2016 is barely a month old, and it’s been a very rough year already for high-profile deaths. Now Chicago’s architecture industry has been touched by the passing of Sidney Epstein at the age of 92.
Reflecting its later-day bias, sadly Wikipedia does not contain an entry for Mr. Epstein, who joined the family firm in 1945. But a selection of the buildings his firm worked on while he was there includes The Chicago Federal Center, the Harold Washington Library Center, and most notably the controversial Tour Montparnasse in Paris.
Today Epstein, the company, issued this statement:
Sid lived a full and a life worthy of a book. Not only did he help transform, with his brother Raymond, our company from a modest Chicago design and engineering firm into a full-service AEC corporation with offices throughout the world, but he also lived a full life full of adventure. You would be hard pressed to name a country that Sid had not visited and during these journeys he connected with people, both rich and poor, forming lifelong relationships and bonds.
But Sid’s greatest trait was being incredibly committed to helping those in need. In 1956, Sid by chance met Elliott Donnelley, of the R.R. Donnelley family-fame, while waiting for an exceptionally slow elevator. Small talk and chit-chat led to a deep conversation about the need to support youth programs in Chicagoland. Both men believed in, ‘community inclusion, strong and effective leadership, thoroughly tested programs and continuous innovation’ which would have a great impact on not only the young but the greater community as well. Their ‘elevator talk’ spurred both men to found Chicago’s largest and most effective youth organization – Chicago Youth Centers (CYC). Today, the CYC offers services to children and youth ages three to 19 in seven Chicago neighborhoods (Bridgeport, Grand Boulevard/Bronzeville, Humboldt Park, North Lawndale, South Shore, Riverdale/Altgeld and Roseland through eight community centers and at CYC’s Camp Rosenthal in Dowagiac, Michigan. Of all of Sid’s grand professional achievements in life – he felt the CYC was his greatest accomplishment.
If you were lucky enough to know Sid, please count your blessings, your life is all the better for it. And, if you never had the pleasure, know this, Sid was a grand example of living life as it’s meant. Full of enjoyment, passion, perseverance and, most important of all, love. For family, friends and for those less fortunate.
Sid – you will be missed more than words can say. Thank you for everything you have done for us – at Epstein and in life.
For more on the late Mr. Epstein, start with a transcript of the Art Institute of Chicago’s interview with him by Betty J. Blum as part of its Chicago Architects Oral History Project.