Jeffrey Martin Arnstein, 75, released his physical form on the 30th of July, 2022, and with his passing the world loses another Special New York Connecticut Kind of Jew. He passed away in peace, in his own home in Baltimore, with his true love Jane D’Ambrogi by his side. In his passing, along with Jane and their dog Walter, he leaves his children and their partners — Ellen and Brett (CT) & Reid and Angela (NJ) — with the honored task of keeping his memory alive through a devotion to cultivating an honest life full of craft, compassion, empathy, wonder, & above all else — magic.
Jeff, the dad, taught his children to love and honor the woods & indigenous knowledge and beliefs, to care for others even if they don’t seem to care for you, to always live as honestly & truthfully to yourself as you can without hurting others, & that even those who do hurt others can learn to grow and become someone who helps others not hurt when they are. He taught his kids to stay curious, to question everything, and most importantly, how to protect the world from trolls (the real kind, not those behind a computer screen).
Jeff, the professional, was best known for his work as an Early American Antique Restoration expert, operating for most of his career out of the North Armory of Hartford’s Colt Building (shops that followed: 56 Arbor Street, then Port Chester NY). Always filled with the industry’s highest-end pieces waiting to be revived back to old, his shop was a crossroads for many of the most respected collectors, dealers, & curators of the trade, as well as an exciting meeting place for many of Hartford’s artists and makers. He bent time through polish and lathe for important auction houses like Sotheby’s & Christie’s, museums like the Wadsworth, The Lyman Allen, & Hartford’s Old State House, as well for the most prominent private collectors & dealers of his time. To many, his most impressive work was the restoration he did for the Butler-McCook House after its fateful 2002 accident; and while his work on that job was nothing short of magic, those who followed his career knew that every job he did was done at that exact same level of wow. His working memory of wood and grain was otherwordly, and his ability to work the finest difference in hue made more unfathomable when you learned he was color blind.
In his lifetime, Jeff did many amazing things, including: being raised in the American shtetl that was 1940s/50s Pelham Parkway; graduated from CCH early, entering Queens College on a full ride at age 17; got stuck in traffic going to Woodstock & decided to turn back; refused his Vietnam War draft and taught public school in Harlem instead; imported an MGB from England to NYC after his solo European Trip of a Lifetime; hiked a large portion of the Appalachian trail alone but for his trusty Donkey who he adopted along the way; owned and operated a jewelry & antique store on City Island with his first true love Merry; taught himself how to restore furniture and made a tremendous career of it; fell in love many times with ease and grace; made friends with ease and had many he kept for his lifetime; survived many curious near-death experiences; danced many nights away at the WISCOH; created, with his first wife Gail, two incredible children who turned out more than okay; did a really great Daffy Duck; was a master of petnames and a bastion of Yiddish affections; earnestly found his way from Judaism to Buddhism to Unitarian Universalism; practiced anti-racism and anti-zionism with a fierce devotion; always dreamed of being a writer and made it happen in his later years, writing multiple books aimed at helping struggling readers excel; mentored countless individuals in everything from restoration/conservation to transforming anger to reading to GED prep and more; strove to admit to his mistakes, learned to forgive, and grew from his traumas; and above all else — managed to die a peaceful death surrounded by love, knowing he was loved, and graced with the awareness of the meaningful impacts he made in his lifetime.
An open celebration of his life will be held on the 10th of September, 2022, at noon, at his beloved Towson Unitarian Universalist church. In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to Earl’s Place, a recovery center for men in Baltimore, or to Reading Partners Baltimore — two organizations Jeff volunteered for & held near to his heart. Happy trails to you...MWAH!