The Eulogizer: Radio broadcaster, Einstein’s cousin, high school bandleader

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The Eulogizer is a new column (soon-to-be blog) that highlights the life accomplishments of famous and not-so-famous Jews who have passed away recently. Learn about their achievements, honor their memories and celebrate Jewish lives well lived with The Eulogizer. Write to the Eulogizer at eulogizer@jta.org. Read previous columns here.

Danny Stiles, 87, radio broadcaster

Danny Stiles, a longtime New York-area broadcaster and proponent of American popular song from the mid-20th century, died March 11 at 87.

Stiles, who titled himself the “King of Nostalgia” and the “Vicar of Vintage Vinyl,” hosted radio shows on WNYC and three other AM stations. He also hosted a website on which he streamed a "virtual music museum."

His collection of records dating back to the 1920s totaled more than 200,000.

Robert Spiegelman, 54, high school bandleader

Robert Spiegelman, who accompanied the high school band he directed to the 2011 Rose Bowl Parade despite a serious illness, died March 20 at 54.

Cody Filben, a senior trombonist with Lindbergh High School’s Spirit of St. Louis Marching Band, said Spiegelman was "smiling like a little kid" at the Rose Parade. "I’ve never seen him happier."

Spiegelman had been diagnosed with cancer a year before the parade and tried to shield the students from the effects of his illness. David Wyss, an assistant bandleader at Lindbergh, said Spiegelman was delighted when told he could travel to California from St. Louis, Mo. "I don’t know where he got his strength that day, but nothing was going to stop him."

Speigelman grew up and lived in the St. Louis area. The school’s jazz ensemble, under his direction, traveled to Paris in 1997 to play in the 50th anniversary of the school’s namesake’s renowned flight from New York to Paris.

George Einstein, 91, cousin of Albert Einstein

George Einstein, a cousin, contemporary and occasional companion of Albert Einstein who was a successful inventor and businessman in his own right, died Feb. 22 at 91.

Einstein was a founder of New England Aircraft, and developed patented products for aircraft and turbines at the Connecticut manufacturing firm.

Einstein left his native Stuttgart, Germany, in mid-1938 after training as an engineer. He spent two years in the Seabees, the U.S. Navy’s construction force, in the Pacific during World War II, despite initially being classified as an “enemy alien.” In 2009, Einstein joined about 100 veterans on an “Honor Flight” to visit the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.

“It was very emotional seeing all the columns, one for each state,” he said. “I felt [like I was] a part of it.”

Einstein was close with his cousin and periodically played chamber music with him — George on the cello and Albert on the violin. In a story he told more than once, George said that Albert once “lost his way” during the allegro section of a Mozart composition, which led one of the other players to ask, "Professor, can’t you count?"

More on Elizabeth Taylor

There is little The Eulogizer can add to the cascades of ink, video and photography about Elisheba Rachel Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky, who died March 23 at 79. JTA’s own piece offered a good summary of Elizabeth Taylor’s Jewishness. I would point you as well to a piece in the Forward, which recounts details of her conversion at a celebrity shul in Los Angeles and her offer to be a hostage in exchange for the Israelis held at Entebbe in 1977. An Israeli website cited Taylor’s purchases of Israel Bonds, involvement in a pro-Israel gala in 1967 and other Zionist activities.

The New York Times made an off-hand, unexplained and even gratuitous reference to Taylor’s donations to Israeli causes, but never mentioned either her conversion or her religion. The Los Angeles Times, Taylor’s “hometown” newspaper, as it were, also didn’t mention her being Jewish.

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