MONTICELLO, NY — Nearly everyone who spoke agreed that Lori Rubenstein was ubiquitous when it came to community involvement, had unforgettable smiling eyes, had a warped sense of humor and could sometimes use language that would make a sailor blush.
Rubinstein, who was 48, passed away unexpectedly on September 21. More than 150 turned out to Monticello High School on October 11 to honor her memory.
Businessman Les Kristt opened the ceremony by reading a list of more than a dozen boards and organizations that she belonged to including Community Unity of Sullivan County, the Sullivan County Boys and Girls Clubs, the Professional Women of Sullivan County Scholarship Foundation, the Monticello Rotary Scholarship Foundation and the Federation for the Homeless.
The speakers drew a clear picture of the time and effort she gave to the community and also a picture of a complex person and inspirational person. Shirley Felder, the owner of Sullivan County First Recycling said, “Lori was my personal little box of chocolates; you never knew what you were going to get,” but she added that her friendship with Rubinstein changed her life, a theme repeated several times during the evening.
John Veleber, a vice president at First National Bank of Jeffersonville, spoke about Rubinstein’s sense of humor. He said he was at a Sullivan County Partnership function at The Lodge at Rock Hill when he first moved to the county. He was talking with a group of some of the leading men in the community when Rubinsten blew by, smacked him on the rear and said, “You were incredible in the parking lot,” and walked away. Veleber said “jaws dropped” before the men realized it was a joke.
Orlando Hernandez, the executive director of the Monticello Boxing Club and the director at the Recovery Center, gave an emotional speech and said, “She touched me, this big old dude. All I knew how to do was work the streets and be involved with gangs and violence. She humbled me. She was the only one who could say, ‘Shut up stupid,’ and I’d say, ‘All right, Lori.’” He said, “She introduced me to other people who are in this community to try to change people’s lives,” which is what his own work involves, too. He explained that, “When she touched you, she made you a better person.”
Scott Milchman said many months ago he met Rubinstein and fell instantly in love with her, and she returned the affection. Speaking directly to her, he said he did not regret the relationship. “You gave me back my faith in myself,” he said. “You made me a better parent, son, brother, friend and person. Everyone in this room knows that the world was a better place with you being in it. And although I am struggling with the whys and the how-comes and the unfairness of it all, I promise you that I will always strive to be a better person, strive to be the man you loved and believed in.”