Farewell to a Wonderful Friend


Back row: Neil's sister Karen, Neil's wife Cathie, Neil, Neil's brother Steve. Front row, Neil's daughters Luci and Helen, Neil's mom Bev.

Today is the memorial service for Neil Dolinsky, one of my best friends in the world. I wanted to share the eulogy I’ll be delivering in order to celebrate Neil’s life and to introduce him to those who were not fortunate enough to know him.

Postscript: Everyone who spoke at Neil’s service did a wonderful job. I am including their eulogies as well because everyone knew Neil in a different light and all of our tributes together painted a complete portrait of this unique man. Indeed, after the service, more than one person commented that even if they hadn’t been close to Neil, they now felt like they really knew him.

All photos were taken between April 5 and April 15, 2009.


Neil was my friend. I was two years ahead of Neil in high school, where we met, and we later worked together for seven years at a small investment management firm.

One of my most enduring, and endearing, memories of Neil was spending time in Mr. Thompson’s computer lab at Apollo High School in the months leading up to Neil’s sixteenth birthday. I had programmed the computer—which was nothing more than a teletype with yellow paper—so that as soon as Neil logged on, it printed out exactly how many weeks, days, minutes and seconds he had to wait until he turned sixteen and could get his driver’s license. Neil was so excited about getting his license, and he thought that program was so cool, that we visited that teletype pretty much every day.

After all, as everyone here knows, Neil could be described in two words: boundless enthusiasm. When Neil liked something, he REALLY, REALLY liked it. Our mutual friend, Mark Thome, remembers the time he was at Neil’s house during junior high. Neil was showing him the very detailed income and balance sheets that he had just prepared for his personal finances. Mark, who was a year older, said, “Neil was thrilled out of his skin excited about it.” I mean, hello! Balance sheets in seventh grade? That was vintage Neil.

Mark also reminded me of Neil’s unique ability to fold his tongue in three sections, and his willingness to show off this mutant talent to whomever, wherever and whenever he could.

Neil and I had a lot of fun and laughed a lot. When my daughter Erin was born, Neil drove over to my parents’ house in St. Cloud to see her for the first time. I saw him pull up in the driveway so I grabbed Erin’s empty infant seat and walked outside with it, pretending that Erin was in it, cooing and talking to her. Then, pretending to trip, I flung it in the air, as Neil looked on, horrified. I can still see his face, frozen with terror, like it was yesterday.

I remember the day when Neil first told me about Cathie, who would become his wife. He was completely taken with her. He raved about how smart and well-read she was, and said that he couldn’t get enough of her. And I’ll never forget this. He told me that when Cathie was sitting on his lap, she was still too far away.

When Neil became a father, he was beside himself with happiness. He doted on Luci and dedicated himself to being a great dad. Four years later, my wife Kate was in the delivery room when Helen was born. The moment Helen arrived, Kate said that Neil made a sound, a laugh perhaps, something she had never heard before, but that if she had ever imagined what pure joy would sound like, that would be it.

Neil was a very generous friend. Ten years ago, he gushed about how happy he was with his Lasik eye surgery that enabled him to see without glasses. He convinced me to have the same procedure with the same doctor, and offered to drive me to and from the surgery . When he picked me up to go to the eye clinic, he presented me with a pair of Ray-Ban sunglasses that cost more than $100. I was speechless. Just a year ago, I thanked him again for that gift; he didn’t remember it, which further illustrates the purity of his generosity and friendship.

Thirty-two days ago, on Neil’s fiftieth birthday, I e-mailed him this:

Neil, wasn’t it just yesterday that we were sitting in front of the teletype in Mr. Thompson’s classroom? And now you’re fifty?!?!?! Whoa!

Neil wrote right back:

Thanks very much Phil, and yes, it was just a scant 34 years ago that we were sitting in that room, waiting for the teletype machine to tell me when I could drive a car.

Eight days later, he was gone, and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that. We all are. Five days ago, it was my birthday; and instead of receiving my customary birthday e-mail from Neil, I was writing his eulogy. What a hole he has left in our lives.

Five years ago this month, I had dinner with Neil on my birthday. He had recently taken some personal development courses and had an epiphany. He told me that he realized that everything comes down to living with more love in your life. He told me how he had gone about improving all the relationships in his life and confronting things he needed to confront in order to grow and become more loving. I was very impressed by that.

I’m a big believer in telling people how much they mean to me. And I am grateful that, the same day Neil told me all this, I e-mailed this note to him:

Just wanted to mention, Neil, that something I’ve always admired about you is your integrity. No, you didn’t always make the right choices but you always tried to do what you thought was right. And that counts for a lot in my book.

Neil e-mailed back:

Thank you . . . this means a lot to me. Admiration is the most sought after currency in the universe, right up there with love. We all want to be loved but we also want to be admired. So thank you for sending this.

That’s another word I could use to describe Neil. Integrity. Absolute, uncompromising integrity. I remember once at work listening as he called a client back who had just been verbally abusive to our receptionist. Neil’s income was entirely dependent on finding and retaining clients; yet he told the client very calmly, but firmly, that such behavior was unacceptable and that the client relationship would be terminated if it happened again. I was in awe of Neil that day.

Ten years ago, on the day before Neil’s fortieth birthday, I e-mailed him this:

Hello, 39-year-old person. Have a nice day tomorrow as you are instantly transformed into an old fart.

He wrote back:

Thanks for the greeting! The family gave me a palm tree for my birthday, which will grow to full height of 70 feet in just 60 years, in time for my 100th birthday. Can you write a program to count down the minutes?

I would give anything to be able to do that. If I could say one more thing to Neil, it would be this: Bravo, my friend. Congratulations on a life well lived, with a heart full of love.



Neil with his daughters Helen (left) and Luci

Curly hair and a gentle grin,
You were a man of such depth
I hardly know where to begin.

Music you taught me—piano and song,
We’d hold concerts at Baubie’s house, and invite everyone along.
Your effervescent mind had you teaching us to play
Backgammon, checkers, monopoly and croquet.
I looked forward to the day
You would teach my kids how to play.

I loved how you knew things
Like the longest word in the English language:
And you made me learn how to say it backwards:
As if that wasn’t enough, you turned the alphabet into a word:
And you took delight in all things odd, like the formula for PH:
The negative log of the inverse of the concentration of hydronium ions per litre of solution.
(Note form Phil:  Luci NAILED the above paragraph. It was amazing. Neil would have burst his buttons with pride!)

As a child I was constantly intrigued by what you knew
But as I got older, I got to know You.
I saw a man who was so charismatic:
Loyal, and gentle, and ever diplomatic.

As maturity arrived, I was delighted to discover
That you were still my dad underneath that clever cover.
You knew about things that were coming my way,
You were ready to help as soon as I’d say,
“Hi Dad, are you busy?”
“Never too busy for my daughter!”

You came to every show I was in,
Visited every place I lived
Treated all my friends so well,
Your acceptance was endless, from what I could tell.

Holidays in cabins, picnics fit for kings,
Birthdays, when exchanging gifts, and all the fun that would bring.

We’d sit around at dinner and laugh,
Telling stories and pulling faces while we ate
I can only thank you for your love
Being here with you was great.

A family of four, I knew I was safe
I could always come back to rest at home base
Together, supported, feeling close, being whole
I love our family, body and soul.

Adventure ran all through your blood.
You chased excitement with passion
For the games you inspired and the energy you gave,
The spirit you’ve left us is lavish.

Your pilot’s license—the result of an overwhelming urge to fly
If you couldn’t touch the stars you were certainly going to try.
The excitement of discovery never seemed to dim;
Anyone who knew my dad would have said that of him.

Just the other day I heard, “We were on the edge of something big”
And that’s how it was with you dad, on the edge:
Whether at home, playing chess, or on the rig.

You could’ve lived another five lives and had energy for more,
So now, infused with your energy, I’m out to settle the score.

Wonderful, patient, devoted, and generous,
Funny and clever, on so many levels,
Good guy, great friend, inspiring leader, loyal man,
My dad, always dad,
Miss you dad, love you dad.



Neil's daughters Helen (left) and Luci

One of the stories that best sums up how cool my dad was, was something that happened to us in Las Vegas, in 2006. I had just turned sixteen and he had just turned forty-seven. We were taking a taxi to one of the hotels, and we had a Latina driver. It was a fairly lengthy drive, and she was cool and nice, and we were talking to her about everything we’d been doing in Vegas. She kept turning around and looking at us, and finally she said, “You two are such a cute couple, how long have you been together?”

My dad and I looked at each other, like, ‘Do you want to tell her?’ ‘No, do you want to tell her?’

And the first thing my dad said was, “Well thank you.”

He was deeply flattered to be mistaken for someone as young as that, and I was just deeply disturbed to be mistaken for his wife.

He loved astronomy and bizarre complicated things like Sudoku and constellations and science and he always meant to buy a telescope. He liked intense things. Ponderous Russian music. Spartacus. Rod Serling. The Moon. He was madly in love with President Obama, like me, only maybe even more than me. He knew every White House cabinet member, he knew all the stars in our galaxy, he knew the planet’s moons. He wanted a perfect temperature all the time. And when we found a good parking space he’d always exclaim, “Too good to be true!” And he spoke fake-Yiddish and fake-Russian and fake-French and when I was young I didn’t even know the difference, it all seemed genuine. He understood Hebrew but couldn’t translate it to English and couldn’t speak it himself. He took delight in proving wrong all the alien theories. He liked statistics. He taught me how to floss and how to tell time.

He could point out every illogical point in a movie and deflate the mood. He’d put his hand over my eyes in movies’ kissing scenes. There was the time he drove four hours to pick me up from music camp because I was lonely. And when my sister and I were jealous of our Barbie’s toy convertible, he made sure to rent a real one just like it when we went to Florida. He took me out late at night even when I was far too old to be asking for ice cream at eleven at night.

And when he drove to Melbourne at three a.m. to get me because I was sick. He could recite all the lines from Ben Hur and list a hundred random objects by heart. He wanted to share everything. That’s why he raised me on Star Trek and The Twilight Zone and Hitchcock movies, it’s why he would call me from the highway, make me go outside and stare at the Moon.

And he never gave up trying to make his daughters as good as he was.

The night we saw Wolverine, or the nights we spent in Vegas and Minneapolis, going for drives, Champps’ Sports Bar, and the time he said, “Let’s get out of here,” and we went to the mall late at night.

I wish he was here to say “This atmosphere is getting me down, let’s get out of here.”

Dad was a lot of things to a lot of people, but mostly he was my dad and he was the best.

(Note form Phil:  Like her sister, Helen is also a gifted speaker and very comfortable on stage. Helen’s eulogy was more extemporaneous than everyone else’s, but this is the foundation of her remarks, which beautifully captured her father’s spirit.)



Neil and his brother Steve

In Hollywood, big brothers are always the star athletes, the cool guys. In real life, my big brother was passionate about a few things: chess, astronomy, music, math and Star Trek. In other words, he was a world-class nerd. But it didn’t really matter, because I looked up to him all the same.

Karen wasn’t too thrilled, at the age of three, when her little brother came home from the hospital. Even though our mom was fond of dressing them up in matching cowboy and cowgirl outfits for pictures, behind the smiles they fought like typical siblings. Neil liked to scribble on her piano music and made her cover for him when he played his elaborate pranks. And believe me, they were elaborate.

When you’re nine years younger than your brother, there’s just enough distance to form a generational gap, but not so much that you feel disconnected. Take Star Trek for example. Neil grew up with the original series, and it formed a lasting impression. I could never relate to the early 60s, but his interest led directly to my fascination with science fiction: Asimov, Roddenberry, Lucas—the whole gang. His interests became mine: building and launching model rockets, driving go-karts, downhill skiing . . . Neil was a thrill-seeker.

Neil’s love of classical music was contagious, especially those dark, intense movements in the minor key he was so fond of. I’m absolutely certain I was the only kid in St. Cloud who knew the second movement to Beethoven’s 9th by the time I was ten, and I thought it was totally cool. Growing up, music was always in our home. I remember Karen’s piano playing, and Neil’s incessant trombone: jazz band and pep band come to mind. His passion for music led me to take up the trumpet. Neil continued playing in college, and well after graduation, joining the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra for many years. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank his fellow musicians for coming to play today. The gentleman on trombone, incidentally, was the person who replaced Neil after he left the BSO more than ten years ago.

To me, he was an older, wiser brother, and yet he played a similar role with Karen. As an adult, he was her friend, sounding board, guidance counselor, financial advisor, technology consultant and frequent house guest, whom Ron enjoyed having around as much as Karen did.

He took his role as uncle to Rachel, Madeline and Max very seriously. They always loved when he was around because he gave them his undivided attention, showing uncommon patience while demonstrating his cool card tricks and relishing the chance to teach them how to play chess.

Karen and I were fortunate enough to spend three “sibling weekends” together in Madison, Wisconsin, pulling us even closer together. We managed to have a walk on the beach in Australia two months ago, when we were there celebrating Neil’s 50th birthday. He was like a little kid anticipating our arrival. He made sure we noticed the constellations in the Northern Hemisphere and the direction of our shadows so we could see the difference when we were “down under.” He meticulously planned each day, making sure mom, Karen and I could experience the people and patterns of his life and why he loved living in Oz.

Neil always looked to the sky with wonder—what would it be like to explore the unseen? I’ll never forget going up in an airplane with him, shortly after he got his pilot’s license. It was the most basic license you could get –VFR–which stood for “visual flight rules,” and meant you were not yet skilled enough to fly based solely on looking at the instruments; you had to see where you were going. Wouldn’t you know it, halfway through our voyage, some fog rolled in, and we both got a little frightened. Suddenly, he was all business and we stopped chatting about life and work and why the Flying Cloud airport didn’t have a decent café. He had to set the plane down, and cut the trip short. But being there that day, watching him prep the airplane, talk to the control tower and safely guide the plane back to earth, was something I’ll take with me forever. The flight could have been five minutes. Watching him glow with excitement—as if he had just been asked to dinner by Warren Buffet—was what I had really come to see that day.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve all been struggling to make sense of this sudden and painful loss. A good friend, who lost her father when she was young, shared some wisdom: She said when someone you love dies, they don’t stray far from your heart and mind. And therefore, much of them will always remain a part of you.

I know Neil’s absence will leave a hole in our family and in our hearts, but he also leaves us a legacy of wonderful memories that will endure so that he will always be with us.



Bruce Hendry

My name is Bruce Hendry. My wife, Sharon, and I were friends of Neil.

Steve asked me to say a few words today to talk about Neil, and as I reviewed my notes it struck me as to how inadequate these remarks are in describing my thoughts and feelings about Neil. Sharon and I loved this man. I’m still wrestling with the fact that Neil isn’t there anymore. Neil was always there for me. No matter what time of day or night that I sent an e-mail to him he’d be back with a lengthy and detailed reply.

I met Neil twenty years ago when he worked for an investment advisory firm called C. C. Dunnavan. The friendship started out on a professional level as one investment person to another, but it gradually developed into a wonderful combination of mentor and friend.

In trying to come up with a few words that described Neil, I decided upon “intelligent” and “charming.”

An intellectual is someone who seeks knowledge just for the pure joy of knowing something. Neil was an intellectual. He was an expert at the game of chess, loved music and was very knowledgeable about both. He loved Franz Schubert and at the drop of a hat would send you an article describing how Schubert was as good as Mozart. His expertise at the computer and math combined to give him the skills to be a key part of the InterOil management team, doing all of their financial modeling. His organizational skills kept his boss Phil Mulacek, a genius in many ways, organized and effective.

Neil loved to amaze people with his memory skills. You could give Neil fifteen different subjects and he could recite them back to you in perfect order, from the front and then from the back.

Neil had another amazing ability that I just became aware of and that was as a creative writer. Ron Berg and I sent Neil a special chess set for his 50th birthday present. The thank you letter was so creative and well written that I printed a copy of it for my permanent file. Let me read a paragraph for you so you can see what I mean.

Today the FedEx truck arrived at my house, and the man emerged with a GIANT box. I noticed right away the words House of Staunton. I knew it was chess-related because Staunton pieces are THE classic chess pieces throughout the world.

I opened the first box. Every piece was wrapped like a fine antique.  Each piece first had a thin piece of padding carefully rolled around all the edges, held in place with a tiny rubber band, to prevent any damage in transit to even the tiniest little feature. On top of that, each piece was then totally rolled in a piece of tissue paper. It was like unwrapping a mummy and took about 3-4 minutes to unwrap each piece.

The first piece I unwrapped was the Black Queen. I got the chills!  It was the most beautiful piece I had ever seen. Large, perfectly constructed, beautiful wood, perfectly weighted at the bottom.

Neil was charming. He didn’t know that he was charming and that made him even more special. He was a handsome man, but didn’t seem to know that either. He didn’t seem aware of his many accomplishments and abilities. The words modest, unassuming and humble did a good job of describing Neil.

I knew Neil well enough to know that he was at a good place in his life. His reluctant move to Australia had changed from reluctance to a warm embrace of Australia. His relationships with Cathie, Helen and Luci were good and he was at a good place with his career at Interoil.

Ron Berg and I flew to Australia together to attend Neil’s 50th birthday party. He was so excited that his mother, brother and sister all came to visit him there. He had his whole family there as well as his many friends who came from his new Austrailian home and  his international guests like Ron Berg, Misake Sato and myself.

Landmark, an organization that Phil mentioned that promotes social and family understanding, was an important part of his life, and many of his Landmark friends were at the party as well as Cathie’s side of the family.

I never saw Neil happier than at his 50th birthday party.

Guys don’t give other guys hugs, but Neil did, and the last time that I saw Neil, he gave me one of his famous hugs and thanked me for coming to his party.

That’s a wonderful memory for me.

I’ll miss you, Neil.



Arthur Cohen

My name is Arthur Cohen. I have known Neil Dolinsky for three years, first as a work colleague, and then also as a friend. For most of the past two years, Neil and I spoke on the telephone several days a week, often for an hour or more at a time. As my wife pointed out to me when she dropped me at the airport in Washington D.C. to come here, I have certainly traveled far more with Neil over the past few years than I have with her. And it’s true. In the past year alone, Neil traveled to meet me to work together in Washington, New York, Houston, San Francisco, London and Singapore, oftentimes for more than a week at a time. In the course of those calls and those trips, Neil and I came to be very good friends.

Neil was a man of many talents; in particular, he was both a skilled financial analyst and a highly organized executive. But perhaps Neil’s greatest talents were his extraordinary ability to deal with people so well, and the fantastic enthusiasm he brought to every project he became involved in. At InterOil, Neil was the glue that made the company work. InterOil is in some ways almost a “virtual” company, in that its people and particularly its executives are spread around the world. Neil had a unique ability to coordinate with all of them, in the most positive possible way, and he integrated everyone’s needs and talents into an integrated whole. He made everyone feel good, and was able to appreciate each of the people as the special individuals that they are. And this was not always an easy task.

Neil’s enthusiasm and warmth were very strong. Over the past few years, Neil has attended several family events with my family, and I have been to dinner with his sister Karen. Neil’s energy and excitement were also contagious. In our travels, Neil and I have been to the theater, to comedy clubs, to sports events and to many restaurants, large and small, mostly based on Neil’s input and organizational energy.

Neil was always thinking and discussing things. There was a constant focus on playing chess, but also on his memory games, which were dazzling displays of expertise. And, of course, Neil also had his quirks. One of those was his desire to be at the airport at least three hours before the flight any time we traveled. I am more of a “just in time” person, so Neil and I always had to negotiate our departures. Just last month in Houston, Neil wanted to leave four hours before the flight and I wanted to leave 90 minutes in advance. We compromised on 2-1/2 hours. Then, on our way to the airport in our Hertz car, we were sideswiped and the passenger side rearview mirror was knocked off our car. Without a second’s hesitation, Neil piped up: “I bet you’re glad you left early so you have the time to deal with this.” When I responded that if we had left later we might never have had the accident, Neil immediately became engaged in an intellectual discussion of “what-ifs.” It turned an unpleasant situation into a good time.

Neil made my days interesting and fun, and having the chance to talk to him, and work on one of our many joint projects was always a high point of my day. I feel good knowing that his last several months were very happy ones for him. He was extraordinarily excited about his 50th birthday party, and having his extended family, and so many friends, with him for that special day made him feel great. He was happy at work, and had recently been given an extended portfolio which he was very pleased with. And he spoke all the time of his wonderful daughters, Luci and Helen, and how proud he was of them, and his great wife, Cathie, and his love for her.

I hope that when my own time comes, I am in as happy and complete a place as Neil was. He was a very good friend and I shall continue to miss him, as shall we all.


Neil's brother Steve, Neil, Neil's sister Karen, Neil's mom Bev

It was entirely fitting that the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra ended the service by playing the theme from Star Trek. Somewhere, Neil was smiling.

Here is the program that was handed out at the memorial service. (Click on the images once or twice to enlarge them for easier reading.)



A bonus for those who knew Neil way back when—his third grade class photo! Neil is third from left in the second row, proudly wearing his Cub Scout uniform. (Click on the photo a couple of times to enlarge it.)


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42 Responses to “Farewell to a Wonderful Friend”

  1. Yoke-Yin Says:

    The eulogy is very touching. It makes me sad after reading this. I wonder what was wrong with Neil if you don’t mind. He was still very young!

    When a person has gone, there is nothing we can do but to remember him. You take care of yourself.

  2. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Yoke-Yin. Neil had a heart attack while on his morning walk. He was in great shape and apparently had no previous symptoms. A complete shock.

  3. Marie Molde Says:

    I am sorry that we did not have more opportunity to talk at Neil’s service. I knew when I saw you at the Shiva, a couple of weeks ago, you looked familiar, but just clould not place the name. I met Neil in 3rd grade – at Wilson. There is a sweet story to go along with that and it was just the beginning…somehow, we managed to keep in frequent contact all these years.
    I have our 3rd grade picture, I would be happy to share it with you – classic Neil, so proud in his Cub Scout uniform.
    If you will send your direct email address to me I would be happy to share the grade school photo. By the way, I saved some email exchanges with Neil over the years (why I am not sur sure) but looking back on it, it gives me reason to pause and think; I would be happy to share them with you as well.
    I live in Coon Rapids, but with email – distance is not an issue.
    Kind regards,
    Marie Molde
    cell 612-270-2206

  4. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Marie. Yes, I’d love to see the photo and e-mails. Thanks!

  5. Brenda Skeate Says:

    Thank you, Phil. Reading this has conjured up emotions that take me back to a time when Neil & I were a pair, and, the three of us were pals. It’s bittersweet. Even after all these years. I will miss him, too. He was just a great guy. And, whether or not he new it, he has always held a special place in my heart.


  6. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yes, I have many fond memories of those high school days, Brenda. Neil has a special place in all of our hearts.

  7. Deb Says:

    Phil, I’m so sorry for your loss. Even with your sound faith, that this is not all there is, I’m sure the emptiness aches. His loved ones are in my thoughts today.

  8. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you, Deb. Yes, Neil was a great man and a great friend.

  9. Steve Dolinsky Says:

    This is a wonderful tribute, and it really captures everything we loved about Neil. Thank you for compiling it all so well and so thoughtfully.


  10. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you so much, Steve. Everyone did such a beautiful job with their eulogies and it’s good to know that people who weren’t there can still be touched by them as well as by Neil’s life.

  11. Steve Howard Says:

    I attended High School with Neil at St. Cloud Apollo and we graduated in the same class (1977). When our mutual friend Dave Jaeger called me last week to inform my of his passing I was shocked. Neil was a good friend of mine throughout our high school years. We were in many “honors” math and physics classes together and became fast friends with a group of kids who aspired to attend college after graduation (ie: John Schulte, Dave Jaeger, Sue Klein, Carl (can remember is last name), Mike Kraemer, Erin Zellner to name a few). We have not stayed in touch and the last time I saw him was when he returned to the US for our 25th reunion in 2002. Dave and I spent some time reminicing about Neil. My fondest memories of him include:

    1) His red Vega with the dented roof. It looked like he had driven it through a Texas Hail Storm.
    2) The incredible stereo system he had in 1975. Bose Speakers floor standing and Reel to Reel tape deck. Wow what a system! We used to spend hours in his basement listening to tunes.
    3) When my car broke down in the cities on the way to the Willie Nelson and Jerry Jeff Walker concert , Neil and his dad arranged the repair of my vehicle. They got me a great price on a reconditioned transmission and hooked me up with a trusted repair shop.
    4) Neil’s loyalty as a friend. As we grew up, cliques formed. Neil was always a loyal unwavering friend.

    Even though I have not seen or spoken to Neil for several years, I feel a great loss due to his passing especially after reading the eulogies in this BLOG.

  12. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your memories of Neil, Steve. You’ve helped paint an even more complete portrait of him.

    Please say hello to your father for me. He was my English teacher at St. John’s Prep and one of my favorites.

  13. Karen Sallerson Says:

    This is amazing. It is great to see familiar names on the blog.

    Thanks for setting a wonderful tone at the service and for being such a dear friend to Neil. It was great having more of your stories at my mom’s house later that day. I wanted to call Neil afterwards and tell him how wonderful everything went.

    I will miss him very much and I’m thankful for the wonderful memories.

    Take care and best of luck with your book!

    Warm regards,
    Karen Sallerson

  14. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks so much, Karen. I still feel like e-mailing Neil, too. Still feels surreal that I can’t.

    It was very nice to see you again and I’m glad that you are doing well.

    Take care,


  15. Hershel Shapiro Says:

    Dear Phil,

    I’m a college fraternity brother of Neil’s. He was two years younger than I when he came to the University of Denver and joined ZBT. Although it was my job as an ‘elder’, to admonish, belittle and mentor this young boy, it soon became clear that we all had much to learn from him.

    After my graduation and for the 30 years that followed, Neil and I became the closest of friends and were in constant contact with one another via telephone, the internet and his frequent visits to Denver. He became an ‘uncle’ to my daughters and was a true brother to me. I can’t begin to explain how vast a hole his passing has left in our hearts. Thank you for putting this together. It meant more to me then you know.

  16. Phil Bolsta Says:

    I’m very glad this post helped you with your grief, Hershel. I’ve heard your name from Neil throughout the years and know how much he valued your friendship.

    I don’t think it’s fully sunk in yet that Neil is gone. And I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. His passing has indeed left a huge hole in our lives.

  17. Doug Antoon Says:

    I’m so torn by Neil’s death. It is still not believable.

    Neil and I became friends the first day we met in 1977 at the University of Denver. Ours was an older–younger brother bond that solidified wth each passing year.

    The more than thirty years we were friends involved some of the most intensely intellectually challenging times I’ve ever had the privilege of enjoying with anyone. He had so much he knew and was learning. But he had the brilliance to understand that there was such vastness he knew little or nothing about, and like a sponge, he absorbed what he could and drained it into himself more than any man I knew.

    The ease with which he commanded so much technical data and financial processes always awed me, but not quite as much as the pure humility he reflected even when explaining something cosmic or even supramathematical. His pure heart and non-condenscension is a hallmark unique to so few, but plenteous in him. He so often just wanted to help the other person understand.

    When Neil admired someone, he really joined himself to them, their ideas, hearts, and strengths. He never failed to make one feel that he had a truly mighty impact on his life, espcially if it helped him question, delve, and dig into the many spiritual and academic truths that were pondered, debated, and defended over the finest food we could find in some of the best restaurants available. We lived well.

    At critical decisional points in his life, and I observed a few, he would labor so hard, so painfully, so completely to make the choice that was right. Sometimes he felt he had not reached that target, but he would turn the corner and keep moving. Even if the better decision had to wait, he would not stop from moving ahead.

    His apex was his ability to break through crippling fear, and that is likely the strongest legacy he left me and those who loved him. That is not easy for any man, even with phazers and death beams on your side.

    Neil was a good man who deserved more years to grow even further into that man who was always in his crosshairs.

    For those of us who believe in a new life at some point after death, I can assure you that Neil wholeheartily embraced that truth when he was in his early thirties even as he continued to pursue his native Judaeism. He affirmed it within himself many times, even if cultural and familial winds could have deterred him.

    Because of this, this I know: I will see him again, and can’t wait for that awesome day when these earthly things that could and did try so hard to divide us will be gone, and only the union of friendship and brotherhood will prevail.

    I write this because he wanted me to.

  18. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for writing this, Doug. I’ve heard the names of Neil’s trio of lifelong Denver pals for many years—Doug Antoon, Hershel Shapiro, Mitch Einhorn—but never had any contact with any of you. It is good to hear from you and Hershel, and I met Mitch at the service.

    Your tribute to Neil was spot on in that he did indeed possess both a great mind and a great spirit. He was both intellectually gifted and refreshingly humble.

    Neil always spoke very highly of you, Doug. I hope our paths will cross again some day.

  19. John Ludwig Says:

    Greetings Phil:
    I read of Neil’s passing in a tiny announcement in the St. Cloud Times, but by then the memorial service was over. I was not sure it was the Neil I knew. Yet, his age and the site of the memorial made me think it was.
    Karen and Neil were two of my students back in the 60s, and I still remember them well. My favorite memory of Neil was his Bar Mitzvah. I was honored to be asked to attend.
    Thank you for publishing this wonderful tribute! Thank you for the pictures as well!
    Neil’s presence will be missed, but his influence, like one of his stars in the universe, will remain constant.

  20. Phil Bolsta Says:

    It’s good to hear from you, John. It’s been close to 40 years since I had you for an English teacher at North Junior High!

    I’m sorry you weren’t able to attend the memorial service, but glad that you could participate in it by reading the eulogies posted here.

    I hope you are doing well.

  21. Bev Dolinsky Says:

    Phil, I love you for all of the above, the eulogies, responses, etc. I have printed them out to keep forever….I can hardly speak I am so heartbroken over losing my dear, extraordinary son, but he is with me always, and I too know that I will join him one day…..Thanks again Phil for your efforts on behalf of our entire family. A good friend is hard to find, but you were certainly among the top of the heap of good, caring, loving friends that Neil cherished. May you live in good health, and good luck for many years to come. Fondly, Bev

  22. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you so much, Bev. I just felt I needed to do something to let people know what a wonderful man Neil was. I just expected to post my own eulogy and a photo but it just started to grow organically through other people’s suggestions and comments. I am honored to be the keeper of this particular flame.

    Neil was loved, admired and respected by so many friends and loved ones. Though he left us far too soon, he left his mark upon this world. Neil conducted himself in such a way that all of us who knew him can point to him as an example and say, “Now there was a life well lived.”

    As a father, I can only imagine your anguish. My heart goes out to you, Bev.

  23. Hershel Shapiro Says:


    It’s been a few weeks since anyone’s posted on here. I can guarantee you that it’s not a result of fading memories, as you’re in my thoughts several times a day. That includes the thought I had moments ago, when I realized that my car hasn’t had a thorough cleaning since the last time you were here and took it to the carwash while I wasn’t looking. Damn I miss you.

  24. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you so much for the post, Hershel. You are absolutely correct. We all think of Neil often and still can’t believe he’s no longer with us.

    By the way, nobody had posted here for more than ten weeks and you just happened to leave your comment at the exact time that I happened to be at my mom’s house and setting it up so that she could read the entire post for the first time. An example that shows how closely we are all connected in our thoughts of Neil.

  25. Luci Mahar Says:

    Phil, Everybody,

    I didn’t even know this extended gift of comments was here, I have just discovered it. Thank you, it is exquisite, I think my dad would hardly believe his eyes were he to come upon this webpage. I too grew up hearing the names of his college friends and it is lovely to see you have written here – in reading what’s been said I feel like his energy is alive in the room with me.

    Kindest regards


  26. Phil Bolsta Says:

    It does feel like Neil’s energy is alive and vibrant here. I too am touched by the outpouring of love and affection from all who knew him. Your dad was a pretty amazing guy, Luci. But then, you already knew that.

  27. John Metcalfe Says:


    Thank you for sharing this. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the memorial service, so I appreciate being able to read the eulogies that were given. I am not surprised by the many kind words that were spoken of Neil. He certainly had a variety of interests and commitments, thus touching people in many walks of life. I am glad that members of the Bloomington Symphony (including at least one of my colleagues in the trombone section) were able to attend and to give their gift of music. I am sure that Neil was listening and that he enjoyed it. And I am certain that he would be pleased to hear that the Orchestra is sounding better than ever – and not because of his absence (sorry, Neil, I couldn’t resist) – but in great measure because of the foundation, both financial and musical, that he helped lay. Neil is going to missed by many people, in many ways and on many levels, as the eulogists said so eloquently. All I can do is nod in agreement with every one of them.


  28. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts about Neil, John. He is indeed greatly missed, and the world is a poorer place without his presence.

  29. Harriet Says:

    Phil, bless you for the gift of this blog! I just this moment finished reading it, and wiping my eyes, I feel Neil’s presence. Shirley MacLaine, in her first book, “Out on a Limb,” wrote about the time when her father was dying, and told him, “I’m sorry we didn’t have enough time to be together,” after which he told her that now, they would always be together. This is what I believe. Neil’s spirit and love will live in the hearts of all who knew & loved him, and we may bring him close, merely by remembering. During his many trips back to MN, after the family moved to Australia, Neil always made time for “the Londer’s,” as he referred to us. It was a joy to be with him, as he stimulated the conversation with his many adventurous experiences, and mind-provoking questions & games. My children loved their cousin Neil. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “The good die young.” Neil’s premature death confirms that. His presence was a blessing in my life, and I am so very proud and privileged that he was my Nephew. May you be blessed with long life and happiness.

  30. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thank you so much for adding your memories of Neil, Harriet. You were blessed indeed to have Neil in your family. I too believe that Neil is always just a thought away, although I miss him terribly.

  31. Hershel Shapiro Says:


    Missed you over the holidays as your name and memory came up in many a conversation. Of course you probably heard it all. Hope you got some good laughs.

  32. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Thanks for posting this, Hershel. Yes, the first holiday without a good friend or cherished family member is so very difficult. Neil is missed more with every passing day.

  33. marie Says:

    Hershel`s comment hit home with me. I think of the day, over the holidays, I saw a box set of Star Trek Pez dispensers. I reached for them thinking: Neil will be over the moon to get these in the mail ! My heart raced, as I was so thrilled to make such a find… and then I remembered: when someone dies – you don`t lose them all at once…it is the voicemail you forget you had saved.the email that does not arrive.the forgotten old note from them you discover.the inability to send them a message or place a call to tell them something because they were the first person you thought of when you saw something…
    Yes, even something as silly as Pez dispensers.

  34. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Very well said, Marie. Grief ebbs and flows and makes itself known at the most unexpected times in the most unexpected ways. It’s still hard to believe that I won’t be receiving any more e-mails from Neil or meeting him for dinner.

  35. Hershel Shapiro Says:


    Just dropped by to say hi.
    I’ll be seeing Helen & Lucy in a couple of weeks as they’ll be coming through Denver. Don’t worry. I won’t mention anything about the tequila or the bachelor party.

  36. Hershel Shapiro Says:

    Not sure exactly why, but this past week brought several thoughts of you Neil.
    Missing you alot.

  37. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Yesterday was a sad day, Hershel. It would have been Neil’s fifty-second birthday.

  38. Harriet Says:

    Neil Leonard Dolinsky; Forever missed, forever young, forever loved. May G-d rest his soul,

  39. Marie Molde Says:

    One of Neil’s favorite quotes:
    “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”
    ~ Robert Frost

  40. Phil Bolsta Says:

    Funny you should mention that, Marie. I remember Neil telling me about a book he was reading by a Russian novelist about a dying man who was contemplating life going on without him. Neil said he couldn’t imagine his own life coming to an end and that the world would simply go on without him. I remember this vividly because he was so incredulous.

  41. Brenda Skeate Says:

    This past week I found myself thinking a lot about Neil as well. Especially, on his birthday. Rest in peace, Neil.

  42. Hershel Says:

    Stopped by to say hello, as thoughts of, and references to you have been particularly frequent lately.
    You’re not forgotten.

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