We Are Roland

Roland L EcksteinOn Tuesday evening, August 12 2014, we lost one of the greatest men we ever knew. ESA’s founder and chairman, Roland Ludwig Eckstein died at the age of 80, surrounded by family and loved ones. What he meant to the media and retail industry is matched by what the people of the industry meant to him.

We’ve heard and read many of your condolences — thank you. As some of you know, Roland actively supported Sarnelli House, a collection of orphanages in Thailand. He did so with the same passion he brought to your local markets. Information about Sarnelli House is provided at the end of his tribute.

Roland’s obituary from The Asbury Park Press follows.

Roland Ludwig Eckstein

November 1, 1933 – August 12, 2014

“You make a living by what you get. You make a life by what you give.”
– Winston Churchill

“For where two or three have gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
– Matthew 18:20

While words alone cannot do justice to telling the story of Roland, the two passages above encompass so much of his life. Along every step of his life, be it work or play, with family and friends, church or neighborhood, Roland was about gathering people together, and giving them more than they had ever expected. He did this every day of his life, with unrelenting passion and compassion. To say he enjoyed it would be selling him short.

A man whose final chapter could be an endless list of accomplishments and accolades, won’t be such. Instead, for reasons that we all know so well, these words are as much about us all as they are about him.

These “gatherings” that Roland knew and loved best included all of us. His story is our story.

There was no “us or them” with Roland, only “We.”

We, his family. We, his friends. We, the tennis players, the golfers, the tap dancers. We, the children of Sarnelli House. We, the parish of St. Leo the Great. We, the employees, partners and clients of ESA & Company. We, the good neighbors. We, the loyal Chicago Cubs, Bears, Bulls and Blackhawks fans. We, the lifelong competitors made lifelong companions. We, the proud protectors and selfless soldiers of our nation. We, the teachers, nurses, doctors, artists, students, leaders, and servants. We, the gardeners of the Earth. We, the parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles; we the brothers and sisters; we the children. We the thoughtful, the prayerful, the helpful. We, the friends of Roland.

We, the ones left with tears in our eyes, yet smiles on our faces, passion in our lungs, and joy in our hearts.

“We” all gathered with him because he never stopped giving, never ceased teaching, never quit learning. And what we learned from Roland was good.

We learned how to support an orphanage half a world away.

We learned how to grow a garden, and find some fresh roses and blueberries for the kitchen table before breakfast.

We learned to throw a baseball, hit a serve, run hard through the finish, and be a good sport.

We learned to call him Roland, Ecky, Rol, Uncle Rolly, Grandpa Tut, Dad, friend, brother, son, or just Tut … but to never call him late for dinner.

We learned that square dancing can make us feel tapped, but tap dancing never makes us feel square.

We learned to take in a great Broadway show.

We learned to surprise somebody with love, and console them with peace.

We learned how to raise a family, and how a family can raise us.

We learned to give more and complain less.

We learned to humbly lead the Knights of Columbus in giving back to the broader community, and in making things better one Tootsie Roll at a time.

We learned how to eat an hour-long Thanksgiving meal in just three hours, and then ask what’s for dessert.

We learned to care for those who need it, and encourage help from those able to lend it.

We learned how to grow a business.

We learned how to build that bagel sandwich just a little bit taller.

We learned to supply an entire household with love, and also supply an entire naval ship at sea with provisions.

We learned how to get that menacing blinking 12:00 off the VCR clock.

We learned to travel through life with our brothers and sisters with love, respect, patience, and understanding.

We learned to tell a joke, and how to measure the value of a joke with a laugh-o-meter.

We learned where Mom hid the Christmas cookies and how to sneak just enough so as not to make her suspicious.

We learned that going down the waterslide is fun whether you’re 8 or 80.

We learned persistence; that strong roots run deep, and a cut near the ground often makes the next year’s growth that much more abundant.

We learned to stop long enough to thank God through it all.

We learned to help deliver warmth to an entire community in the cold winter.

We learned that a passion for cooking is often directly proportionate to our passion for eating.

We learned to sing loud and dance long.

We learned to do a German dive, to ride a horse, to navigate a boat.

We learned to parellel-park a 1971 Plymouth Sport Suburban with faux-walnut paneling.

We learned to make better decisions, and to leave this place better than we found it.

We learned to listen and think.

We learned that difficult “goodbyes” bring the promise of joyous “hellos”

We learned to seek happiness above all.

We learned to make a difference.

With Roland, there was only “we”. This story of his is now ours to cherish and — more importantly — to continue writing. We hope and pray to pay forward his passion and compassion always.

Roland’s “We” starts, but doesn’t end, with his family:

His wife, Gloria Gioia Eckstein (died in 2008), and his fiancee, Donna Zwolfer. His parents, Theresia Dangelmeier and Hermann Eckstein, sister, Loretta & Anthony DiGiovanni, brothers, Herman & Frances, Roy & Joan, and Don & Mary Eckstein. His daughters, Teresa & Jon Risika, Mary & Peter Clabby, Catherine & Philip Charles, Beth & Bryant Segovia, Jenny & Luis Castro, and Amy & Chris Murphy. His sons, Roland & Eileen Eckstein and Dave & Heidi Eckstein.

And just when you thought the “family” section was done, his beloved 26 grandchildren, Rachel, Peter, Brian, and Jenny Clabby; Philip, Kelly, Caroline, and Keira Charles; Roland, Christian, Hannah, and Grace Eckstein; Alyson, Sarah, Melissa, and Andy Segovia; Olivia, Manny, and Anilise Castro; Ian, Jill, Jack, and Maggie Murphy; Anna, Mia, and Abigail Eckstein.

Visitation will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15 at the Thompson Memorial Home, 310 Broad St,. Red Bank. A Funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 16 at St. Leo the Great Church, Newman Springs Road & Hurley’s Lane, Lincroft.

We ask that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to “Friends of Sarnelli House” in Roland’s honor. Most of the children there have personally met him; even those who haven’t know of his generous love for them. Please send donations to Catherine Charles, 58 Reed Drive South, West Windsor, NJ 08550.

We encourage you to share your favorite Roland story with us, whether by using the comment feature below, via email, or in person the next time we meet. God bless.

Published in Asbury Park Press on August 14, 2014

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  1. Your friends at KATV are thinking of you and your family. Much love to you all,

  2. Patrick McDonald

    I met Roland at ROI14 last January and very few people in this world have left such a mighty impression on me in such short time. I lost my best friend/grandfather two years ago and I remember when I met Roland, he reminded me of my grandfather more than anyone; kind, compassionate, endearing and thoughtful. I think it helped being from Chicago, being Catholic, being Irish, being a Notre Dame/Bears/Cubs/Bulls/Blackhawks fan, serving in the military, and being a golfer…we had a lot in common.

    I was very honored to have met Roland for those few days and what his business has taught me, I will carry for my entire career. My thoughts and prayers are with Dave, Roland and the entire Eckstein family. God Bless You.

  3. Thank you Leigh for your kind words.
    – Dave

  4. We are humbled by your thoughts, Patrick. Thanks, friend. – Dave

  5. Daves words, so well crafted, come closest to capturing the gigantic spirit of this man. A giver, a supporter, a leader, a driver, a friend, and a even little bit “dad” to all that would listen. Wow, will we miss Roland Sr. They just don’t make ‘em like that today. We must now carry on with the lessons he taught us, the sharing attitude he demonstrated for us, and the universal kindness shown by this amazing person. Could we ever live as large? Heaven waits for true men like Roland, a card-carrying member of America’s Greatest Generation. Welcome home, my good friend.
    Until next time….

  6. Adam: Great words from one of Roland’s favorite “sons.” Means a lot … thanks, brother. – Rol, Dave & families

  7. The world is a better place for having Roland in it. It was the example he set and the lives he touched through his kind, gentle and selfless nature. He was the epitome of character, class and integrity. If there is a man that ever comes along that can match Roland, I hope the good Lord will keep me around long enough to meet him because he will be a very special person.
    May God bless his family, friends and colleagues as we mourn his loss.

  8. John, you were a true friend of Roland’s. I know he looked forward to shaking hands and spending time with you every year at the conference. Even those rare occasions when you weren’t there, Roland would ask “Where’s John Friedmann?” Thanks for your wonderful note. Be well, friend.

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