Poughkeepsie Day School lost a true friend and champion on June 23rd with the death of trustee Valery Einhorn. Below are the remarks I made at her memorial service at the invitation of the Einhorn family. I spoke on behalf of the school community but also personally. I valued and respected Valery and I will miss her. Our heartfelt condolences to Hal, Zoe and all her family and wide circle of friends.
It is hard to mourn the loss of someone who was so very full of life.
When I think of Valery – when PDS thinks of Valery – we see her bounding up the steps of Kenyon or onto the fields or heading into Gilkeson for a basketball game or a performance – a spring in her step, a sparkle in her eye and always it seems leaning forward – leaning forward to listen, leaning forward to ask a question – always leaning forward with the kind of eagerness that launches you down a steep ski slope or delivers an ace on the tennis court.
Valery was so full of vitality, so full of life. Quick to smile and laugh and do something gracious and kind. Always those little unobtrusive acts of kindness.
Before I arrived at the school Valery was an established member of the community – a parent on whom teachers could rely for chaperoning field trips and that other parents looked for when they need help with a pot-luck or a class event. She was willing to take on whatever task needed doing.
As a parent, a parent trustee and then as a community trustee – Valery was a significant part of the life of PDS right from the start – from 2003 when she and Hal enrolled Zoe. Even in this last difficult year she was attentive to the upcoming installation of the solar array on campus. These things mattered to Valery.
I first met her in my first summer – 2006.
She and Kim Roellke were chairing that year’s auction. It was then I learned that Valery loved to plan a party. To make sure it was well catered, that the flowers would be just right, the music classy and that – most of all – everyone would feel welcomed and have a good time.
Valery and Kim earned the name Gala Girls when they did a repeat performance for the 75th anniversary of PDS – another wonderfully warm and welcoming celebration of the school and its community present and past.
Valery served on the Committee on Trustees and become a most engaged and productive member of the board.
With her professional background in architecture it was predictable that she was asked to join, and then chair, the committee on buildings and grounds.
Although – the truth was – she would rather have been involved in the marketing and design and enrollment team – that’s where her heart lay. She always weighed in with – and I always welcomed – her observations about signage, school brochures, color schemes and web design. Valery had style and taste and discernment and she was always seeking to help the school reach beyond the quotidian and into the realm of the extraordinary. She loved the concept of PDS in a category of one and she always sought ways to help take it there.
So buildings and grounds – often not the most glamorous of assignments as it so often concerns roofing problems and furnace malfunctions and leaking pipes.
But Valery was undaunted and took on the role with characteristic energy and attention to details and aesthetics. She rose to this role magnificently.
Under her watch the school was transformed. And this transformation was epitomized by the athletic fields project. This was a complex two and half-year undertaking and Valery managed it all from start to finish.
As a leader on the Athletics Task Force Valery made the case for athletics at a school like PDS. It was Valery who articulated the Why. Long before the work began she made the case to the board – and to anyone who would listen – about why it mattered. She made the athletic fields project a school and board priority.
And once that battle was won – she turned her full attention to the work. She served as general contractor and project manager and my goodness how she took that on.
If Valery had taste and discernment when it came to choosing flowers and caterers we had seen nothing yet. With an eye always on the big picture and the budget she turned her mind to every detail.
She tackled the process of comparative research, bidding, contracting and selection with assiduous attention. She became an expert on athletic facilities, tree removal, bat conservation, grass seed, earth removal, grading and irrigation.
Valery put the personal face on all the complex web of relationships with contractors, landscapers, engineers, surveyors, agronomists, tree fellers and town planners. And in so doing earned the respect and the friendship of all those with whom she came into contact.
They remember the apple pies she delivered, the kind words and the smile. But they also knew just who was in charge and that the demands for quality were exacting.
Her energy and commitment never faltered or flagged – she shepherded that project from the initial dream through to the final celebration and opening game.
And – here’s the magic of Valery – while the real work consisted of endless meetings and discussion of drainage, and GPS guided bulldozers, scoreboards and electrical conduits – (I still have over 300 hundred emails on these topics) – when she came to describe the progress and the project at board meetings Valery would make it all sound – not only effortless – but like the most glamorous landscaping scheme for an article in Architectural Digest or House Beautiful.
That was Valery as we knew her: A steel will in that velvet glove. Exacting expectations graced with generosity – some baked goods, some flowers and always a kind and caring word.
Valery was a quintessential school booster and she took every opportunity to share her love of the school with others. Whoever she met and wherever she was she seemed to find someone to share her PDS stories with – delivering clothes to be sent to hurricane Sandy victims, on the tennis court, out to dinner, at the concert hall and even from the emergency room – Valery always reported on how she had met someone and she had told them about PDS.
This was typical Valery – she wove wonderful little personal touches into the driest of construction updates. The clam chowder she was making, that Zoe now had a driving permit, the family trip or the how the flowers looked in the garden that morning.
And when cancer struck again and she had to endure the assaults of the disease and its treatments her bulletins always stayed self-deprecating, optimistic and upbeat. She was full of zest for the life that remained. Valery confronted those challenges too, with a characteristic poise and extraordinary courage.
In losing Valery PDS has lost a wonderful friend – someone who always gave more than she took and whose energy, optimism and courage lifted the spirits of us all. Many people have stories of her quiet acts of kindness and generosity. And all of us will miss her deeply.
The capstone of her many contributions to the school are the lasting legacy of our beautiful athletic fields. Valery’s impact was transformative and will endure.
But – of course most important of all to Valery was her family. And her most important role at PDS was as a parent.
Hal – she always called you her rock. And Zoe was her beloved daughter for whom she would do anything and of whom she was so proud.
Valery was always there it seemed for every performance, event and concert and festival. She sat on the bleachers and cheered from the sidelines at every game. We knew that her love and support for Zoe was unconditional.
I think I speak for everyone at PDS when I say that we are deeply grateful that you – her family – shared Valery with us.
We are all changed by knowing her.