Published: October 10, 2006
Robert M. Sack, the youngest of three brothers who perpetuated the legacy of their father, antiques dealer Israel Sack, died on October 2. He was 79.
Bob Sack, as he was known to friends, was born May 23, 1927, in Roxbury, Mass., a son of Israel and Ann Goodman Sack.
After returning from the Navy and graduating from New England College in Henniker, N.H., he joined his brothers Harold and Albert at Israel Sack, Inc. Founded in Boston in 1905, the firm opened a branch in Manhattan, where it eventually relocated, in the 1920s. Until its close in 2002, Israel Sack, Inc, was regarded as the preeminent specialist in antique American furniture and a model of ethical and aesthetic standards.
The firm’s contributions include galleries in the American Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Hood Museum at Dartmouth and New England College. Israel Sack, Inc, also played key roles in building collections of American antiques at Bayou Bend, now part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the White House.
“Bob was right in there with brothers Harold and Albert when the Sack firm made the 1981 gift that put its founder’s name on some of the Federal galleries in the American Wing. My colleagues and I deeply regret that this old friend won’t get to see the Israel Sack Galleries in all their new glory when they reopen later this year,” said Morrison H. Heckscher, Lawrence A. Fleischman Chairman of the American Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1996, Winterthur Museum awarded Robert, Harold and Albert Sack the Henry Francis du Pont Award for outstanding contribution to the American Arts. Israel Sack was posthumously acknowledged in the presentation.
“Albert buys, Harold sells and Robert delivers,” Bob Sack quipped at the time, content with his place in the family business.
“Each brother had his strength, which together made the firm successful for many decades,” said Connecticut dealer Arthur Liverant, a longtime family friend. “Bob kept the mechanics of the business going and dealt with clients on a daily basis. His easygoing manner appealed to many people.”
Clocks were Sack’s real love, said Liverant, “He knew movements very well. His expertise led Israel Sack, Inc, to have wonderful banjo, shelf and tall clocks in its inventory.”
“He was a truly modest man, thoughtful and sweet,” said Wendell Garrett. Editor at large of The Magazine Antiques and a consultant to Sotheby’s, Garrett got to know the dealer better after Bob Sack invited him to contribute articles to the Sack Heritage Group, a website that publishes antiques news and features on American decorative arts.
“Robert was a good man, kind and generous. He was also the practical one in the family. He had great mechanical ability, which led him to both clocks and photography. We had an $11 adding machine with a crank. Every time it broke, Robert fixed it. He made thousands of slides for our brochures and volumes. He let me and Harold take the glory. He never pushed himself forward,” said Albert Sack, who was 12 years older than Robert and four years younger than Harold.
“My father was old school. He didn’t hug us or play games with us. Mother used to berate him for it, but he was busy at work. We loved him more than anything,” said Albert Sack. “What I treasure most is that the three of us carried on our father’s goals, convictions and integrity. If we had goofed up, he would have rained on us from cloud nine.”
Robert Sack served on the board of trustees of the Willard House and Clock Museum in Grafton, Mass.; on the board of trustees of the Museum of The National Watch and Clock Museum in Columbia, Penn.; and on the board of Temple Israel of Northern Westchester.
A dedicated family man, he is survived by his wife of 50 years, Lee; daughter Lyn Wall; daughter and son-in-law Gail and Michael Drinkard; grandchildren David and Susan Drinkard and Mackenzie Wall; and his nieces and nephews. Harold Sack died in 2000. Israel Sack died in 1953.
A memorial service was held on Thursday, October 5, at Temple Israel of Northern Westchester in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. Interment will be at Sharon Gardens, Valhalla, N.Y.
Memorial donations can be made to The Willard House & Clock Museum, 11 Willard Street, North Grafton MA 01536; Phelps Memorial Hospital, Emergency Room Fund, 701 North Broadway, Sleepy Hollow NY 10591; or Temple Israel of Northern Westchester, Glengary Road, Croton-on-Hudson NY 10520.
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