Eulogy for Norman Dubin on July 10, 2012
My dad seemed to know everybody in Chicago.
And everybody in Chicago seemed to know Norman Dubin.
When I was growing up in Skokie, my dad used to take the Skokie Swift to his office downtown every day. Every now and then he’d run into a neighbor of ours, Mr. Chadwick. Now, Chadwick happened to be a fraud investigator for the IRS. When Chadwick would see my dad, he’d say, “Dubin I’m thinking about you,” to which my dad would reply, “Chadwick, don’t think about me.”
He was known at every restaurant in town.
At Gibson’s, his picture was on the wall. He always told me that Sheldon, the African-American waiter who always served us on the porch, was secretly my half-brother. Another waiter there called him a member of “The Golden Tippers Club.”
At Gene & Georgetti’s, they called him “El Presidente.” When I spoke Spanish with the waiters, he said, “I think I picked up the wrong baby at the hospital.” Then in the next breath, he would say, “After I spent all that money to send that kid to Northwestern, I’m glad he finally learned something.”
One waiter said he should run for mayor, since all the waiters in Chicago would vote for him.
Then, of course, there was Manny’s, the
watering hole of some of the most powerful people in
Chicago, which, of course, also included Norm Dubin. At one time, my dad ate lunch there every day, and on those rare occasions when he didn’t, Kenny the owner would say that he’d have to call in to check up on my dad.
When Obama stopped at Manny’s once during his campaign for the Senate in 2004, my dad called me and said, “Let’s go over to Manny’s and meet Obama.”
My dad walked up to Obama, and Obama looked at my dad, and said “you look familiar.”
To which my dad replied, “Yeah, I’ve seen you naked in the locker room at the East Bank Club. And I’m a Republican too.” I guess my dad thought that since they were both members of the East Bank Club, they had some deeper connection and that he could really speak his mind.
His famous license plate, MAZLTOV, was seen all over town, as well as, the parking lot of the East Bank Club, his second home and where I was never sure which he liked more, playing racquetball with his buddies or watching the tight spandex on the young women there.
When someone recognized him, he would say, “Are you a bank teller? Because, I’m a bank robber.” Or, he’d say he was Nachum Ben David, using his Hebrew name. And then he used to complain, “I couldn’t have a mistress in this town, because everywhere I go, everybody would know me.”
He was very proud of being from Chicago and told everybody that he was a fifth generation Chicagoan. He used to tell people that his Grandma Brandy lived through the Great Chicago Fire, even though she was born five years after the fire. When he saw pictures of Russia in the news, he would say, “I’m glad my great-great grandfather had the brains to get on that boat.”
My father was born during the Depression and grew up in Uptown, where his neighbors and closest childhood friends, Angelo Garoufalis and David Racklin, were like the three musketeers.
He went to DePaul, but lived in the ZBT house at the U of C, where he met Marshall Lobin, Norm Kaplan, George Rosenbaum and Bob Morton, who passed recently, as well, in December, and built friendships that lasted a lifetime and that continued on to the next generation between me and their children.
He married his high school sweetheart, Phyllis Dubin, who he also met here in Chicago.
He built an accounting business with his partner Marshall Lavin that lasted decades until they merged with Philip Rootberg. He stayed on when it became CBIZ, where he was loved by his colleagues and where he always had an open door to new young associates. He used to say at CBIZ, “I’m just a broken down old Jewish CPA.”
As a life-long CPA, he was a shrewd observer of the financial markets and gave me the best investment advice of my life: “Never buy anything at CVS, because I have a lot of Walgreen’s stock.” He once told me, as we passed a major downtown office building where he was a small partner, “you know I own one door knob in that building.”
He made the greatest sacrifice for me, moving out of his beloved city to the suburbs, when I was born. He moved to Skokie, so I could go to the best schools. But a suburbanite he wasn’t. He hated puttering around the house and was at war with the lawn, until the neighbors complained about our lawn, which eventually burnt out and turned yellow and got full of weeds. I remember once seeing him fly past the window as he fell off a ladder, and I thought: “That’s my dad trying to fix something again.”
He loved to barbecue, even though we cringed at the chicken that he cooked, which was burnt on the outside and raw in the middle. He was heartbroken when his barbecue was mysteriously dragged into the garbage one day, and he went to the city dump to get it back.
As soon as I left for college, my parents ran back to the city, where my dad felt most at home and where he fed off its vitality. There at the 3150 building, he had a new swimming pool to rival the one at the East Bank Club, where he made new friends, the Leavitts, the Marcuses, and the Schreibmans, who have been a tremendous support to my family during this difficult time.
Although he was an only child, he became the adopted brother to the Kanter family of St. Paul, MN, when his mother, and my grandmother, Ida, married into their family and brought with her four stepchildren.
He loved eating dinner with his cousin Stanton and Nancy, swapping stories from his childhood about the crazy adventures of the Bisno family, of which he was also a part.
He also loved kidding around with my uncle, Ronald Brodsky, who rose to the level of captain in the US Navy, and who he gave a promotion, calling him “my brother-in-law the admiral.”
I used to think that he always quoted great scholars, until I discovered on his bookshelf last week a copy of “The 776 Stupidest Things Ever Said,” which was where he got so much material.
He was generous to not only me, but everyone. Besides the infinite number of meals at his favorite restaurants, he would take me to Brooks Brothers and buy me hundreds of dollars of shirts at a time. He thought a young professional should be dressed appropriately. Then when he saw me in one of those shirts, he’d say, “Hey that’s a nice shirt. Where did you get it?”
He was a devoted and loving father to me and a devoted and loving husband to my mother, Phyllis, and a doting father-in-law to my lovely wife, Sara, who he said laughed at every one of his jokes.
And, of course, he always supported me in all of my endeavors.
Above all, he was not just my father, he was a best friend.
But it is the image of my dad chomping on an unlit cigar and telling stories about Chicago that we will all remember.
The city that he loved so much will never be the same without him.
He will surely be missed by everybody, including the many other friends he made in his lifetime that are too numerous to mention.
And, I thank all of you for coming here today, especially those who came from out of town, to honor the life of Norman Dubin.