Friday, June 4, 2010 | 2:01 a.m.
Barbara Greenspun: 1922-2010
1922: Barbara Joan Ritchie born in London, Feb. 17. She was the lone daughter of a movie executive.
1944: Barbara and Hank married in Belfast nine days before he left to go to war.
1946: The couple moved to Las Vegas, which Barbara bemoaned as "so barren, so desolate."
1950: Hank purchased the Las Vegas Free Press and renamed it the Las Vegas Sun.
1953: Barbara helped form KLAS Channel 8, the valley's first television station.
1970: The couple helped found the city's first cable television company, now operated by Cox Communications.
1974: Barbara and Hank developed the area's first master-planned community, Green Valley.
1989: With Hank's death, Barbara became publisher of the Sun.
2010: Surrounded by her family, Barbara died in her Las Vegas home of complications from old age.
- Barbara Greenspun remembers 1986: Watergate’s lessons haven’t been forgotten (3-16-2001)
- Barbara Greenspun remembers 1968: Uphill battle was worth the effort (11-10-2000)
- Barbara Greenspun remembers 1966: Dandolos was polite, gentle (10-27-2000)
- Barbara Greenspun remembers 1963: Fire was a traumatic experience (10-6-2000)
- At UNLV, building a ‘monument to forward thinking’ (12-3-2008)
- Brian Greenspun gives his mom the second-best gift ever (5-18-2008)
- Conscience of the community (5-15-2008)
- Greenspun inducted into UNLV honor society (4-27-2006)
- Sun pledges to uphold ideals of founder (10-3-2005)
- Anti-Defamation League honors Sun publisher (5-27-2005)
- Business leaders inducted into Nevada Hall of Fame (2-18-2005)
- Columnist Elizabeth Foyt: Summer camp program celebrates 35th birthday (9-29-2004)
- Greenspun family pledges up to $12 mil. to UNLV (3-5-2002)
- Where I Stand — Brian Greenspun: A mother’s dedication (8-23-2000)
- Barbara Greenspun: Unsung strength (7-1-2000)
- Greenspun Foundation donates $3 million to women’s health center (1-27-1999)
About 700 mourners — family, friends, celebrities, elected officials and beneficiaries of her philanthropy — offered their collective goodbye Thursday to Barbara Greenspun, a woman who was described by her oldest child as more than just the fabric that helped bind the community.
“In many respects, she has been the seamstress,” Brian Greenspun said of his mother. “She is everywhere we go in this community. Her charitable and civic good works touch everything that touches us.”
Her influence was profound, Greenspun said, adding that he would miss his mother’s wisdom, steady hand and “unrelenting determination to do good and do right. I will miss her unconditional love and the pride she had in her entire family.”
If there’s any comfort in the loss, he said, it’s the knowledge that Barbara and Hank Greenspun, who died in 1989, are together again, “dancing in the stars ... a little arguing, perhaps, but loving life and loving each other as only they could.”
Brian Greenspun was the last of the extended Greenspun family to bid farewell to their matriarch, who died Tuesday at age 88. Following Hank’s death 21 years ago, Barbara served as publisher of the Las Vegas Sun, with Brian as its editor.
During Thursday’s 90-minute service at Congregation Ner Tamid in Henderson, with Rabbi Sanford Akselrad officiating, Barbara’s children and grandchildren paid tribute to her devotion to her family, her leadership and her extraordinary record of philanthropy and community involvement.
Opening the service, Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, said Barbara’s life is all the more remarkable because of the bravery and self-determination she repeatedly displayed. She has fought on behalf of Jewish causes even when it was unpopular and meant upheaval to her family, Hier said.
When Hank Greenspun decided to deliver weapons to Jews fighting to protect the fledgling state of Israel in the late 1940s, actions that later led to his conviction in an American court for violating the Neutrality Act, “Barbara stood shoulder to shoulder with him because it was the right thing to do,” Hier said.
She never took refuge in a life of comfort, instead “planting the seeds for a community that will long outlive her memory,” said Hier, who met the Greenspuns in 1978.
Others in attendance offered their own tributes to Barbara before and after the service.
“She set the bar so high it will difficult to leap,” entertainment manager and family friend Bernie Yuman said. “But she gave us something to strive for. That’s the power of her example.”
Recalling Greenspun’s “glamour, charm and grace,” Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., said “In some ways it’s the end of the era, but her legacy is all around us. The next generation benefits from the last.”
Longtime family friend and businessman Larry Ruvo, who founded the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, said: “Barbara and Hank helped to lay a phenomenal foundation for our city. You think of people who leave an indelible impression — Barbara is on the top of the list.”
Added businesswoman Selma Bartlett: “You cannot think of Barbara Greenspun without thinking of Hank and you cannot think of Hank without thinking of Barbara. Together they contributed so much to the growth of our state, nation and world.”
Others remembered Barbara for her wit, beauty, humor and generous spirit.
“This is a day to celebrate an incredible life that people should know about and emulate,” said former Gov. Bob Miller, who has known the Greenspun family for more than 50 years. “When it came to philanthropy, Hank and Barbara always set the tone — they didn’t just give money, they gave their time.”
Throughout the service, the partnership of Hank and Barbara Greenspun was remembered, with Akselrad calling it “one of the greatest love stories ever told.”
Indeed, if there was a prevailing theme of the service, it was love of family that spanned four generations.
The hundreds of phone calls and messages of support made the loss of Barbara a little easier to bear, her grandson Jeffrey Fine said during his eulogy. But as special as she was to so many in the wider community, “We loved her because she was our grandmother,” Fine said, breaking into tears. “We’ll miss you, Barbara.”
Hank proposed to Barbara within seconds of meeting her at a wedding in Belfast, Ireland, starting a legendary partnership that included four children, 10 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren as well as numerous successful business ventures. They were married 45 years.
In a poignant eulogy that captured the special joy of her relationship with her grandmother, Alyson Fine recalled sleepovers and swimming lessons. She also spoke of Barbara’s enduring devotion to Hank, even decades after his death.
“Every graduation, wedding and baby born was so exciting and important to you,” Fine said. “But you always said, ‘I wish Poppa was here, he would have been so proud.’ ”
But Barbara Greenspun was clearly an impressive woman in her own right, even as she avoided the spotlight, preferring to shine it on the causes she believed in rather than basking in its warmth.
“Globe-trotter, risk-taker, mother, wife, friend, matriarch — she was all of these, and usually before lunchtime,” said her granddaughter Amy Arenson, to appreciative laughter from the audience. “A woman with an unparalleled strength and grit, she saw each obstacle as an opportunity and always found a way to move forward, make progress and succeed.”
The list of Barbara’s philanthropic efforts is just as lengthy, ranging from the arts to education to health care to Jewish causes.
“She never sought a platform or a voice, but when she was given both she used them to make a difference in her community and to challenge others to do the same,” Arenson said. “She inspired through action, and made her own mark on a community and a city with a rich, colorful history.”
Daughter Jane Gale spoke of her mother’s insistence that her daughters would be treated equally as her sons — a bold statement at a time before women’s rights had taken hold.
“She taught us about feminism before there was a term for it,” Gale said.
She also taught her children — and grandchildren — that with the success the family had achieved came a responsibility to give back, Gale said.
Hank Greenspun’s reputation for toughness is well documented, said Daniel Greenspun. But in recent years he’s come to realize his mother’s inner strength was perhaps even greater, and helped to fuel his father’s ambitions.
“He always knew he had a reservoir he could go back to,” Daniel said of his father. “He took a lot of risks … and she was always right there.”
Barbara’s health had declined in recent years after she battled a brain tumor. At one point, as he visited her bedside, she told her younger son, “You’ve got to let me go,” Daniel Greenspun, president of Greenspun Media Group, recalled.
He told her no one was holding her back. As at so many other times in their family history, she was in control. “You can let go if you want,” he said.
“She stayed,” Daniel said, his voice breaking.
After the service, about 200 people gathered for a brief late afternoon service at Palm Valley View Cemetery.
With a nearly cloudless blue sky overhead, the eight pallbearers — Jeffrey Fine, Jonathan Fine, Harrison Gale, Jesse Gale, James Greenspun, Jesse Ehrman, Ori Marmur and Paul Arenson — wheeled the walnut-colored casket to the grave.
Each pallbearer removed his white rose boutonniere and placed it on top of the casket, as workers slowly lowered it into the ground.
Rabbi Akselrad of Congregation Ner Tamid said final prayers in Hebrew and English, as family members and friends covered the casket with small packets of dirt from Jerusalem and shovelfuls of local soil in a final farewell.
Retired Sun reporter Ed Koch contributed to this story.