Remembering Gary S. Goldman

The longtime publisher of DECOR magazine, and my good friend, Gary Goldman, passed away peacefully in his sleep with his family at his side on Saturday, November 18. At just 65 years old, he leaves us far too soon after putting up a valiant fight against liver cancer.

Upon graduating from Missouri with a degree in sports journalism, Gary joined the Sporting News in St. Louis. He quickly worked his way up the ladder to become publisher of its trade publication The Sporting Goods Dealer. St. Louis is a town with precious few publishing jobs. So, finding one related to sports was a godsend for Gary. To his last days, he was an avid sports fan. He could talk knowledgeably and passionately about college and pro sports ranging from baseball, hockey, basketball, football and more. All who knew Gary knew sports were an essential part of his life. He loved attending Cardinal baseball games—especially with his grandson, Jacob.

We met in 1990, when Commerce Publishing Company (CPC), also in St. Louis, hired Gary to take the reins as publisher of DECOR magazine where I was an account executive. The venerable 125+-year-old publication was the leading business magazine for local art galleries and picture frame shops. The magazine’s advertisers and show exhibitors made up the Who’s Who of the art and picture framing industry. My work there with him formed the basis of all the art marketing books, training, blog posts I’ve produced and published in the ensuing years.

Through his position and with his gregarious and inquisitive nature Gary made countless friends and created professional relationships with the magazine and show’s top customers. His contacts helped fuel ad and booth sales throughout the 1990s. It was a decade of stellar growth for the economy. Through his stewardship and connections, Gary helped DECOR to take full advantage of available opportunities.

On my last visit with him in his hospice room, I reminded him about the many corporate dinners we shared with clients. He was a marvel to watch as he took great interest in our guests. Both on a personal and business level. He had a knack for gaining and demonstrating a deep understanding of the business of our advertisers and the challenges they were facing. He used his insights and knowledge to ask surprisingly perceptive questions that never failed to draw people into a conversation about their business. He made them feel like he cared because he did.

Gary used those dinners and other meetings to assure our customers they were not alone and that he and the DECOR editorial and sales staffs understood them and were there to help them. Watching those interactions was informative, instructive, and stimulating. DECOR always had competition, often attempting to undercut us on price, which made having solid relationships with our customers from top to bottom so valuable to the publication and to the shows. I believe because he was so unassuming that Gary’s nuanced and highly valuable interpersonal skills often went unnoticed by his competition, staff, and his superiors.

It wasn’t always about the work. And, nobody’s a saint.

Al Ferrentino was a close friend of Gary’s on the job and beyond. Al’s freight company, Now Shipping, handled most of the shipping for the numerous annual Decor Expo and ArtExpo shows among others. As such, he was someone you would see at every show.

Working a trade show your company produces which also has an associated magazine with it is hard work. To start, you can’t hide. You’re always on with no relief in sight because everyone either knows you or can see your big, gold management name tag. Sometimes it felt like you’re job there was just to put out fires. A sampling of the litany of complaints went like this:

My booth is too cold/too hot. My neighbor is too loud or breaking some other rules. I don’t like my booth location. The color of my ad is all wrong. Some of my stuff did not get to my booth. The hotel lost my reservation. Another exhibitor is selling knockoffs of my work. The convention center is killing me on drayage or for union work. And, (drumroll please) this show sucks. I’m losing money being here, and I hate you because you convinced me to exhibit.

Because of the 12-hour on your feet grind of the shows, we always looked forward to the end of the day. A time where we could enjoy a meal and unwind with a few drinks among friendly show attendees and exhibitors. It was an excellent time for networking. Something at which Gary excelled. Those evenings were how we balanced the slog of the day. Occasionally, there were post-show swank parties, especially those connected with the ArtExpo New York show that ran concurrently with the Decor Expo shows. Together, those shows made compelling reasons for art buyers worldwide to come to New York.

Al, who like Gary, is a huge sports fan. It was part of the common bond they shared. He related this story to me. One such ritzy party was scheduled in Manhattan on the night of the annual Big East Basketball Tournament being held at Madison Square Garden. The doubleheader was going to be one any true sports fan like Gary would hate to miss.

Gary took his job of representing DECOR seriously. To represent was part of the CPC ethic. But, Al had the ultimate temptation in the form of prime seats near courtside. He managed to convince Gary to make a token appearance at the big party and then jump into a cab to go to the games. It was not an easy decision for Gary to shirk his after-show hour’s duty because he had a sense of duty, a natural angst about such things and was concerned about being conspicuous by his absence. But, he succumbed figuring he could feign illness to slip away and no one would know he was at the game.

The plan would have worked well except for one thing. Both games were nationally televised. Despite what you might think there are many sports fans in the art and picture framing business. Al recalls what happened was he and Gary had great seats just a row or two off courtside. They were seated just behind a glamourous model-type female. As often happens during sporting broadcasts, the camera operators will focus in on the crowd, and a pretty face is an irresistible draw.  When the cameras found her, it also found and put AWOL Gary and Al in full view of the tv audience. Al says it took no time for Gary’s mobile phone and his to start ringing with calls from people who saw them on television. Busted.

Remembered by angels

Alice Gibson was the Editor-in-chief of Decor magazine during the time Gary was the publisher. She had this memory of Gary.

My favorite memory of Gary was a day he received a package from The Greenwich Workshop—as you know, we all, from time to time, got prints and other items from advertisers promoting artists. He asked me to come to his office, and sitting in the middle of his desk was the first in a series of porcelain Christmas angels done by Greenwich artist James Christensen. He said “Want it? We don’t do Christmas.” I was delighted to take it off his hands and to let him know years later that the promotion worked. I don’t know what Gary did about advertising, but I went on to purchase the entire set of 10 angels, one year at a time! I think about Gary every time I look at my angels.

(I’m sorry to report Alice’s husband, Wayne, died unexpectedly in his sleep just one day after she filed this remembrance with me. We are very saddened and send our deepest sympathy and condolences to Alice and her family for their loss.)

Friends & Colleagues Remembrances

Julie Johnson, former editor for DECOR

Gary wasn’t just a boss, he was a friend and mentor. Even when I was just starting out as an editor of DECOR magazine, he took the time to listen and ask about my ideas. He cared what I thought, and that was really empowering for a young person without a lot of experience. He also cared about staying in touch later in life, and I truly appreciated that. I missed the art and framing industry after leaving it, but he always kept me informed whenever we’d catch up. He was a caring friend, and he’ll never be forgotten. His memory will always mean a lot to me.

Chuck Hirsch – Former colleague at Decor Magazine and Commerce Publishing Company

First off, I want to extend my sincere sympathy to Teri, Geoff, Eric, and the entire family.  I do hope that reading some things about the positive ways that Gary affected other people may help you all just a bit as you go through this difficult time.

Gary was both a good friend and good colleague.  It’s no coincidence, in my opinion, that he was both a great guy and a great publishing professional because I think it’s his love for people that fueled his business success.

Gary was one of those guys who would truly listen. He would always listen to his associates, to the advertisers he called on, to his friends, and — as I will now always remember with true fondness — to me.

Without getting into the somewhat complex and crazy details of the way our company operated when Gary and I were associates, there were certain duties I had where I reported to him and other duties he had where he reported to me.  When Gary would return from a sales trip, he would always stop into my office and tell me in great detail about the customers he saw and what they were thinking — about their businesses, the direction of the market, our magazines, etc.  I know that he did this for all of the other magazines as well.

I was always both deeply impressed and sincerely grateful for that insight that Gary would provide me.  I was making strategic decisions for the magazine in which he was trying to sell ad space, and even if he was unsuccessful with a particular client during a particular visit, Gary always returned with market insights that would help all of us.

Gary obtained those insights because he truly cared about his customers and their challenges. He cared about them and worked hard to figure out ways to help them. And Gary shared those insights with his other associates and me because he truly cared about us and wanted us all to succeed.

Gary’s care and concern extended to our personal lives as well.  I’ve shared lunches with him many, many times over the years — even up until this past May — and he always asked in detail about my family and was always eager to share in detail about his own.

I will miss those lunches.  I already do.

But I also am so grateful that I have had the opportunity to call Gary both a colleague and a friend.

John Haffey is the publisher of Art World News magazine.

In business, Gary created a vibrancy around him through his unrelenting kindness and professionalism. His willingness to lead was only dwarfed by his deep care to listen to those around him. His sincere service to others made those around him great. Gary’s pleasure was found in the achievements of others– friend, family, and colleagues who in some part benefited from his experience and insight.

Eric Smith is the publisher of Art Business News magazine.

Very sad to hear about Gary.  I remember him well.  He was soft spoken and a good listener.  Gary very much cared about the framing industry, and it was evident in his editorials, stories, and management of DECOR Magazine. He was well known in the framing industry and should be appropriately remembered.

Joe Clote is owner of Publishing Concepts and CPC employee

I’m speechless. I had not known he was sick and was just recently thinking of him.  It was always great having him attend my expo, and we could talk shop, and I could get some valuable mentoring from him. I will certainly miss him.

John Taff is a former DECOR editor.

John provided these thoughts and told me he would understand if I omitted them. I know Gary would have wanted to see them.

Sometimes, people come into your life at a particular time and have a profound impact on you. Gary was such a person. He was a patient, kind guy. He had devoted a great deal of energy to learning the art & framing market, and he passed that collected knowledge—plus his deep, deep understanding of trade publishing on to me. He was the best boss I’ve ever had.  Period. I had lunch with him, Bill Cotner and Barney Davey every day for nearly a decade. Being the young guy in the group, I soaked up everything they had to say—all the market info, sales wisdom, everything.

Gary eventually went on to do other things, and we drifted apart. I hadn’t spoken to him in more than a decade. Not anything bad, just two people moving in different orbits. Regretfully, I hadn’t even known he was sick. My first mentor—a crusty old veteran newspaper guy who hired me at the St. Louis Science Center—passed away around 1998 or so. Before he died, I was able to tell him what an impact he made on me. Gary did, too, and I will always appreciate that. I think one of the great regrets of my life is that I won’t get to tell him. Sail on, Gary Goldman. Sail on.

Bruce Gherman is publisher of Picture Framing Magazine

Wow! What a shock. I am so sorry to hear this. I had the utmost respect for Gary.

Paula Haddad Skeen, co-owner of Haddad’s Fine Arts

Thank you for including us in your message about Gary. It is distressing news, and we are sorry. Please let us know about any plans for a service.

We remember Gary with great fondness. We miss those lighter days when this crazy industry brought us together. Thank you for being such a good friend to Gary. I am glad to know his friends and family were near him at the last.

Marsha Schub is a longtime art industry veteran and good friend

So much to say for which there are no words. Gary, I will miss you forever and always. Thank you for everything. You helped me keep employed in a good job in the industry.

John Chester, co-owner of Wild Apple Graphics

Hi Barney, Thanks for the thoughtfulness in letting me know, I really appreciate it. We had a great time working with Gary during his stint at DECOR.

Gary is survived by his wife of 43 years, Teri Goldman; his sons Geoffrey (Clara) Goldman and Eric (Stacy) Goldman; his cherished grandson Jacob Goldman; his brother Ted (Ellen) Goldman and sister Laurie Key.

My Thoughts

Gary’s family, especially Teri, was a source of constant support, inspiration, and love that helped him in his lengthy battle against cancer. His love of Jacob was profound and heartwarming to see. He is a child that meant the world to Gary.

Having just lost my younger brother to lung cancer a few weeks before Gary’s passing, I found striking similarities between them. Although they lived vastly different lives, the way they handled the knowledge of their coming demise was similarly remarkable, inspirational, and moving.

Words that describe both are grace, dignity, and courage.

Both Jimmy, my brother, and Gary, my old friend, who I’ve known nearly 30 years were pragmatic, nearly stoic in how they dealt with the worst news one can hear—that there is no cure and the end is predictably near. I wasn’t around them all the time near the end, but when I was I never heard either complain, blame, or show signs of anger, or self-pity. Concerns for their spouses was tantamount to both.

Their courage showed me how much character they had. Maybe they ran through the gamut of Kubler-Ross emotions (Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) privately, but publicly they were never on display.

Facing such dire circumstances, I don’t believe you can fake and mask your feelings. In the end, it was what you see it what you get. What their family and friends got from them was a shining lesson in how to use acceptance to deal with the unexpected, harsh, and irreversible news. I’m a better person for having seen their composure and have learned from their example. I think everyone who was around them at the end is also.

Watching them with their spouses provided more lessons. In many ways, their wives mirrored the same grace, dignity, and courage their dying husbands had on full display. As my sister-in-law did for my brother, Teri provided Gary the best support possible. She was with him all the way. Helping to manage and going to seemingly endless doctor visits, tests, treatments, and therapy. Providing constant support and all with love, concern, and without self-pity. Just firm resolve to do the best for Gary to help him first do everything possible to beat cancer and at the end everything possible to make his last days the best she could for him. Teri did him proud in every way.

It’s a hard loss to lose an old friend or younger brother who dies too soon. The experience makes you take stock of your life and your relationships. I’ve talked, emailed, and texted with many others who knew Gary but are not represented in the comments above. There is a consistent theme in what I’m hearing. Gary was an active listener. He took a genuine interest in others. He looked for the common ground and never for the chance to talk about himself. He was quick to laugh and had a humble sincerity that endeared him to others. Those qualities that pulled people into him were genuine, heartfelt, and real. He made it easy to enjoy the pleasure of his company. And, that is for sure what I will miss the most about him—the pleasure of his company. For my wife, Mary, it was his hearty, quick laugh. Godspeed old friend. Thanks for the memories.

Please feel free to use the comments section below to add your thoughts about Gary, or this post.

Memorial service Sunday, Dec. 3, 11 a.m. at Berger Memorial Chapel, 9430 Olive Blvd. Memorial contributions preferred.


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  1. May he RIP. This is sad to hear.

    When I had started in the framing business 25+ years ago, I read Decor Magazine cover to cover as soon as they came out every month or so. I also enjoyed the art and framing shows Decor managed.

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