A decade out of Harvard College, Richard Weinberg saw himself as a man with a “destiny substantially behind schedule,” at least measured against the timetable he envisioned a year before marrying.
“I still recall the life plan I described to Sissy on the Winthrop House lawn in 1943 — a millionaire by 28 (it seemed more than ample time), then, freed from the need to earn a living, Renaissance Man, writing, politics, painting, causes,” he wrote in 1968 for the 25th anniversary report of his Harvard class.
He hit the millionaire mark the following year through a public offering for the Rix drugstore chain, one of the businesses he ran, but he was long past 28, he noted in characteristically frank fashion in a concise unpublished memoir, “and I had started working at 13.”
While Mr. Weinberg never strayed from his business interests, he wove in his Renaissance man pursuits by painting still-lifes, copies of photos, and portraits of any relative he persuaded to sit for an hour or two.
“For somebody who was so invested in his business, he had such an amazing creative side that he explored, that he went after. You just don’t see that very much,” said his niece Rebecca Romanow of Weston, who is interim director of the film/media program at the University of Rhode Island. “He had this yearning for creativity and he saw the world completely on his own terms, as any artist does.”
Mr. Weinberg, former chairman of the Rix Dunnington Inc. chain of drugstores that was sold to CVS in 1990, died June 11 in Belmont Manor nursing home. He was 91 and had lived in Newton for decades, until his health declined quickly a few weeks before his death.
“He was a highly intelligent guy who really looked at the world just slightly differently than everyone else did,” said his son David of New York City.
Mr. Weinberg, he added, “had a very unique way of analyzing problems and coming up with a solution for everyday problems, but also even for things that were outside his everyday life: political issues, foreign affairs, anything that was controversial. He always had his own way of looking at these things that made perfect sense when he expressed them.”
The second of three children, Richard Leslie Weinberg was born in Memphis, where he spent much of his childhood.
He was the son and grandson of merchants, “and they were quite an inspiration for my father,” said Mr. Weinberg’s other son, Rick Jr. of Bath, N.H. “He told me many times that his grandfather started off with almost nothing.”
Already studious at 9, Mr. Weinberg skipped ahead a grade midyear, “but I recall never excelling . . . at chin-ups, broad jump, or volleyball, and I was no achiever when it came to playing marbles,” he later wrote in his memoir.
He graduated second in his class from Central High School and recalled that he was accepted at Harvard and Yale, New York University, Vanderbilt, and the University of Chicago. “My mother gave me an easy goal: justice on the US Supreme Court,” he wrote.
Entering Harvard at 17, Mr. Weinberg roomed as a freshman with the future writer Norman Mailer.
Mr. Weinberg’s grades and oratorical skills earned him scholarships and awards during the years he simultaneously attended Harvard and Harvard Business School.
He met Carol Cohan, who was known to all as Sissy, at “the very first dance my mother allowed me to go to,” she recalled. He was a Harvard freshman and she was a few years younger.
In June 1944, a year after he graduated from Harvard, they married when Mr. Weinberg was home on leave from serving in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II as an ammunition officer.
She “has the compassion of Mary Poppins and the energy of the Jolly Green Giant,” Mr. Weinberg wrote of his wife in 1968. A quarter-century later, he counted among his blessings “an ‘all-that-one-could-ask-for’ spouse.”
A Navy lieutenant, Mr. Weinberg participated in the battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa. In the years after the war, he launched Household Research Corp. and Carter Overton, through which he opened the chain of Rix drugstores.
Known by the nickname Biggy to distinguish him from Rick Jr., Mr. Weinberg “loved business,” his son David said in a eulogy earlier this month. “He worked most days of his life from the time he was 13 until he became too weak in the last few years. Even after losing his sight in 2001 and a quintuple bypass in 2002, Biggy made his way to work every morning at 8 a.m. Work defined him, thrilled him, challenged him.”
Though he was a Navy veteran, Mr. Weinberg also found challenges out on the waves while sailing Windflower, the boat he named after his wife’s favorite blossom.
Sailing during summers near his vacation residence in Falmouth “was something he wanted to share with everybody,” Mr. Weinberg’s niece said. “He wasn’t that kind of lone sailor out in the wind. It was all of us getting to spend time together.”
A service has been held for Mr. Weinberg, who in addition to his wife and two sons leaves three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
“I am a happy man,” he wrote in 1968. “I don’t look back in anger or forward with despair.”
Mr. Weinberg “had this amazing warmth, this ability to love, and this willingness to love,” Romanow said, and that set him apart from others in the business world.
As with the times Mr. Weinberg took family members out on his boat, painting was a time to gather loved ones close, rather than an excuse to sequester himself away with his brushes and thoughts.
He liked to paint portraits of his two sons and two nieces, and “we all four of us modeled for him all the time because it was participatory for him, you know? It wasn’t just him out alone painting landscapes, we were with him all the time,” Romanow said.
“You could see him always trying to engage all of us, always trying to include us, and that’s the way his love was expressed, in the thereness of us,” she said. “We had to be in the boat, we had to be in the painting.”