FOR MICHAEL RICHMAN, memories of his friend Harold Goldsmith go back to their days crammed into a booth at the Hilltop Diner, as part of the gang immortalized by Barry Levinson in his film, "Diner.
"We certainly used to stay up very late, until 3 or 4 in the morning, discussing the problems of the world. Harold was always better at resolving them; he had a handle on everything," recalled Richman, owner of the local Recordmasters chain.
Goldsmith, co-founder of Merry-Go-Round Enterprises and president of Eastern Savings Bank, was killed Wednesday when his chartered jet crashed outside of Aspen, Colo.
Yesterday, at funeral services attended by approximately 1,000 people, Goldsmith, 49, was indeed remembered as a man who had a handle on everything and who made a strong impression on every level of his broad universe.
The Chizuk Amuno Congregation brimmed with family, friends, business associates and members of Baltimore's Jewish community, who spoke of Goldsmith's keen intelligence, drive and love of family and faith. At heart, he was a "diner guy," but he was also a committed husband, father and philanthropist who expected as much energy and honesty as he gave.
"He was one of the nicest guys I knew," said Sidney Bartz, another friend from high school days. "He always stood by my side. He stayed with me every day when my father died. I'll miss him."
Robert "Lou" Hayman, a friend of Goldsmith's for 35 years, worked for him and his co-partner Leonard "Boogie" Weinglass.
"He was a very inspiring man," Hayman said of Goldsmith. "One thing I recall, the first day I started working at Merry-Go-Round, there were two stores, and Harold said, 'Maybe one day, we'll have 20 stores.' I said, 'Sure, good luck.' I'll always remember that comment," Hayman said. Today, the $150-million Merry-Go-Round empire boasts 700 stores in 38 states.
In the crowd, one friend remembered Goldsmith, who raised millions of dollars for Jewish charitable organizations, as someone who would come through with a little money to last between paychecks. And another, a former teacher, recalled when a young Goldsmith read the Passover questions for the first broadcast of a Seder on WMAR. "He was a beautiful child," he said.
Without Goldsmith, "We Jewish people are not as strong as we were four days ago," said Rabbi Joel Zaiman during the services. Speaking of Goldsmith's contributions and of his devotion to Judaism, Zaiman said of Goldsmith, "Saving Jews: he was always ready to do that . . . he was a leader among his people."
Graceful and composed, Goldsmith's wife Beth eulogized her husband. She spoke of their courtship. "We made a connection, instantly," she said. After she had proved to him she was versed in Hebrew and Jewish teachings with a recitation, she remembered that Goldsmith told her, "You took my mind." By the end of their first date, "He had taken my mind and my heart, as well," Goldsmith said of her husband.
Lovingly, Beth Goldsmith spoke of her husband's flaws and of his demanding nature, and on behalf of her late husband, praised all members of the extended Goldsmith family and stressed the love he felt for them. And on her own behalf, Beth Goldsmith told her husband, "You made me proud of myself . . . Please continue to watch over me."
Goldsmith's children spoke next: Josh, 8 1/2 , and Adam, for himself and his sister, Julie, who was overcome with grief.
Goldsmith's sister Ilene Powers concluded the eulogy, remembering competitive ping pong matches with her brother and his earliest philanthropic efforts. Mediocrity "was simply not in Harold's vocabulary," she said. And, Powers said, her brother was "a real haimisher mensh" -- a genuine person, with no affectations.