbaum's parking lot where she'd leave her car and then we'd drive to Rego Park, where I would park my car and we would take the subway to Manhattan. We had wonderful conversations on those trips and I even found out that her college roommate was married to a fellow that I graduated with from Far Rockaway High School. The world was so small. What were the chances of that ever happening?

In all of this, I cannot leave out Marvin Eisenstadt. Whenever we would meet in Barbara's kitchen, Marvin would poke his head in to say "hello" and then would go upstairs and leave us to meet. Marvin was always there, giving Barbara his support in all of her many projects.

One personal incident that was funny, but not funny at the same time; I had come to their home for something and as I walked in, Marvin was holding their adorable dog, Oliver. Now, I love small dogs and I loved Oliver and we had a wonderful relationship, he would bark at me and I would talk back to him, until that day. As I went to pet him, Oliver decided to take a peck at my nose and it started to bleed. Barbara and Marvin both got very upset but I said not to worry, it would stop bleeding. Well, it didn't and Marvin decided I had to go with him to the plastic surgeon which I didn't want to do but did anyway, when he insisted. I was okay until the doctor said she had to put four stitches in my nose. Then I panicked and thank goodness Marvin was with me. He calmed me down and I must say the doctor did a great job and you cannot see any mark. After we came back, Barbara was still upset but I told her not to worry, Marvin was my great support at a very difficult time. Oliver, on the other hand, from then on, I think had a new home in the country. I'm making light of a serious problem to show just what wonderful people they both are.

I will miss my friend terribly...especially on Monday evenings when I tune in Channel 13 at 8:00 p.m. to watch "The Antiques Road Show". I used to call Barbara, sometimes on Monday evenings and she would say she couldn't speak to me because she was watching the "Road Show", so I started to watch just to see what it was like. Now, don't call me on Monday evening, either because I'm watching the "Road Show" and from now on I will always think of Barbara when I tune in. She could just get you involved in anything.

Its been very hard for me to write this column because I'm so upset but, I know that Barbara is probably trying to arrange a concert or festival or something in a better place.

To Marvin and his children, Jeffrey, Steven, Jill and Debra and their families, you had a very special lady in your lives and she will be missed by many people.

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