Arnold “Arnie” Schollnick: born March 17, 1928, passed away on December 4, 2015, after a short illness in Rochester, New York. The seventh of eight children, he was born in Concord, New Hampshire, and an infant, moved with his family to Rochester, N.Y., where many of his father’s 12 brothers and sisters lived, having emigrated from Russia and England. Serving in the Air Force in Wiesbaden, Germany during the Berlin Airlift in the late 1940s, he met his first wife, now Eileen Hecht Levy, who was growing up in England, and they were married. They moved to Rochester where Schollnick worked as an engineer in the area’s audio-visual industry and he and his wife raised three children, Steve, Janine and Gary.
Schollnick is predeceased by his second wife, Ethel Bernstein Schollnick, brothers Barney, Louis and Gerald, and sisters Florence, Ethel, Dorothy and Ann. He is survived by Steve Schollnick (New Orleans LA), Janine Schollnick Benton and Nicholas F. Benton, (Falls Church, VA), and Gary (Nancy) Schollnick (Rochester, NY); grandchildren, Benjamin and Nathan, stepson Mitchell (Denise) Bernstein (Rochester, NY); grandchildren, Leon and Lynzey Bernstein; first wife, Eileen Hecht Levy (Falls Church, VA); and many nieces and nephews.
The following is a eulogy presented by Schollnick’s daughter, Falls Church attorney Janine Schollnick Benton:
When I was six years, the kids in my class were arguing about Nixon versus Kennedy. In my little girl logic, I reasoned that since I was born Jewish, political party membership must be the same. So I went home and asked my Dad, “what party are we?” Without batting an eye, he answered, “Democrat.” My reasons have changed over time, but I believed my Dad and have been a Democrat ever since.
When I was in college and very angry with President Nixon, my Dad tried to reason with me, “he’s our president, he would never lie.” When the truth came out, he never again questioned the veracity of my beliefs. He may not have agreed with me, but as long as he knew I was asking questions and making thoughtful decisions, he supported me.
In the mid-eighties, New Yorker magazine ran a huge two part article on my best friend from 9th and 10th grade. She was a leader in the NY art scene then, and became a global leader later. He was shocked to find out she was gay. It took a few difficult years for him to get used to the gay rights movement, but he never, ever attacked anyone for his/her sexual orientation.
My Dad loved books. My earliest memories are of him telling me that a good book is like an old friend. To him, there was no higher calling than being a lover of books and I happily adopted my Dad’s love of reading. He made a beautiful little wooden bookshelf for me, and I proudly displayed my small book collection on it. We did not have a lot of extra money for books, but I never lacked for a good book. I haunted school and local libraries, and my brothers and I spent many wonderful afternoons in an old used bookstore in downtown Rochester. My mother loved that store, and she made sure we always brought home at least one book a piece.
When I was 10, I decided to write plays. My Dad would take my handwritten copy, and sit me next to him as he typed multiple copies for me, one for each actor. He would seriously talk to me about plot and characters, but he never criticized. When I was about 12, my Dad started giving me his books to read. These books included, “Magic Casements,” “Yes, I Can” (Sammy Davis) and “Stranger in a Strange Land” (Robert Heinlein). I had to look up half the words, but I read them.
My Dad used to tell my brothers and me, “you may think I know nothing now, but when you get older you will ask ‘when did Dad learn all this stuff?'” I never thought my Dad knew “nothing.” Instead, I thought he could build or fix anything. He fixed old TVs so my brothers and I could each have one in our bedrooms. In the mid-sixties, that was a huge deal. Our friends were very impressed. When I was eight, he refurbished an old treadle sewing machine for me, painting it and putting pictures of my favorite book characters all over it.
When I got older, I did change my thinking about him. I thought he was one of the smartest people I had ever met. He could argue politics, science, history, literature, or law, and he would make good arguments. After I became a lawyer, I was shocked to discover a patent with my Dad’s name on it from the early 60s. He invented a windshield wiper technology that is still in use. His employer owned the patent, but it was his invention. In the early 90s, he rebuilt one of the first personal computers (I think he was trying to make it faster).
In elementary school, my brothers and I received a dime a week for every school year. If we wanted more allowance, we needed to get “A’s” and “B’s” and memorize poetry. My Dad would give us fifty cents for every poem we memorized, start to finish. He loved Kipling and Poe, especially “Gunga Din” and ” The Raven.” My younger brother, Gary, remembers “wanting in” on the cash for poetry when he was five. My Dad said, “ok, but you must memorize the whole poem.” So Gary conspired with my British Mom, who loved “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” The following week, Gary recited:
When I grow to a man’s estate/I shall be very proud and great/And tell the other girls and boys/Not to meddle with my toys
My Dad laughed and laughed, but paid Gary his money. Gary went on to learn poems about persistent shadows and little elfmen down where the lilies grow. My older brother, Steve, and I toiled on Poe, but also learned poems about going up and down on swings ’til we looked over the garden wall, and going to bed with backward looks at the dear land of Story-books.
My Dad died on Friday. His funeral was Monday. My brother Gary gave a brilliant eulogy at the synagogue, and my nephew and niece spoke of their grandpa’s love and kindness. My Dad was very proud of his kids and grandkids. His eyesight failed him over the last ten years, but he continued to read book after book by listening to tapes. As Gary told the congregation, when his hearing started to go, he turned up the volume. Nothing was going to keep him from his beloved reading.
My Dad never bragged about his life. When I was little, he told stories about being stationed in Germany after the war, and, even though he was Jewish, he never said an unkind word about the Germans he had met. I only learned twenty years ago that he had been part of the Berlin Airlift, and I learned that only because he saw the exhibit at the Air and Space Museum.
He was a remarkable, loving man. There is a huge hole in my life now, and, of course, I am grieving. My Dad, however, would be annoyed with me if I grieved too much. His second wife died in 2012, and when he was 17, he lost his mother. He was the last member of his generation in a huge family, but he never let grief or sadness slow him down. He never lost his love of books, or of having fun, and never stopped being proud of his kids, their spouses and their children. Robert Louis Stevenson was my companion as a child, and I take comfort in his poem “The Reader.
As from the house your mother sees/You playing round the garden trees,/So you may see, if you will look/Through the windows of this book,/Another child, far, far away,/And in another garden, play./But do not think you can at all,/By knocking on the window, call/That child to hear you. He intent/Is all on his play-business bent/He does not hear, he will not look,/Nor yet be lured out of this book/For, long ago, the truth to say,/He has grown up and gone away,/And it is but a child of air/That lingers in the garden there.
My dad has gone away, but he lingers still. I will always miss him.