Marvin Riback: Patriarch. Friend. Lawyer. Sports fan. Born Dec. 6, 1925, in Montreal; died June 8, 2019, in Montreal, of old age; aged 93.
Marvin was a bright, bilingual lawyer who had a long career in private practice in Montreal, but he was the antithesis of the smooth, smug attorney. His lovable, unpretentious demeanour and stocky frame were perhaps more akin to a legal bull in a china shop.
Marvin’s tell-it-like-it-is style may have turned some people off, but it endeared him to many. A case in point: Decades ago, Marv was representing a husband in a divorce, but told the judge his client should pay his ex-wife $100 a week more than the judge had suggested. Although his client was furious, the man remained friends with him.
Marvin graduated from McGill University’s law school in 1952. He met Jack Lightstone at McGill, and they cemented a friendship and business relationship that lasted almost 50 years. They were like brothers. “Look, Jack,” Marvin famously told his partner, “we’re going to be spending more time together at the office than we probably will with our own wives, so we’d better make the best of it.” They never had a serious disagreement, and the law partners’ bond was so true that Marvin and his wife Dorothy became godparents to Jack’s youngest son.
Marvin met Dorothy Gottheil when he was 15 and she was 12; they fell for each other and it was a love story that lasted 76 years, until the day he died. It was a simpatico relationship based on love, trust and mutual respect. They married in 1951 and had three children, Billy, Carole and Howard. Marvin would support his children’s interests both emotionally and financially, allowing one to carve a comedy career in Los Angeles, another to study at an Ivy League university and the other to attend flight school to earn a pilot’s license. He was devoted to his family, and was devastated when Carole died in 2007 after a long illness.
Marvin also enjoyed his role as grandfather to Ryan and Brandon, Howard’s sons. He regularly had Ryan riding shotgun as he ran errands, sharing useful knowledge and quizzing the kid on educational matters and other things. At Marvin’s 90th birthday party, Ryan said he learned more from those car rides than from years of formal classroom studies.
Marvin had pet leisure pursuits to wash away work-related stress. He loved baseball – he and Dorothy had season tickets to the Montreal Expos – and he liked shooting craps in casinos. Marv was a football bettor, too – it was his entertainment. Sometimes his big heart got in the way of rational decision-making. Marv had a soft spot for those rare NFL squads with a bar mitzvah boy on the roster, and would plunk down cash on that team regardless of the point spread. Super Bowl Sunday at the Ribacks’ house was always a terrific party with stiff beverages for the adults and deli food for all.
When Jack died in 2002, Marvin showed a lawyer’s ability to hastily shape ideas and language into memorable oratory, despite his grief, to pay tribute to his pal. It was an unrehearsed gem of a testimonial from a gem of a guy. Marv will be missed.
Michael Lightstone is Marvin Riback’s godson.
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