EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the eulogy that Victoria Schneps-Yunis delivered at services for her late husband, Dr. Stuart Yunis, who passed away on March 16.
How do I love you? Let me count the ways. My darling Stu lived life like no other. He was caring, courageous, kind, brilliant, loving, tough-minded and accomplished, and most of all, he adored his family.
Stu and I were like a Charlotte russe. My life was the sweet cake filled with my work, my friends and my beloved family. Stu was the luscious, sweet whipped cream topping of my life. He made my life more delicious.
Stu was almost a clone of my father. After he retired, each day my dad would read the New York Times from cover to cover. Stu read the Times, the Daily News and Newsday, often sharing with me a story I might have missed as I scanned the papers with him while we ate breakfast together.
He was like my dad too in that he was devoted to his family, always there for them on many levels. He even shared his home with Eve, Lou and Joe so the boys could attend North Shore schools that better suited their needs.
Stu was also like my dad in that he was a calm, thoughtful man. He was the strong, silent type. Each day before I left for work and gave him his kiss goodbye he’d say “stay calm.” He was the anchor in life, my safe harbor.
Stu was a strong man who met his match in me. We knew each other our whole lives and he knew I was never intimidated by his him. When he misbehaved I even threatened him that I’d tell his mother the next time we visited her at the cemetery. He knew I was an independent person of independent means and Stu “got it” about me and I “got it” about him. Somehow we were a perfect match for each other.
He was a tough task master who spoke his mind loudly and strongly as any person who knew him well will attest to. Recognizing that, I even bought him, when we visited Venice, Italy, a lion’s mask, because he “roared” so often. But beneath the veneer was a warm-hearted, caring, loving man. Although I had to laugh yesterday when six-year-old Madison Frankel, the beautiful daughter of dear, dear friends Perry and Rosann, said about Stu, “when he gets to Heaven’s gates he will use his big voice and say ‘hurry up and open those gates!’”
He left Dartmouth after his third year, since he got early admission to SUNY Syracuse medical school. After graduation, he became chief resident at LIJ and later became board certified in general internal medicine and nephrology
Stu created the in house dialysis department at LIJ and later at St Francis Hospital.
For his work at both institutions, he was awarded much recognition.
Anyone who knew him at LIJ and St. Francis knew he never put up with bureaucratic nonsense. If his patient wasn’t taken fast enough for a test he pushed the bed himself to get it done. He did not suffer fools gladly; he knew what he wanted and he made it happen.
Stu loved the best of everything, from his cigars, to his brandy to his wines, to his martinis to his food. We shared almost ten years of traveling the world first class, each trip meticulously planned by him. He knew how much I enjoyed and relished those luxuries. I think he actually fell in love with me when he took me to dinner at D’Artagnan, a French restaurant in Manhattan. I ordered the house specialty, foie gras. He saw how I relished each bite and lingered over the meal with a glass of fine wine. My plate was wiped clean. He knew then and there that he had found a woman with a great appetite for the better things in life. Yes, I do have a great appetite for life and we lived it together to the hilt.
But we didn’t live it in a vacuum. Between us we had 8 children. And we had a perfect understanding that my need to be with my children matched his to be with his. And those grandchildren…fourteen so far. My dearest darling has left an enormous legacy and they are all sitting here before you. Nothing was more important to him than they were. He desperately wanted to see each achieve his or her potential and to have a good life. He did what was necessary to make that happen. He had a generous soul that wanted only the best for them, and he provided it.
His son Harvey attended Columbia, Harvard and Cambridge in England, earning multiple degrees as a classicist and now holds a chair at Rice University, an honor he achieved as one of the world’s greatest experts on Greek philosopher Xenophanes, and he’s the dad of two accomplished young people.
His daughter Eve earned a master’s degree in arts and is an extraordinarily talented artist and accomplished as a painter, sculptress, jewelry designer and landscape and interior designer. I could go on. And she has those two handsome, tall and strong young men.
Then there is Jon, who has been so lovingly supportive of me throughout his dad’s illnesses. I even called him 3 a.m. one night when I thought I was losing Stu and he guided me through it. You see he is a vascular surgeon, king of the hernia surgeons on the west coast of Florida. He has even traveled to Africa to do hernia operations on the indigent. He is as brilliant and humane a doctor as his dad was. He has two beautiful children.
Then there is Stu’s baby, Mimi, who holds a masters degree from Bank Street College and has headed an elite preschool in Manhattan for decades. But she is the beautiful mother of us all who can entertain 30 people like it is a party for four. She is a most remarkably accomplished professional and parent, the mother of three strong young men.
Stu is here in all these wonderful children and their children. He has created a strong tree that has born beautiful fruit. What better testament to a great man…
And I must say a special word of thanks to my children who have tenderly taken care of me during Stu’s dying days. They were the wind beneath my wings, helping me stay afloat with their love and constant presence.
I was able to stay strong for Stu thanks to the love and care provided to me by all my friends, especially Pouran and Claire, both of whom constantly “checked in” on us and nurtured me through all his illnesses.
I think adding years to his life were the talented and caring nurses and doctors at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, particularly his former partners, his cousin Mark Yunis and Perry Frankel, who watched over him like mother hens. But Stu always quietly told me, “you know I know more than all of them,” and he usually did, directing much of his care.
This last visit to Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan was to have the respected and skillful surgeon Dr Gary Giangola put a new shunt in his arm to allow for a better flow for his dialysis. But Stu was so frail and between all his ailments and past recoveries my “comeback kid” couldn’t come back again. So I brought him home and held him in my arms in our bed as he passed gently away.
Stu, how do I love thee? I love you to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach and will cherish forever our years together. Rest in peace my darling, you are always in my heart.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that donations be made in Dr. Stuart Yunis’ memory to Life’s WORC, the Lara Rebecca Schneps Fund (www.lifesworc.org); and Amani Global Works (amaniglobalworks.org).