Robert “Bob” Goldstein, a certified public accountant who measured wealth by friendships made, died on Feb. 14. Goldstein was 72.
In a city known for its neighborhoods and interconnectedness, Goldstein was a perfect fit. Some 800 people attended his Feb. 18 funeral.
“Everyone from the mayor to the servers and waiters at How Lee was there,” said Goldstein’s daughter, Beth.
“It’s like he was a community unto himself,” said Goldstein’s son, Michael.
Beloved at his frequent haunts, Goldstein’s orb included clients, neighbors and fellow JCC members. He made new friends by simply learning people’s names, asking about their families and offering help whenever needed. Born on July 22, 1947, Goldstein came by his warmth and connectedness from his parents, Murray and Hilda, who ran Goldstein’s Restaurant on lower Fifth Avenue. Observing their tireless work, and the care they provided for him and his older brothers, Harry and Shelly, gave the avid sports lover an early playbook for life.
“Bob’s daily routine was certainly modest and consistent,” said longtime friend Stanley Marks.
Each morning, Goldstein rose, covered his head and recited a passage from his father’s prayer book. He then ensured Linda, his wife of 41 years, who predeceased him by 12 days, was comfortable before driving down South Linden Avenue to his nearby office. At day’s end, Goldstein headed toward Forbes Avenue and the Squirrel Hill Jewish Community Center to hold court with friends, many of whom he’d met decades earlier while playing basketball at the Oakland Y.
“It goes without saying he was well-liked,” said Alan Mallinger, Men’s Centerfit Platinum director and a friend of Goldstein’s for nearly 40 years.
Both through his service to the Western Pennsylvania Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and his daily visits to the health club, Goldstein was a constant presence at the center. Whether on the cardio deck, in the weight room, hallways or in the shvitz, Goldstein peppered those nearby with jokes, Yiddishisms and eucalyptus spray.
As for the minty aromatic splashes, “I guess they had something similar at the Bellagio steam room in Las Vegas, and he was just trying to bring a little class and appeal to the JCC locker room,” said Beth.
Goldstein’s regular hangouts also included local sporting events, including Pitt basketball games where he helped establish the Oakland Zoo student section. But even far from campus or downtown stadiums and their colorful seas of black and yellow, Goldstein was used to cheers.
As an adult, he frequently visited the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.
“I could never understand how he was playing 25 cent slot machines yet we were treated to the most lavish suites with meals and entertainment totally comped,” said Marks, who accompanied Goldstein on several trips and saw how he interacted with staff. Whether they were hosts, servers, bartenders, bellhops or concierges, he simply loved people and valued their efforts. In turn, several Bellagio staff members asked him for help with taxes.
The nearly 2,200 miles separating Pittsburgh from Las Vegas made no difference. Of Goldstein’s 1,600 clients, 900 of which are doctors, approximately 35% live outside the city, explained his daughter. And he treated all of them like family — which meant giving a lot of hugs.
“At a time when personal space is coveted, my dad truly didn’t care,” said Beth. “If you saw him, you were getting a hug. It didn’t matter if you were an Orthodox woman, a stoic man trying to go in for just a handshake, his waiter he just met that night at a restaurant. It didn’t matter if he just worked out at the JCC and was sweaty — you were getting that hug. He was going to hold you in that hug and pat your back and give you a huge smile.”
As it happened, many of these exchanges occurred while exiting the JCC. In the process of asking about someone’s family, kibbitzing or offering an embrace, Goldstein often missed paying his meter and got a ticket. It was worth the cost, he’d always say; people were granting him riches in a way most accountants could never measure. Whereas some practitioners pursued the field because of a penchant for numbers or finance, Goldstein enjoyed accounting because of the human interaction.
Beth worked with her father for 14 years, and said he was motivated by being helpful. For example, because of his clientele, he knew the salaries of many physicians, and he sometimes discovered inequalities.
“When a woman was making less, he would tell her to ask for a raise,” Beth recalled. “And if she didn’t, he would make calls until she did.”
Through various ways, “he built this little community,” said his son.
Often his impact was felt beyond the individual level. After identifying clients who qualified for a special earned income tax credit, Goldstein helped raise more than $1 million for Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh, which honored him at a dinner in 2017.
Hoping to preserve such memories, his children asked anyone with recollections — “big or small, long or short, G-rated or R-rated, from any time in his life” — to email stories to email@example.com. In just a few days, they got more than 100 responses. The large return isn’t surprising.
“He often quoted to me, ‘My bubbe said, ‘If you have three good friends, you’re a very lucky man,’’ said Marks. ‘In truth, I think Bob had 3,000.’”
In addition to his daughter, Beth (Jeremy Goldman) Goldstein, and son, Michael (Maggie Cann) Goldstein, Robert “Bob” Goldstein is survived by two granddaughters, Hannah Skye Goldman and Lila Gwendolyn Goldstein. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.