Isaac Stern’s widow, Vera, has died

Message to the music community from the conductor, Michael Stern, dated July 22:
Dear Friends,

Please forgive this mass but practical modern means of communication. With sadness, Shira, David, and I are sorry to let you know you that our mother Vera died this afternoon at 12:05pm, after a prolonged period of failing health, ten days after we celebrated her 88th birthday together. We escorted her for the last time out of the Beresford, the building which she called home for the last 60 years. She left this earth just as she had inhabited it, on her terms. To the end, she showed the strength, resiliency, grace, and character that defined her, always. She took her last breath listening to music, surrounded by people who loved her and cared for her, in her own home. Thanks to extraordinarily expert and loving hospice care, she was free of pain and any fear. In recent years she had faced her health challenges with elegance, fortitude, and a stubborn refusal to submit, and she defied again and again every dire medical prediction. To so many of you whose paths crossed with hers in this life, there was no doubt that she left an indelible mark. In her conversation and sentiment it was very clear to all of us, as she faced this final chapter, that her thoughts returned to her husband of 43 years, our dad Isaac. Despite their divorce, with all of that life history, it was indisputably evident that she loved him. Today would have been his 95th birthday.

She was a steadfast friend to so many of you, a staunch advocate of good causes, a generous benefactor, and a tireless lifetime volunteer. Her lifelong love of music inspired her devotion to so many musicians, those from the past who informed her rich and wonderful life, as well as the young ones whom she admired so much. Her life reflected her remarkable journey — from her origins that were Russian in character and disposition, she moved from the Berlin of her birth, through her escape through Switzerland to Paris, then to Stockholm, then back to Paris before settling in the United States. She made aliyah to Israel in 1951 only to return to New York half a year later after her seventeen day courtship to our father. Immersed in her new life, she enthusiastically began her immense impact on the musical life of this city and Israel.

Her extraordinary energy was focused on her work for Israel Bonds, L’École Française (later The Fleming School), the America-Israel Cultural Foundation, the Musicians Foundation, and so many others. Her most gratifying and continuing legacy was as the organizational and energizing co-pilot with Isaac in saving Carnegie Hall from destruction in 1960.

But of all her achievements in her accomplished and distinguished life, perhaps the greatest one was in her role as the matriarch of our family. She was the anchor, the epicenter, the protector, and the guiding spirit for her all of us. At the core, she had an incontrovertible, unwavering, and fierce love for us all. Her parents, Michael and Esfir, and her sister Meri Lind, predeceased her, as did our father Isaac, in 2001. But her spirit will continue to touch us all: Shira, with Don, Noah and Ronni Jane, Ari, and Eytan; Michael, with Shelly, Hannon and Nora; David, with Katta, Sophia, and Talia; and her nephew Gregor and her niece Mika, with Samuel.

Services will be held at 11am on Thursday, July 23, 2015, at the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, 30 W. 68th Street (just off Central Park West). For those wishing to attend, we ask that you arrive at 10:45am for a prompt start at 11am. … In lieu of flowers, we ask that you consider a contribution to a charity of your choice which reflects your love and memory of Vera.
vera stern

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  • To all the Sterns, my sincere sympathy. I had the honor of meeting your mom on a few occasions, and felt her energy and passion for life every time. She produced a beautiful family and you are all very fortunate to have had her a part of your lives for so many years. Although this is a sad and bitter time, knowing your mother, she will certainly show you signs of spiritual life that she is with you. Know she is also with those who predeceased her, as I remember meeting her with her sister, and from what I remember, your aunt was a very unique and interesting lady. One special memory was driving your mom and dad in the back seat of my 1979 Pontiac Grand Prix from LaGuardia airport way back in 1987! The kind of car that you had to pull the front passenger seat forward to get into the back seat. We were on the same flight from DC and I offered them a ride home. We shared lovely conversation and picked up Shira, whom I met only that one time. (I remember Vera telling me about Shira and that she is a cantor, so very proudly). Her strength and character has surely found themselves in her children, who have gone on toe be respected in their fields. I wish you all Godspeed and know in your hearts she will be with you.

  • Small point, but as Vera and Isaac divorced in the 1990s maybe she was never strictly his widow ? I think his widow would have been Linda Stern

  • My deepest condolences to the family of the indomitable Vera Stern. Elegant and so very herself. She will be missed.

    As far as who is the widow, what is the point of this? If we’re nitpicking, surely 43 years trumps 5.

  • I have fond memories. I recall once she and Isaac were traveling on the same route between countries. He flew on United and she on Northwest – because they were clocking up miles on different programmes!

  • Vera was a great person! She was always so nice & generous to young Israeli musicians! I remember that long telephone calls from LA to NYC – until she arranged a $ 8000.- scholarship to study in LA.
    I will never forget her!
    RIP!

  • Working with Vera at AICF gave me a closeup of a whirlwind with a sense of humor. That’s a combination that’s hard to beat. My best to all the family whose pictures I will miss.

  • Jonathan Dunsby is making a valid point here. But his question about the appropriateness of the term “widow” as regards Vera is not only valid; rather, it subtly highlights a somewhat bigger issue. To review the simple facts: After a first marriage to Nora Keye 1948-9, Isaac Stern and Vera married in 1951 and divorced in 1994. Two years later, in 1996, he married Linda Reynolds. They remained married until his death in 2001. Clearly, it is Linda who is Isaac Stern’s widow is , not Vera.

    The well-prepared letter to the music community and media at large (via Slipped Disc and Normal Lebrecht) by Stern’s son Michael doesn’t mention his father’s third wife, Linda, at all. Indeed, the parents’ divorce and Isaac Stern’s remarriage to Linda was followed up by years of fierce legal battles against Linda over world class violins and very much more besides.

    More interesting, however, and regrettable, is how Vera united with Isaac Stern in fiercely committing to the pro-Israeli cause, for more than half a century — a commitment which effortlessly lasted beyond any divorce or death. In this sense, yes, Isaac Stern’s widow was Vera.

    • It is surely important to note that the legal battles commenced after Stern’s death and were connected with his estate and how it was handled, not with the details of his third marriage.

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