James Ralph Wiener '62
From The Olio
JAMES RALPH WIENER
371 Beechmont Drive, New Rochelle, New York
Prepared at New Rochelle High School
Delta Kappa Epsilon
Harlan Fiske Stone Law Society
James Ralph (Jim) Wiener '62, died June 21, 2004
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I first met Jim in the basement of Morrow Hall Iin October of our freshman year, watching the World Series between the Braves and Yankees on the only TV in the dorm. Although he was from New York, Jim joined me in the vocal but outnumbered group rooting for the Braves.
We quickly became the closest of friends. I spent inter-session with his family in New Rochelle where I was quickly and warmly welcomed by his father, mother, and two younger brothers. We often repeated that visit for weekends in “the City” during our college years, and he as frequently visited my home in Washington. We became debating partners, and in the spring of freshman year traveled to Smith to argue the affirmative side of the proposition that “Higher Education for Women Should be Abolished” to resounding
hilarity. Sophomore year we roomed together in Pratt. I recall once during college, my mother exclaimed to Jim’s parents that we would be “friends for life.” She was right.
After college, Jim went on to Harvard Law School. In June 1963, I flew back from graduate school in England to attend his wedding to Charlotte. In 1964, when I returned to enter Harvard Law, Jim was a third-year student and number one in his class. Jim also generously gave me helpful pointers and advice as I struggled through the first year of law school. That year I also began a close friendship with his wife, Charlotte, that endures to this day. At Harvard as at Amherst, I marveled at how Jim could invariably excel without overusing the midnight oil. He was so brilliant that whenever my wife and I would meet a particularly smart person we would exclaim that he or she is almost “Jimmy bright.”
After law school, Jim moved back to New York City, and became a premier tax partner for Donovan, Leisure, Newton and Irvine, specializing in creative leasing arrangements and other cutting-edge transactions. Janet, Lauren, and Bryan were born between 1966 and 70 and brought great joy to his life—and to mine as well, since his children were close in age to mine and our families continuously spent weekends and sometimes longer vacations together.
Jim was a loving and supportive father, and friend, always available to listen and be encouraging. However, you had to know that if you shared a problem, he would come up with many helpful suggestions. Jim and Char’s children were raised in White Plains, a suburb of New York known for its cutting-edge integrated public school system. Jim believed passionately in the importance of fine education for all children, and was active in insuring that White Plains continued to offer quality education for children of all races. As consuming as his work schedule was—for Jim worked far harder on Wall Street than in school—he would always find time to write a proposal or attend a critical meeting.
Jim loved theater, poetry, art, and music, and was a fine flute player. He had a life-long passion for sports. Jim was a serious tennis player, often winning the doubles tournaments at the Armonk Tennis Club, and an avid golf player as well.
By the late 1980s, Jim and Char recognized they had come to take different paths, and arrived at a separation and divorce that was unusually amicable. Jim also suffered during the 1980s from diabetes and a heart condition (which over time led to his early death). After Jim retired in the early 1990s, he met his second wife, Marie. They were married in 1995 in the beautiful house overlooking the Hudson in Germantown which they had constructed out of an old warehouse. Other than Jim, I was the only person to attend both weddings, and Marie too has become a close friend. She and Jim shared passions for art, travel, and their combined families, including Marie’s children Billy, Toni, and Luke. Jim made many new friends in Germantown and became intensely involved in community affairs, particularly Camp Palatine for children.
Jim’s love for family was a major theme in his life. During his last years, he was blessed with spouses and partners for his children and Marie’s—Mark, Jessica, Mike, Tracy, and Steve. They gave him six wonderful, healthy grandchildren, Maya (eight), Jacob (five), Ben (four), Stephanie (three), a second Jacob (two), and Olivia (one and-a-half ). He loved to play with them, to hear stories about their lives, and, of course, give advice about and be part of planning for their futures.
He was with us, and especially them, all too briefly. We will all remember Jim’s loving and generous heart, his keen wit and sense of humor, and his enormous courage in the face of a long-lasting illness.
—REID CHAMBERS ’62
Jim Wiener and Marie Cole