Remembrance of Steve Umin


By Tom Freiberg

Brenda and I loved Steve.
Steve lived within a rich and loving universe that centered around:


Steve was purely and simply SPECIAL.
He was a once in a lifetime.
When you met Steve, you remembered him. There was nothing neutral about him.
He was entirely original, entirely authentic. He gravitated towards authentic people. He
spoke his mind — his opinions were never sugar-coated.
Who could ever forget that VOICE. It was deep and commanding. Where did it come
from? He could have been an opera singer.

He was entirely OPEN. He let the world in — without rank.

The sun rose and set on Candy. It was a real love affair.

And those EYES. They were so penetrating. I went back and looked at photographs
from his Yale days and his eyes jumped off the page.

And, that blazing INTELLECT. He was a top student at Yale and Oxford, and then Yale
Law School. He was an outstanding lawyer at Williams & Connolly for 38 years. His intellect
was characterized by an INTENSITY that is rarely seen. To me, it was not only intellectual, but
physical. It was almost athletic in nature, similar to Tiger Woods standing over a putt.

He had a wonderful SENSE OF HUMOR, often ribald.

We will always hear, we will never forget his booming, contagious LAUGH. It came
from deep in his gut, or lower.

Once you were his friend, you were always his friend. His loyalty to friends was
legendary whether you lived as close as Charleston, or as far as Bangalore or Prague.
In a word, he was truly the BEST FRIEND you could ever have.

On top of that, he was a PIED PIPER. Although he married later than most, he raised
three children and was deeply devoted to all of them. He looked after the children of friends,
including ours. When I told our daughter Katie of Steve’s death, she reminded me of an ethnic
ragdoll with patchwork clothes that he gave her when she was 3 or 4 years old and that she’d
kept for about 10 years. While our son Brett was going to college on the east coast, he would
sometimes stay with Steve.

Music was a passion. His father may have introduced him to the Giants of football, but
his grandmother introduced him to the giants of opera. He was listening to performances of the
Metropolitan Opera from an early age. I’m not sure that he had great appreciation for opera as a youngster, but as time went on, he developed a profound appreciation for it. He and Candy
would often take trips, sometimes weekly, to New York for the Met’s performances.
On top of that, he had a wonderful Dutch art collection. Visiting his home was a real
treat. Steve took great delight in describing his new acquisitions. His collection was more than
just Dutch art. It was multi-faceted, including the work of some of his Yale classmates.
Interestingly, he had a real fascination with frames. Perhaps the frames represented the
“wholeness” of the picture. I can remember going to the Getty Museum with Steve in Los
Angeles on one occasion when he was looking primarily at frames.

Brenda and I loved Steve so much, and he loved us in return.

At times like this, there is an urge, perhaps a temptation, to try to find Steve’s overriding
attributes. Perhaps the word that best epitomizes him is APPETITE. Ravenous, right? He had
an appetite for things intellectual, and an appetite for things playful, fun, and edible. From the
time he was at Yale, he expressed what became a lifelong passion which was to SMELL THE
ROSES. He meant it, and he lived his life by that philosophy.

There are a couple of examples of how Steve’s appetite can be understood.

The first example goes back to his Yale days when he, at least during his last 2 years, had
a tailored major in which he studied James Joyce, principally the novel “Ulysses.” You may
recall that some years earlier, it was banned in the United States because it was considered
obscene. “Ulysses” was the source of two great themes in Steve — and Candy’s — life: food and
travel. The central character was Leopold Bloom, a lifetime role model. “Ulysses” begins with
three memorable sentences. Doesn’t this sound like Steve?

“Mr Leopold Bloom ate with relish the inner organs of beasts and
fowls. He liked thick giblet soup, nutty gizzards, a stuffed roast
heart, liver slices with crustcrumbs, fried hencod’s roes. Most of
all he liked grilled mutton kidneys which gave to his palate a fine
tang of faintly scented …”

… and it goes on from there. Is there any wonder that this was Steve’s favorite work? His
palate was more refined — but, not by much!

The second example relates to an OLD SAYING that you don’t know someone until you
travel with him. About six or seven years ago, Steve suggested a trip to Japan, Vietnam,
Cambodia and some other countries. They were great friends and great travelers, so Brenda and I eagerly signed on. The first night of the trip we were in Kyoto. We did something that many tourists do, which was to go to the Gion District at sundown to watch the Geishas assemble before they disbursed for their night’s work. After the plaza had cleared, Brenda and I raised the question of dinner. “Do you have any thoughts?” Steve replied in stentorian tones that he wanted spaghetti bolognese. Brenda and I were stunned — he meant it. Communicating through body language, we decided this was not the time for a confrontation. Believe it or not, we found a restaurant that served spaghetti bolognese! After that, we instituted some compromises.

It is so hard to let go of Steve!

He had a deep love for his entire family.

Candy: he really, really loved you. You were the love of his life.

Even at the end, as compromised as he was, he had a twinkle in his eye and engaged,
however simply, with old friends.

Steve: We know that in heaven, God has a great sofa waiting for you. We wish the sofa
was here, but you are no longer ours. Let us know what kind of roses they have there.