Legacy of Compassion

Mediaon October 2nd, 2017Comments Off on Legacy of Compassion

I met Rick Steiner for the very first time many years ago. We had both just dropped our kids off at school. We talked about our kids, their sports, their homework and the challenges of fixing dinner. It was hard not to take an immediate liking to the soft-spoken, mild-mannered man with his self-effacing demeanor and kind eyes.

Years passed since that first meeting. Our kids graduated high school and went to colleges in different cities. I took a job at the Freestore Foodbank. A few weeks ago, I heard that we received a bequest from a donor who passed away recently.  As I learned more about this extraordinary act of generosity, I realized with shock and sadness that the deceased donor was none other than my dear friend, Rick Steiner.  As I started to write about him, I discovered that Rick had led an extraordinary life and was a remarkable human being in every sense of the word.

Rick Steiner came from a family of artists. His grandmother was Desiree Lazard, the famous Broadway performer. The Steiner family has lived in North Avondale since 1955. Rick’s father and two uncles founded “Kenner Products”, the creators of the famously successful “Easy Bake Oven” and a host of other well-known toys.  Rick’s mother was an actress and she introduced him to acting when he was a child via the Cincinnati Summer Playhouse. Rick graduated from Walnut Hills High School, got a BA in Economics from the University of Wisconsin and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Chicago. He worked a number of unusual jobs including selling medicated tropical fish food, started a closed circuit TV theater in Boston and dabbled in capital investment by investing in Chi-Chi’s Mexican restaurant. He also pursued his passion for poker and ended up winning a number of championships. Eventually he started investing in large scale productions on Broadway.  This was the direct result of his friendship with childhood friend and college roommate Rocco Landesman. Together they created many celebrated Broadway hits such as “Big River:  The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” (one thousand performances), “Hairspray” (two thousand five hundred performances), “The Producers” (twelve Tony awards shattering all records) and “Jersey Boys? ”(performed  for more than ten years). He ended up co-producing 11 Broadway musicals four of which won the Tony Award for Best Musical.  Rick was a rare genius who started in Cincinnati, made us all proud and hardly ever spoke about his accomplishments.

Rick’s generosity has left the Freestore Foodbank with the ability to help the community of Cincinnati in significant ways.  “Philanthropy was not something that we talked about. However it was observed by our family, especially my father who was ahead of his time in how much he gave back to the community,” remembers Corky Steiner, Rick’s brother.  The Steiners would like Rick to be remembered for his compassion and his willingness to think of what he can do to help others who are less fortunate.