6/05/2007

Passing of Dr. Russell Barber

I am sad to report that my dear friend Dr. Russell Barber passed away last night from a stroke that came at the end of a drug-resistant bacterial infection he acquired while hospitalized. He was 72 years old.

Russ and I met in 1976. I was managing public relations for the noted spiritual Guru Sri Chinmoy. At the time, Russ was hosting and producing an award-winning WNBC-TV show, “The First Estate: Religion in Review.” I proposed Sri Chinmoy for the show, and met with Dr. Barber for the pre-interview. During the first show, as a way of inquiry into the affinity between teacher and student, he asked Sri Chinmoy if he could be his disciple. Dr. Barber and Sri Chinmoy became friends from that day in 1976. In fact, right after the interview, he invited the president of WNBC-TV into the studio to meet Sri Chinmoy and take photographs. We did three shows with Russell between 1976 and 1980.

After GE bought NBC-TV in the 1980’s, they downsized the non-profitable parts of the business. That included the public service and religion shows. After 17 years serving as the Religion and Ethics Editor at NBC-TV and contributing editor to the TODAY SHOW and NBC NEWS, Dr. Barber’s show was canceled and Russell retired to his homes in Connecticut and Florida. That was a tragic loss for the greater New York religious community.

Dr. Barber earned 3 Emmys and a Gabriel Award among his many honors, and he served on the Board of Advisers for the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, the world's largest monetary prize, presented each year by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace in London. Dr. Barber was also a Knight Commander in the American Society of The Venerable Hospital Order of St. John of Jerusalem.

In 2000, Russell and I collaborated on a 60 minute taped interview with Sri Chinmoy called Millennium, which he hosted and I produced. The show explored Sri Chinmoy's views on the challenges facing humanity at the dawn of the new Millennium. The taping took place at my home in Westhampton. It was a great moment for me. On that day Sri Chinmoy also offered Russell the spiritual name, ‘Amritananda.’

Life was too short for my friend Russell. He had so many projects he still wanted to launch, and we spoke about them several weeks ago. He was managing some serious health problems, but he had taken steps to improve his health and we were both hopeful.

I shall cherish Russell’s deep spirituality and love of God. He was a good man with lofty views on the promise of people of all religions to live and thrive together harmoniously. He embraced all religions as his own. And in these trying times, when religious intolerance is the order of the day, he shall truly be missed.

He was a beloved member of the communities of Ft. Lauderdale, FL where he lived during autumn and winter, and Gig Harbor, WA where he spent summer and Fall.

May God Bless my dear friend, Amritananda Russell Barber.

19 comments:

Santosh Shah, TYA said...

Passing of Dr. Russell Barber: A huge loss for Nepal

The passing of Dr. Russell Barber (Amritananda) is a sad news for all of us. This news breaks my heart and also several Nepalese who became his friends while Russell visited Nepal in the year 2000 and spent 10 days.

His 10-day tour in Nepal was a timeless journey. My meditation Guru Sri Chinmoy gifted him Nepal visit as his birthday gift; to which Russell said at the time of departure from Nepal, “the most special birthday gift in his lifetime”. My great friend, brother, supporter, mentor Neil Vineberg (who met Russell before I was born) told me prior to Russell’s visit to take a good care of him during his visit to Nepal. He told me that Russell was a very special person. The first day I met him, I felt how special he was.

Several Emmy Awards and high-profile posts and laurels, he was one amazing humble person. We traveled to Nagarkot in the north of Kathmandu, to the beautiful mountain place Pokhara where he first saw the Himalayan mountains, and then to the Lumbini birthplace of the Buddha. At each destination he had some special vision, inner experience and profound insights which he shared with me, and later with several friends.

As he served for 17 years as the Religion and Ethics Editor at NBC-TV, he could connect very well with the simplicity and divinity to one of the most ancient religious civilization of Nepal. And he was Emmy award winning Television host, I also received some tips on hosting a TV-show. Soon I will be producing my own weekly TV show in Nepal, and this will constantly remind me of Russell’s teachings on television.

While in Nagarkot, a pristine location in among the Langtang range of Himalayas, Russell came up with the vision of “Mt. Everest Peace Award”. He thought of proposing it to King Birendra. The personality, popularity and fame of King Birendra is known to the world. Russell was also an advisor to the Templeton Award. He had all his plans how to make this award big, very big – not to compete with the Nobel Peace Prize but to compliment it. He suggested that the nomination would come from around the world and the (then) King Birendra would award the recipient himself at the Royal Palace. This would have brought so much glory and dignity to Nepal, if it would have worked out. After Mt. Everest and Lumbini, probably this could have been a major identity for Nepal to be known worldwide. In his short visit we met former Prime Minister Lokendra B. Chand with whom we shared the idea. He loved it and later talked to the King Birendra. As we were preparing on the details for this, the bloody heart-wrenching Royal massacre took place in June 2001. It shattered our project. Dr. Russell Barber was heart-broken as we all were.

In 2003 when I started Today’s Youth magazine to encourage Nepalese youths to involve in creativity and humanitarian works, Russell was supportive with his wisdom and ideas on it.

Since 2001, Nepal and Nepalese have gone through the most difficult times in the history. I have been lucky to have the opportunity to work in the front-face of Nepal’s younger generation leadership. I always had this hope in my heart that once Nepal is out of the conflict, turmoil and instability, we will be using the experience and expertise of Dr. Russell in several fields of Nepal’s reconstruction and development; specifically in creating a good image of Nepal worldwide.

He will always remain alive in our hearts and history for his generosity, love, support and his dream for a better Nepal. His passing away is loss to me and my nation.

Santosh Shah
Pulisher & Editor, Today’s Youth Asia magazine

S. Neil Vineberg said...

Santosh, thank you for your beautiful comment.

Natabara said...

Dr. Russell Barber was the kind of warm-hearted 'relative' that didn't have to be in your family tree. He was so warm and cheerful in his outlook and oneness.

I remember the "Millennium" taping in Westhampton in 2000, and the photo brought me right back to that moment. I'll have to revisit the program to re-experience the insight, professionalism and overall depth he brought to the interview.

He will be warmly remembered, and may his legacy of seeking and celebrating truth in all its sources live on.

Thomas Taylor said...

Neil, thank you for sharing this news. It is sad news for those of us that knew Russell. We shall miss him.

A very intelligent man and a very, very kind man he was. I am sure that heaven is enriched by his presence there now.

S. Neil Vineberg said...

Natabara and TT: thanks for your generous comments. I hope more people who knew him add their thoughts to this conversational memorial.

Utthal said...

In the passing of Dr. Russell Barber, whom we all knew by his spiritual name – Amritananda, the world has lost a marvelous example of a life of dedicated, selfless service to humanity. We who were fortunate to have known him have all been enriched by his most beautiful and fruitful life.

Due to my having a similar girth to this great man, I had the delight of being honored along side Amritananda as a part of Sri Chinmoy's "Lifting Up The World With A Oneness-Heart" program. Even though he was a famous TV personality, he made me feel right at home next to him – that was his generous nature.

I shall mightily miss this kind and gentle soul, and always cherish his magnanimity of spirit and genuine oneness. His physical heart may have given out, but his spiritual heart will forever remain a timeless fountain of inspiration to all of us who have been blessed to know him – death hath no dominion!

With deep sadness for the loss and tearful gratitude for the time I shared with the incomparable Hero-Warrior Amritananda,

Utthal
New York City

Shayna Kayla said...

Hello,

We do not know each other. I just needed to share the following with someone. I had mentioned to a mutual friend of Russell that I had put Russell in my thoughts and prayers and had wrapped him in beautiful cloth and put him in a white light to protect him, heal him and give him strength and hope. A friend told Russell about this and Russell told him he knew what I meant.

I met Russell for the first time about a year ago at a mutual friends party. It was the only time we met.

When I heard that Russell was ill I immediately put him a beautiful bright light and wrapped him in a fine cloth with gold threads. When I went to my Yoga class he kept coming to me, and I sent him energy and strength.

I continued doing the above numerous times during the days of his illness. On the night that he died, I felt we were with each other and we were holding hands. In the dream I remember telling him that it was okay to let go and that whatever his decision was, that it would be okay.

The next morning I felt that Russell had died. That morning I saw a beautiful rainbow, as if it was a gift from him. Later on I learned that Russell did die.

I do not know why, but I keep thinking about Russell. Nothing that I can relate to you about, but that he feels like a presence with me.

Thank you for reading this.

Shayna Kayla

S. Neil Vineberg said...

Shayna and Utthal, thanks for your soulful comments.

Arpan DeAngelo said...

Amritananda (Dr. Russell Barber) was a true friend and father figure to me and others who new him well. His passing was a sad loss to all. A brilliant mind and a large heart worked together in this wonderful soul leaving a beautiful legacy so well described by Shambhu Neil Vineberg.

Having spoken to Amritananda a number of times in Florida just before his entrance into the hospital there, we had hoped to meet up at his summer home in Gig Harbor, Washington, which unfortunately never happened. Instead, his life has now become an Eternal gift offered to everyone, everywhere, inspiring hope for a future world of peace and harmony.

My thoughts, prayers, sentiments and condolences go out to his sister Sharon and family who held
Amritananda (affectionately known as 'Rusty') in the highest esteem and love.
Arpan DeAngelo

Anonymous said...

Hi Neil:

We have never met, but Russell spoke of you numerous times over the years. I was a friend of his from Nova Scotia, Canada, but met him in Ct. when I lived there more than 20 years ago. I too am in disbelief about his passing. He and Donald came and stayed with me last summer in Nova Scotia, and then in Bermuda as recently as this April.

I did not realize that when I said goodbye to him at Bermuda Airport that a mere 60 days later he would be dead.

Anyway, I just wanted to touch base with you as I saw your posting and, as I knew so few people Russell knew, apart from Donald, Jonathan and one or two others, I wanted to say hello.

I understand that there may be a memorial service in Florida in January/08 which I want to attend. Perhaps I will meet you there.

Do let me know if there is anything happening sooner. He was a wonderful friend - yes, he could be cantankerous, moody and a real "case", as they say...but at the same time, he was such an intelligent, witty and a terrific story teller and I always knew where I stood with him at any given moment. I miss him so much already.

Sincerely, T.C. (Tim) Sobey

Anonymous said...

From Sharon Price, Russell's sister.

Good Morning,

I recently received a copy of an article you wrote about my brother "Rusty" and I want to thank you for the many kind words published. I do not know if this was published some place i.e., news media, web site or just generally e mails to your e mail friends, but there are a couple of errors which should be noted.

Rusty was 72 years of age at the time of death. He was diagnosed May 16,2007, with MRSA a horrible Staphylococcal infection that is resistive to most antibiotics, it is currently nearing epidemic concerns in hospitals, nursing homes and medical clinics around the nation. There is the flesh eating type of MRSA and the organ damaging type. In Rusty's case his organs were damaged i.e. his kidneys ceased working causing fluid build up especially in the lungs. He was on Dialysis daily the last 9 days in ICU, he was receiving the maximum amount of oxygen without using the respirator. He did not want to go on a respirator! Unfortunately the morning of June 4, 2007, he had a Cardiac Arrest and was put on the respirator until he expired at 10 PM that night.

So the cause of death was actually the result of MRSA, which damaged all bodily functions! It is my mission to alert people, all that I know, about this horrendous bacteria. I want people to know how it is so resistive to antibiotics, I want people to stop treating their selves with medicine they purchase over the counter.

Prescriptions purchased in places like Canada, Mexico and some of the Islands, various areas that do not mandate controls. People do not realize the harm they could be doing to their immune systems with the frequent use of antibiotics!

If I am able to salvage one human being from the struggles experienced by one of the finest men I've ever known the last 11 days of his life, then I've succeeded in my mission that I promised my brother, Rusty, Russell, Sir Russell, Dr. Barber or spiritually known as Amritananda.

I did not mean to jump on my soap box I only wanted you to know that you message was appreciated and to thank you.

Take care,
Sharon Price

S. Neil Vineberg said...

Sharon, thanks for your lovely note. We all miss him terribly. I have posted your note and corrected his age. The rest of your commentary will serve to correct mine.

Thanks again,
shambhu neil vineberg

StevenSkelley said...

Russell was a dear friend and mentor. I am glad so many people have the same fond memories I do. I was surprised to read his obituary and find someone had used quotes from a book I am writing in which Russell agreed to be a chapter but I am glad his legacy and thoughts are shared. I had shred the chapter with his dear friend Dr Fong after Russell's passing. Thank you for sharing your memories of this wonderful spirit who walked this earth for too short a time.

Steven Skelley www.SunnyHarborPublishing.org
StevenSkelley@yahoo.com

Charles (Chuck) Pfahl said...

Neil

Very sad to hear about Rusty. It has been 20+ years since we last saw each other. I can still see his smile and hear his calm voice and that wonderful laugh. I thought about contacting him in 2006 to say hello and to find out whether he had any information about a dear friend of ours-Jay Guyler. I was out of the country for many years and during that time lost touch with many old friends. If you or Sharon, his sister(whom I met many years ago in NYC) had any news about Jay I would very much appreciate hearing it.

Best wishes

Charles (Chuck) Pfahl

Anonymous said...

A new group biography book features interviews with and a whole chapter about Russell.

Its called The Best Of HOMETOWN HEROES Florida and is available at www.SunnyHarborPublishing.org and
www.SunnyHarborPublishing.com

It is available for only $10 plus shipping.

Anonymous said...

Hello Shambhu,
Although I have heard and read and seen before it is always refreshing and inspiring to read and live the experience again. Your blog is very very well organised. Amritananda among a dozen other reporters and TV news producers brought Guru's message to many more with whom he made a channel open. He had a naturally very pleasant personality and it shone more brightly when he used visit the aspiration grounds and be among disciples. Like a Sanskrit poem "the full moon and the night enhance each other and the two together shines the sky" - shivaram

S. Neil Vineberg said...

@Shivaram You are very very kind and I treasure your support and kindness. - Shambhu

Anonymous said...

I met Russell as a young boy in Connecticut. My father ,Bob Weaver rented the small apartment above his garage and would often help out around the estate.
I was just starting high school at the time and was studying french and boy did he have something to say about that!
He was so kind to my father ,my sisters and myself .I even took the job of mowing the yard for a summer.
I knew him for only a few short years but he left a huge impression on my life.I'm writing this in Feb. of 2011 and just learned of his death I was hoping to make contact...I'm sorry I waited so long.

Allen Shaw said...

I am sorry to learn of Russell's passing so late. I met him in 1963 at Northwestern University when he was working on his Doctorate Degree in Communications. We remained friends for a number of years. What others have said about Rusty's positive and caring manner reflects my experience with him. He was always available for a good laugh or some wise advice. I will miss him, but know he is at peace with the Creator in eternal joy.