A Block Leader to be Remembered

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Upper West Side community honors the memory of the late Skip Reiss

He was born Alvin H. Reiss, but everyone in his life knew him affectionately as Skip. Ellen Reiss, his wife, said that even their wedding invitations from 56 years ago announced that she would be marrying Alvin "Skip" Reiss. "Otherwise," said Ellen, "People would have thought I was marrying a stranger."

Besides being known for his nickname, before he died at the age of 82 on February 23rd, Mr. Reiss was also known and admired by many for his active presence in the Upper West Side community, and the long list of accomplishments achieved during his lifetime. He was a founding member of the 83rd Street Block Association, one of the oldest block associations in the city.

Mr. Reiss invented and pioneered Arts Management, and this year celebrated 50 years of his work in the field. He also spent much of his career teaching arts management at Marymount University and Adelphi University. Mr. Reiss was a successful writer, and wrote many books and newspaper columns during his lifetime.

"Skip was the most active 82-year-old I knew," said Gail Dubov, president of the 83rd Street Block Association, and colleague and friend of Skip's. "He was basically ageless. He was active with everything. He was this unbelievable force to be reckoned with."

One of Dubov's favorite memories of Mr. Reiss is when he wrote the theme song for the Block Association. One verse of the song goes:

"We are New York's brightest hope/We have shown a lot of skeptics/we can thrive not merely cope/And if cities do survive/It will be because of blocks like ours/that shout that they're alive."

This past January, when Mr. Reiss knew that Council Member Gale Brewer was supposed to attend the Block Association meeting, he added a verse to the song specifically for her.

"It brought tears to your eyes," said Brewer. "He was talented and thoughtful. He contributed endlessly through the block association, the kind of person you want as your neighbor."

In 2011, Mr. Reiss was named a "Beautiful Mind" by Beautiful Minds, an organization "dedicated to improving brain health in all stages of life." In his video uploaded by Beautiful Minds, Mr. Reiss says that the secret to having a beautiful mind is "a beautiful attitude towards life. Always wanting to do something more."

His wife Ellen agreed that her husband was a very busy and active man, but he always had time for his family. The couple spent much of their lives traveling together, as Ellen is a travel agent, and Skip used to write for a travel magazine. This Valentine's Day the two even renewed their vows.

"There wasn't one day in 56 years where he didn't tell me he loved me," said Ellen. "He didn't have a mean bone in his body, he loved his family best. Family was his favorite thing in life."

Mr. Reiss is also survived by his three sons, Steven, Robert and Michael; his two daughters-in-law and five grandchildren, Jane, Josh, Ethan, Molly and Zachary. His life was commemorated at the Riverside Memorial Chapel located at 180 West 76th Street on February 26th.
"Everybody was hysterical laughing and crying at the eulogies," said Ellen. "It was a wonderful day, considering the circumstances. It was a real celebration of an unusual, amazing man."

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