Chuck Ross

The Measure of a Man: The Passing of Bob Silberberg

Nov 3, 2017

“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.

Bob Silberberg

(Photo courtesy Michael Silberberg)


  1. Well done Chuck.
    Bob would have loved reading your story.

  2. Thank you Chuck for such a beautiful tribute. Dad would have been overwhelmed by you kind words

  3. A friend for 65 years. We were separated by the Atlantic Ocean since 1983 but still managed to share each other’s lives often. He was my first friend at the Baruch Scool and one of the finest, most talented human beings I have ever known. We last communicated just three days before his operation.
    I have lost a very special friend.

  4. Sandy and I spent 3 weeks touring in Turkey with Bob and Sylvia and 17 others a few years ago. It was a wonderful trip mostly because of the people with whom we shared the experience. Bob was the life of the party and a decent human being. We offer our deepest sympathy to Sylvia and family. He certainly will be missed.

  5. So sorry to hear of Bob’s passing. He was such a great pro.

  6. My friend,my partner,my brother

    A great guy who will be missed as I know I lost a part of me

  7. Beautiful, warm , touching account of Bob. Articulated with a deft touch Chuck, well done and thx for sharing.

  8. Working for Bob in the 80s at ABC was a blessing. Bob taught me the most important lesson in anyone’s career…your name is your brand. Protect it because you only have one.
    A true leader and friend. We never lost touch and I’m grateful for that today.
    Blessing to the SILBERBERG family

  9. Chuck, thank you for this beautiful article about my Dad. Our entire family was very touched by your thoughts. I completed a slide show/movie of key moments of Dad’s life, and in every picture he flashed the warm huge smile you described in your article. I already really miss his super upbeat presence.

  10. Working with Bob and Len Koch at my first job in the business, I’ll never forget Bob asking me almost daily, “… so, did we move the ball forward today”? Just a little thing that still resonates today as an indication of his positive attitude and approach. He’ll be missed.

  11. I was calling in to see if he wanted to get on an airplane again and pitch! The truth is they just don’t make them like that anymore. He defined droll and modest in an industry peppered with too much self aggrandizement. Bob was a class act, my mentor and a great friend. Evidently God was missing a pitch man!

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