Letter from Robert L. Stern
Originally written November 9, 1958
(upon the occasion of the passing of his father)
and updated through the years
I do not mind, of course, if my family and friends feel badly at my passing. Indeed, I will be flattered. And if I should not live to a reasonable age, or if I suffer ill health unduly long or painfully, there may be some reason to feel sorry for me.
Apart from that, however, the fact that my life has ended should not justify mourning. That is the fate of every living thing. And I was so fortunate in my life that I would rather be remembered by my good fortune than by the inevitable conclusion.
My life was a happy one in all important respects. I was a part of a close and harmonious family, with my parents, my brother and sister. Each of them helped the others when help was needed. They all enjoyed each other's company. During my early years, life at home was comfortable. I was bothered, though not too seriously, by my small size, but I got over that at the Harvard Law School, which was the first place I found in which intellectual achievement was appreciated.
I subsequently found enjoyment in the practice of my profession. My early interest in the public service found ample fulfillment in my 21 years in Washington, where I was privileged to participate in many interesting cases and problems of public significance. I particularly valued the respect and friendships which my work brought me from both political parties and from all parts of the government. I was grateful for the political accidents, which combined with my seniority in the Solicitor General's Office to make me Acting Solicitor General - although the Office would have meant little apart from the general esteem which accompanied it. I would like to be remembered in the Department of Justice, at least in part, as the initiator and original moving spirit behind the law school recruitment program, which was designed to bring able young lawyers into the Department on a non-partisan basis.
When the time came for me to consider whether to leave Government service in order to eliminate financial worries, I was more than fortunate in being asked to join the great Chicago law firm of which I have been a member. I found the private practice of law stimulating and enjoyable. My colleagues and friends in Chicago, Winnetka, and Tucson made my life there exceedingly pleasant.
From 1935 to 1990 the essential vital factor in all my experiences was my wife Terese. From the time she agreed to marry me, I never ceased to wonder that such an attractive and charming lady was willing to merge her life with mine. I used to call her "bringer of happiness" - and so she remained from the beginning to the end.
We were blessed with three sons. As of the time this is being written - in 1958 - I am curious to know what the future has in store for them.
(As of November 1979, I am glad that they are leading happy lives, doing things they enjoy; that they have become useful members of their communities, and that the family has remained a close affectionate unit despite geographical separation).
After I lost Terese in 1990, I was extremely lucky to find Helen. She brought me companionship and love when I thought I would never find it again.
What has been said shows that my private and professional life brought me undiluted happiness. A life such as I was privileged to enjoy should not leave my friends saddened because it has to end. They should be thankful for me, that it was so good while it lasted.
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