Sit down with Justin Wyner, and you never know where in time or place you'll end up. As he shares stories of his own life and those of his family, he travels over four continents and as far as 150 years back in time. He'll take you from the Lithuanian shtetl where his father's father was born to the Boston of Mayor James Michael Curley and where that same grandfather built America's second Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Justin may take you to 1930s Paris, where his cousin interviewed Pablo Picasso in his studio, or leap back over the ocean to the Ritz, where Justin met such legends as Benny Goodman and Eddie Cantor.
And then there are the many stories of Justin's career, transforming a historic textile mill into a high-tech manufacturer of materials that can be found in hospital surgery wards and automobiles around the world; of his civic life, rising through the ranks of Brookline politics to town meeting moderator and spearheading a national Republicans for Gene McCarthy campaign; of his service to the Jewish community, seeing Boston's largest Reform congregation through rocky times as temple president, easing tension with the black community as head of what is today the Jewish Community Relations Council and preserving communal history as president of the American Jewish Historical Society and its New England chapter.
That's just the public Justin. Somehow he found time to raise three sons with his wife of 63 years, Genevieve; pilot sailboats along the New England coast and in the Caribbean (befriending the president of one island nation); and manage a menagerie of pets, from chickens to dogs to cats, even playing matchmaker and midwife to an English sheepdog.
And there's more: from Yogi Berra to Ted Kennedy, pre-Castro Havana to underground Jerusalem, from chatting with a king by ham radio to finding a surefire way to predict which horse will win at Saratoga.
Justin's story is at once a personal memoir, a family saga and a chapter in Jewish-American history. It's also a summation of the lessons he learned as a leader in the business, civic and religious realms. Most of all – and its modest author might dispute this – a guide to how to make the most of life.