Beaming from the Bench

Bob Schultz could often be found sitting on the bench near the LifeTown playground, beaming. Just observing the kids at play brought him joy. Naturally shy, he had a sharp mind, a huge heart, and the ability to listen deeply. He was always looking for ways to help behind the scenes.

On January 28, after a brief illness, Robert Saul Schultz, 78, died, leaving behind a legacy of involvement at LifeTown that included donating the Prince Range storefront in the LifeTown Shoppes area, a nod to his family’s now defunct appliance and electronics stores; serving as a 2019 Friendship Circle Gala honoree, and shepping naches from the children. Sometimes he came and sat, just to take it all in. During COVID, when events took place outside, he often found a perch in the upper lobby and experienced them from the window.

Schultz was born in Newark and lived in Verona. Throughout his life, he eschewed the limelight. A graduate of Columbia High School and Rutgers University who served in the U.S. Army, he spent his entire career at H Schultz & Co, now a fourth-generation family-run wholesale housewares business. 

He took great satisfaction playing golf, participating in a regular card game, attending his synagogue, and giving to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, but LifeTown was his passion, according to his niece, Dale Lazarovitch. A longtime volunteer and board member, she got him involved in 2017. He arrived in time for a tour of the facility during the construction of LifeTown, donned a hardhat, and fell in love not just with LifeTown but also with its founders, Rabbi Zalman and Toba Grossbaum.

“I was greeted by the smiles of Toba and Zalman and right away I knew this was an organization I wanted to be associated with,” he said at the 2019 gala, when he was honored.

“The first time he came there was a kinship,” said Rabbi Grossbaum. “We had a very special personal relationship. We chatted about everything and nothing. Bob had a unique way of seeing things. He was very deep, thoughtful, and wise, and we became part of his family.”

Helping out where he could was something he learned as a child. “The two of us were taught by my father…how to give back what the community has given us,” said his brother, David, in 2019. He once related that he knew as soon as he saw the “for rent” sign in the LifeTown Shoppes area on that first visit that he would recreate a piece of one of the family businesses there.

Schultz had a way of showing up, being present, in his own way. But he surprised everyone, perhaps even himself, when he agreed to be honored by the Friendship Circle Gala. It was an extraordinary moment for Schultz and for LifeTown. “Robert agreed to come out from the shadows and to be acknowledged,” said David before the gala. 

“To hear the recognition of his friends and what they had to say – it may have been the only time he agreed to be recognized publicly,” said Grossbaum, who also recalled his warm smile. “I am not sure that I ever saw Bob when he did not welcome me with a huge smile. And when we would finish our conversation, he would always say, ‘You got it!’ and flash another huge smile.”

In his final weeks, even at the end of his life, the connection between Schultz and the Grossbaums continued. “His face lit up when Zalman came to visit,” said Lazarovitch.

That’s why just a day after his funeral, Lazarovitch came to LifeTown, where she was chopping vegetables for an after-school cooking program. “This is where he liked to be, and I thought it just made sense to come and find some joy here today.”

Schultz is survived by his sister-in-law Deborah Schultz, his nieces and nephews: Dale and Ran Lazarovitch and their children Ethan, Rachel and Noah; his nephew Steven Schultz and his daughters Claire and Charlotte; and his longtime companion Miriam Goldstein. His brother David predeceased him.

“I’ll always think of him sitting on the bench, beaming, and shepping naches from the children,” said Grossbaum.

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