“The strength of a man’s virtue should not be measured by his special exertions, but by his habitual acts.” So said the French theologian Blaise Pascal close to five hundred years ago.
More recently, the popular novelist Kristin Hannah put it this way: “The measure of a man comes down to moments, spread out like dots of pain on the canvas of life. Everything you were, everything you’ll someday be, resides in the small, seemingly ordinary choices of everyday life. … Each decision seems as insignificant as a left turn on an unfamiliar road when you have no destination in mind. But the decisions accumulate until you realize one day that they’ve made you the man you are.”
I’ve been drawn to these thoughts over the last few days as I heard about the recent passing of Bob Silberberg, who died last week of pancreatic cancer. Bob was 83 and had been living for some time in Boynton Beach, Fla., which is between West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
I first met Bob, and got to know him well, in the early 1990s, when we were both in New York. I was covering the ad business for Inside Media, he was director of programming for Backer Spielvogel Bates. As I recall, he had recently left CBS, where he had been in charge of ad sales for news, daytime and kids programming. Before that he had spent more than 20 years in ad sales at ABC.
If ever someone was a mensch, it was Bob. I never recall seeing him without his greeting me — or anyone else, for that matter — with a huge smile and a hearty handshake. He knew both the ad and programming businesses inside and out and was eager to share his knowledge. He was warm, smart and one of those people who was just plain fun to be around.
Baseball great Ernie Banks once said that “the measure of a man is in the lives he’s touched.”
The number of lives Bob touched is innumerable. Here’s just a sample of the comments left during the last week on Bob’s Facebook page from those in the media business:
“A wonderful man — one of the last of the ‘pro’s pro.’ Deepest sympathies to the family,” wrote Phil Guarascio.
“So very sorry to hear that a truly good friend has left us … many wonderful memories,” wrote Jim Rosenfield Sr.
Added Arnie Semsky: “A great guy who taught a lot of us the biz. He will be missed but our memories and fun times won’t.”
Said Hal Trencher: “My heartfelt condolences to you all on the passing of Bob. A finer man couldn’t have existed! Admired, respected, loved, a mensch always, Bob will be remembered fondly!”
“One of the really nice guys. He’ll be missed by all,” wrote Barry Schulman.
Monica Cecchini wrote: “So sorry for your loss. What a GREAT GUY!”
Rick North wrote, “Bob was as good as it gets. Great teacher, fun to be around, and an insightful and talented businessman. My condolences to the Silberberg family.”
Said Lucie Salhany, “I still can see his smile.”
Brian Herbert, the son of “Dune” author Frank Herbert, and a fine writer in his own right, once wrote: “How will I be remembered by my children? This is the true measure of a man.”
When I wrote Bob’s son Michael a note about how wonderful his dad was, Michael wrote back: “Indeed — He touched so many people and universally people had great things to say about him. Above all he was a great father.”
I am overwhelmed by the sadness I feel in Bob’s passing. But my God, what a pleasure it was to have known him.
(Photo courtesy Michael Silberberg)