On the afternoon of Oct. 6, the doorbell rang at Carol Stein’s Bryn Mawr home. It was the sprinkler man.
Stein knew it was time to turn off the sprinklers for the season, but she hadn’t gotten around to it yet. It used to be her husband’s job.
But the man was not ringing her doorbell to ask about that. He said he knew something was wrong because he hadn’t heard from her husband, Jerome “Jerry” Stein, recently. Jerry Stein would call him just to talk or ask him if he saw the Phillies game.
Later that day, at the bank drive-thru, the tellers told Carol Stein that they missed her husband. And after that, at Dairy Queen, employees said the same thing.
“Everywhere I went yesterday,” Carol Stein said. “He took that extra step to make people feel important.”
Jerry Stein died Sept. 18 at home “after a short illness,” according to a death notice published in the Jewish Exponent. The man who owned Camp Green Lane in Montgomery County for more than 40 years was 92.
He is survived by his wife of 35 years and partner for more than 40, Carol, as well as his children Lee Stein (June), Lynda Smith (Jonathan), Michael Banks (Lori), Debbi Weidman (Peter) and David Banks. He is also survived by 16 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
Jerry Stein initially went into the automobile business but found his true calling after his father, George Stein, bought Green Lane in the 1950s. As “Uncle Jerry,” the son grew into the camp’s friendly, high-energy public face.
He would ride around on his golf cart and wave to everybody; he would make time for any camper who needed to talk to him; he would watch from the living room of his camp house and count buses after out-of-camp trips just to make sure everyone got back safely. His favorite part about the summer, according to his wife, was watching a kid walk in shy or homesick on the first day, and then walk out on the last day smiling and laughing with friends.
“He knew every camper’s name,” Carol Stein said.
Years after he sold the camp in 1995, “Uncle Jerry” returned with Carol Stein for a visiting day. The couple ran into grandparents they knew from Green Lane whose grandchildren were now campers.
Many former campers attended the shiva at the Stein house after the funeral, according to Jerry Stein’s son-in-law Peter Weidman. Several were in their 60s. One told a story about how he broke his arm in camp playing ball. Uncle Jerry drove him to the hospital and stayed with him all night. The boy’s parents could not make it up in time, and he was scared.
Weidman’s three daughters, Hilary, 36, Rachel, 32, and Katie, 29, all attended camp. Rachel got married three years ago, and four of her bridesmaids were from her bunk at Green Lane. Katie’s camp friends remain among her closest friends, according to her father. Hilary was a competitive gymnast, so she stopped going a little earlier than her sisters, but next summer she’ll be sending her 8-year-old son Brody.
A little over a month before Great Grandpa Jerry died, Brody called him with the good news.
“Pop Pop, guess what?” he said, according to Carol Stein. “I’m going to Green Lane next year.”
The patriarch smiled from ear to ear.
“Another generation,” Carol Stein said.
Stein’s children Lee Stein and Lynda Smith are from his first marriage, while Michael Banks, Debbi Weidman and David Banks are from Carol Stein’s first marriage. But none of them, least of all Jerry Stein, saw it that way. They were just a family.
The patriarch took his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to Villanova University men’s basketball games; he called himself a “judge” when he wanted to book a reservation for them at a nice restaurant, claiming the label because he had once “judged” Color War sing; he called them all with his wife on their birthdays to sing happy birthday.
Weidman said 10 grandchildren gave eulogies at the funeral.
“He was always concerned with their lives, careers and personal lives,” Weidman said.
In his eulogy to his grandfather, Sammy Smith, Lynda Smith’s son, talked about how much he would miss him. But he also said, “More important than what I’ll miss is what I’ll keep.”
“I’ll keep working on the, in his words, grandfatherly advice, he gave me,” he said.
“How to make everyone around you feel like the most important person in the world,” he concluded. “And his final lesson: how to live beyond your years through the stories and relationships you create.” JE