The world lost a one-of-a-kind man on July 17 when my beloved husband Alexander Barbanell died following a two-week hospitalization for pneumonia and multiple infections that were too much for his 91-year-old body to overcome. He was just two weeks shy of his 92nd birthday, August 1.
I am heartbroken and yet incredibly grateful for 44 years almost to the day, of our life and love together. We had so many adventures, all over the world. I posted this story on Facebook:
Our friends Eileen and Bill sent me the photo below from a trip to Petra in Jordan that we took together. While it’s symbolic in depicting Alex riding away, it also epitomizes several of Alex’s traits that are his legacy.
We had walked the length of Petra. It was sweltering, over 100 degrees. When it came time to walk back, he said, “I don’t care what anyone else is doing, I’m taking a donkey.” Pretty soon, Eileen said, “I’m taking a donkey too.” Then Bill and I followed suit despite our misgivings about the cost and discomfort of the donkey ride. What did we takeaway? Lessons from Alex, always:
1. Be decisive.
2. Know what you need and take care of it.
3. Do what you think is right regardless of what others think.
4. Step out and take the lead. Others are likely to follow.
One of his favorite sayings, appropriate to this photo and to his sense of humor, was “Get your ass up and bring the rest of your body with it.”
He backed me up in every endeavor and was proud to have received the Martin Abzug Supportive Spouse Award from the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Having grown up on the streets of Brooklyn, he was scrappy and persistent. He taught me how to interrupt bloviating talk show hosts, how to stand up forcefully for what I believe, and how not to take any shit from anyone.
His daughters talk about how they will miss their frequent conversations. I can hear his voice too. He loved those conversations as he loved each of our children, grandchildren, and a few special others he “adopted.” Loudly.
He was so passionately engaged in the world and with people, especially with our children and grandchildren, and always the teacher (whether you wanted the lesson or not.)
He loved volunteering at the American Museum of Natural History which he did for 24 years and was so beloved by everyone from the security guards to volunteer coordinators that my friends had only to ask for “Alex” when they wanted to find him for a tour, and everyone knew who that was.
A fellow tour guide messaged me, “Museum lunches won’t be the same.” Oh yes, I saw many times how he entered the room and soon became the center of the vigorous conversation about science, politics, or whatever it was that day.
As he was slipping away, I thanked him for giving me a wonderful life and the greatest love ever and told him how much I love him. I asked if he knew who I was. He opened his eyes, put his face up and kissed me, saying, “You are my love.” Those were his last words to me.
And yes (for those who knew him) his last meal was his nightly “surprise,” Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia, his all-time favorite.
We were grateful for the wonderful life we had together, far more years and far more adventures than our expectations. We told each other that every day. Though he promised me he’d go to 95 when he turned 90, and I really thought he would make it!
I am as ok as one can be. This is very hard and sad even though we are more prepared than most people given our ages and his hard-nosed realism. There were no words unsaid between us and we are truly blessed for having had many more healthy years than most people do, a wonderful family that surrounds us with love, and friends who genuinely care.
Yet I cry in the morning. Leonard Cohen sings “That’s no way to say goodbye,” in my head.
The hands. Oh how I love those hands. Intertwined forever. I miss those hands so much.
Thanks to you all for your care and concern, your wonderful notes and your love. Your support during this time has meant the world to me, and he was well aware of it until just a few days days before he passed.
If you have photos and/or stories of Alex, please post them. Thanks for the many condolences and tributes already received.
On my way home from the hospital one night, I bought 10 lottery tickets as he used to do from time to time on his way home from the American Museum of Natural History where he volunteered for 24 years. And I smiled because, I knew I had already won the lottery of life when I met Alex.
Through the pain of this moment I am incredibly grateful for 44 years of Alex. I go forward with my work in his honor, and because he told me to. When I told him I was thinking of canceling the Power Up Concert and Conference, he bolted up and said, “Absolutely not! You cannot cancel it.”
So I invite you to join me as a tribute to him, to support Take The Lead’s mission of intersectional gender parity in leadership by 2025 — and for yourself. We’ll explore the Big RE: REthink, REwire, REcreate whatever you need to do. Get free virtual concert tickets or the full hybrid concert and conference tickets here.
Alex. Pure love. Full of mischief. Never met anyone he couldn’t talk with. Always learning. An original. Upstanding. Mensch. Feminist. Husband, father, poppy. Mentor to many. Died as he lived, on his own terms. My sweetheart forever, Alex Barbanell.
GLORIA FELDT is the Cofounder and President of Take The Lead, a motivational speaker and expert women’s leadership developer for companies that want to build gender balance, and a bestselling author of five books, most recently Intentioning: Sex, Power, Pandemics, and How Women Will Take The Lead for (Everyone’s) Good. Former President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, she teaches “Women, Power, and Leadership” at Arizona State University and is a frequent media commentator. Learn more at www.gloriafeldt.com and www.taketheleadwomen.com. Tweet Gloria Feldt.