Through tears and laughter, Reinhart remembered by friends, colleagues
Updated 1:45 pm, Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Standing 6 feet 4 inches tall, Arthur Reinhart had a commanding physical presence. But he attracted attention not so much for his height but for his outsized passions -- for ideas, for nature and for family and friends.
"He liked big words. He loved to read," recalled Jonathan Deak, who was Reinhart's partner for 12 years. "He would ask me, `Do you have a hypothesis for that?' "
On Tuesday night at the Unitarian Church in Westport, Deak and more than 100 friends and colleagues of Reinhart "hypothesized" that an evening of reflections, prayers and laughter would be a fitting way to honor a man who was respected and loved by those who knew him.
The memorial service commemorated the Westport real estate agent who died last month at the age of 50 under mysterious circumstances. His body was found April 22 near a cemetery in Portsmouth, N.H., after he had been missing nearly three weeks. Reinhart was last seen when he left the Lexington, N.C., home of his brother, Robert, on March 22. He reportedly emailed and phoned friends from Provincetown, Mass., on April 2, but he was not heard from again.
The chief medical examiner's office in New Hampshire has not yet determined a cause of death.
But Tuesday's service focused instead on a man who loved to garden, spend time with his beloved pugs, Sherman and Hazel, and send heartfelt cards to family and friends.
"He was a gentle and kind man," said Deak, a real estate agent with Prudential Connecticut Realty. "He was always willing to help."
Taking advantage of that altruistic spirit, Reinhart excelled in his first career as a librarian. He served as the head librarian at the Whitney Library of the New Haven Museum as well as the head of circulation at the Westport Public Library. In 1996, he joined Prudential Connecticut on a part-time basis. His role with the company grew into a full-time position, as he became a licensed real estate agent who also specialized in marketing.
In 2005, he relocated to Cambridge, N.Y., and returned to his first profession as the director of the Pember Library and Museum of Natural History in Granville, N.Y.
A friend, Susan Bokan, recalled the transformational impact Reinhart had on the institution.
"He told children to laugh, he had meetings at night, he unbelievably let people bring in cups of coffee!" she said. "This now is the center of Granville, N.Y. People are grateful to Art every day. It's a very special place."
During his time in Cambridge, Reinhart also met Stephen Diehl, who would become his partner. At the service, Diehl recalled when Reinhart arrived to pick him up for their first date.
"Here comes this tall, good-looking guy driving this classic 1960 Buick Electra," he said. "I was thrilled. My lonely days were over."
Diehl and other friends plan to hold another memorial service for Reinhart in the Cambridge area on June 19, which would have been his 51st birthday.
In 2009, Reinhart returned to Westport and rejoined Prudential Connecticut. Melissa Riley, a colleague at the realty firm, remembered him as an intelligent and talented professional.
"All of his jobs required attention to detail, linear thinking, and an organized mind," she said. "But his analytical skills, brilliant mind and accomplishments are not the only things we remember fondly about Art."
Among somber musical and spoken tributes to Reinhart, moments of levity also punctuated the service. Doris Rowe, a friend, imagined his new life in heaven.
"Art's back in real estate. He's working for a firm called Cloud Nine!" she quipped to a round of laughter from attendees.
Other reflections were less light-hearted, as speakers struggled to hold back tears. But a spirit of resilience prevailed, as friends and colleagues pledged to remember Reinhart for his compassion and generosity.
"I loved him then, and I love him now," Diehl said. "I will always love him."