The Man Who Devoted his Life to the Life of Chicago

Alexander Golbin, M.D.

Mr. Larry Weintraub, Chicago’s famous journalist for 35 years died recently at the age of 69. He came into my life many years ago much like he has into the lives of many others: suddenly, with a lot of grueling questions, following me around at work for days with the forcefulness of a professional reporter and the sensitivity of an experienced diplomat. What was supposed to be a short assignment was transformed into life-long friendship.

I have thought many times about writing an article on Larry Weintraub. When we would talk about writing books together, I was amazed at how easily and deeply he could grasp complicated scientific and clinical concepts and translate them into clear, simple and eloquent statements as if he had been in science for many years. When he shared with me some of his personal writings I realized how great a writer he was.

I also realized how unique he was. Although he was born in New York, he devoted himself to Chicago. Not just the city of Chicago, but to every aspect of Chicago life. He was the reporter of Chicago Life for Chicago Sun Times. He wrote on all aspects of life in Chicago, transportation, food, entertainment, the police, science, medicine, and politics. He did not just report the news, he worked on all the jobs he wrote about and consequently was able to breathe life into the stories about peoples’ work and their concerns. He was the true Voice of People.

As Sun Times officials admitted, colleagues admired Mr. Weintraub’s ability to turn ordinary events into extraordinary reads. “He would light up when he would catch that something that was really newsworthy,” said former Sun Times reporter Harlan Draeger. He bravely investigated an underground world and helped the police to fight crime in Chicago. “He would whisper something in my ear” -said one investigator-“and his tips where on the money.”

Larry Weintraub had an incredible sense of humor. It was he who coined the phrase “Virgin kitchen” for a story about a woman who never cooked. From 1958 to 1993 he wrote famous the “Weintraub’s World” column. You may have appreciated his brilliant observations and deep wisdom in 208 of his stories over there.

Mr. Weintraub devoted his life to helping people. He had a lot of good ideas when he served as campaign manager for Maria Papas, now Cook County treasurer, when she ran for Cook County Board President in 1994. He changed peoples’ lives because of his stories and his vision. He was one of the first journalists in Chicago to bring media attention to sleep problems as an important public health issue. His story about sleep changed my life too.

He made many people in Chicago’s businesses famous, successful and rich, but he never used it for his own benefit. Up to his last day he lived in a small townhouse in East Rogers Park and made a beautiful garden on its porch. He was made rich by his friends, family, and the love of the people of Chicago.