McGinley: Dr. Tom Steinberg will be sorely missed by many (column)
I moved to Vail in 1983 when Vail still had the feel of a frontier community. The arts were certainly frontier. (As Tom put it, we planted the very first seeds for the arts in Vail.) I was the newly hired director of the Vail Institute for the Performing Arts. Dr. Tom Steinberg was the chairman of the board.
At first, I thought ours would be a strictly professional relationship. Tom was so reserved and business-like, I did not imagine the deep humanness that lurked beneath his quiet demeanor. I certainly did not imagine that Tom and Flo Steinberg would become my family for the years I spent in Vail, that they would become cherished, lifelong friends.
A few years ago during one of my Vail visits, I was sitting with Tom on a bench in town and talking, as we always did, about the things that mattered most in our lives. After a while, the Denver man who was sharing the bench with us spoke up and said, “Forgive my eavesdropping, but I’m so enamored of your relationship I just had to tell you how much I hope someday my daughter and I will sit and talk like the two of you. You are father and daughter, right?”
I said, “Actually, we worked together years ago and have been close friends ever since.” We told him about the Vail Institute and its role in promoting the arts in Vail more than 30 years earlier. And then I said, “But you are perceptive. Tom has been a surrogate father to me, as he has been to many in Vail since Vail’s earliest years.”
There are many of us who came to know Tom through the many organizations he served — many of us for whom he also became a faithful confidant and friend — and we will all be left with a big hole in our lives that will be impossible to fill. Vail has lost one of its longest and sturdiest roots in Tom Steinberg. And the world has lost one of its rarest creatures — an old-school gentleman, a man of integrity, a quiet, gentle soul.
Tom Steinberg was not just a doctor by profession. He was constitutionally driven to help, to heal, to solve problems and to find solutions, to be there for others wherever there was need, wherever he might make a difference. He devoted himself to every responsibility, whether in support of his family, an individual’s health, the town of Vail, the Earth, the arts, responsible government, even the community’s sense of itself as a true community, not because it would earn him the recognition he now so deserves, but because he was fundamentally driven to contribute, to give, to make the world a bit better in any way he could.
For those of us who were privileged to know him, he made the world better just by being in it, just by being living proof that people of character really do exist. Vail has lost one of its greatest treasures in Tom Steinberg. The world has lost an irreplaceable soul.
Christine Mary McGinley was the executive director of the Vail Institute for the Performing Arts from 1983 to 1987.