“You’re going to get a call from Stuart Miller,” Michael told me. It was the mid-Y2K’s, and my son, recently engaged to the beautiful Meredith, I suppose was warning me.

(Ed. Note 1: Meredith Vale Miller, nka Bogart, was from Great Neck, New York — hometown of Wendy, the AEPhi I went out with in 1970 — the one Walt said back then was “perfect” for me. I would be lying if I told you that 3+ decades later it didn’t occur to me to look her up).

(Ed. Note 2: It would be a further lie to tell you I hadn’t.).

Anyway: The phone rang on a Sunday night … just past 8 … as I was driving from a meeting … and I remember it well.

First it was Caryn, with small talk. (Ed. Note 3: We’d met once before. There was this dinner, a “Meet The Parents” kind of thing in Manhattan. There were smiles, shared tales of our kids, and fluff. Nothing, to be sure, of major consequence.).

Then, table having been set: “Stuey wants to speak to you.” —

It was less than five minutes, our whole conversation. Straight talk, candid talk, man-to-man talk — candor, if you will; we treaded on sensitive matters.

— And when the phone call concluded, it felt right. When our dialogue ended I sensed right then and there that this was a man to be trusted, a guy not unlike the New Yorkers I met through the Sammy House:  Liff, Appel, Franklin, Safran … that this was a man to befriend.

Ten years ago that was, give or take, and let the word go forth: the man I took an immediate liking to a decade ago I’ve come to love and respect, and admire.

—Not because he’s a sports fan, which he is.
—Not because he’s good to my son, which he is.
—Not even because he went with me to “The Three Stooges’ movie in 2012, which he did… or that he sat with me for hours on end watching the entire first season of “Veep” (which he’d seen before).

…But because Stuart Miller, with his tough New York accent, hard shell breeding and all is a true mensch, a gutte neshuma, a valued friend.

The jury was out at first, of course. Those first years of the marriage, there was nothing on the table. Then came Max… and Eli… and the nurture of family.

Me being geographically-impaired as a grandfather, Stuart’s done everything imaginable to minimize distance. (With Caryn), from opening their home ALWAYS, to keeping me “in the loop”, to ever-gracious rides to and from LaGuardia…to again ALWAYS maximizing my time with the boys—

And yet it’s so much more. Stuart Miller is, I’d suggest (and I hope the Knicks fan in him doesn’t mind the analogy), a latter-day John Havlicek. Indeed, as prolific as the Celtic great was with the ball in his hands, his greatness stemmed from how he moved without it.

As John Wooden put it: “The true test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”

Stuart Miller has true character.

For a decade now I’ve observed him. Steadfast he’s been, through sickness and health — ever there for his daughters, ever there for his nieces, ever there for my boy. Hard-pressed am I in fact, to recall this hard-core New Yorker saying an untoward word about anyone. ‘Bout the best you can get out of him on a tough subject is his knowing look, his nod of his head. “Switzerland,” Carrie dubbed him.

I’m acutely aware that over time not all my actions have been perfect. Indeed, some of my most poignant moments are spent wishing Michael could live in Cleveland and see me now — in my prime. The upside, however, is that he has Stuart to study— a paramount role model.

We saw Gary Puckett together, just a few weeks back. It was Carrie and Caryn and Stuart and Aunt Robin. We sat there on lawn chairs … as the sun went down…in Great Neck.

The ladies kibitzed, I roamed the crowd looking for my cousin Perry, and Stuart somewhat slept. Quietly.

Earlier that day we’d sung with the boys, laughed in the car, and even had a serious conversation with gut-level honesty.

It was the perfect blend of family and friendship, enriched by the youngest seventy-year old I know:  this truly good man.

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