Everyone was wild about Harry

It was standing room only in the Hughes Research Laboratory auditorium Monday, as civic leaders, friends and family paid their final respects to Mayor Pro Tem Harry Barovsky, who passed away Saturday from lung disease. He was 62.

Against a backdrop of speeches by City Manager Harry Peacock and former City Attorney Christi Hogin, Barovsky’s respect for differences of opinion was highlighted by Rabbi Benjamin Herson, who presided over the memorial service.

Herson acknowledged the graciousness of the City Council for canceling the scheduled meeting. Mayor Carolyn Van Horn acquiesced to the request of Tom Hasse and Joan House, with the endorsement of Walt Keller.

“This act of civility is what Harry Barovsky was committed to,” said Herson.

Barovsky was lauded for his passionate love for his family, which spilled over to the collective family of the city and the quality of life it represents, his commitment to youth and his actions for the homeless.

Hasse, choking back tears throughout his two-minute speech, summed up Barovsky as a “public man.”

“He was a successful businessman and a proud grandfather, but he loved Malibu, his neighbors and his friends in good times and bad,” said Hasse.

Barovsky was especially committed to youth, said Hasse, noting how ecstatic Barovsky was at last summer’s opening of Papa Jack’s Skateboard Park.

“Our public sadness is the unfinished business,” Hasse said. “We must finish it for him.”

Barovsky came up with the idea of the City Council’s youth commission, so there will be a motion at the organizational meeting of the next City Council to establish the “Harry Barovsky Youth Commission,” a permanent legacy to his commitment to youth, said Hasse.

City Manager Peacock, also a little choked up, spoke on behalf of the city staff. He described Barovsky’s death as “devastation.”

Barovsky was the “ideal councilman,” direct in his dealings, and appreciative of the staff’s knowledge and time. “He did his best not to involve us in Malibu politics,” Peacock said. “He knew we would feel uncomfortable and that doing so would compromise not only our objectivity but our professionalism, as well. He wanted us to be objective and give him our best judgment on everything.”

Barovsky used a “rare style of leadership, one which was kind and caring,” Peacock said. “While he expected a great deal from us, he was willing to give greatly of himself so we could achieve great things together.

“He is and always will be one of the finest men I have ever worked with,” the normally taciturn Peacock said tearfully.

Echoing Peacock’s remarks, former City Attorney Christi Hogin said Barovsky loved being a council member, not for the power — “Serving on the council is the humbling experience of rediscovering at every turn what it is to be but one of five,” she said — but for the people.

“He took the time to know people as individuals,” said Hogin.

Noting Barovsky was “emotionally honest,” Hogin said the Barovsky foul mouth and wry wit held “a nobler purpose. He was fiercely loyal to his friends, and I am grateful to have found myself among them.”

Herson ended the service with the following remarks: “It is difficult to envision the unfolding of the city in terms of human cooperation. We respect differences, we respect the passion and conviction behind the issues. This community needs leaders sensitive to human beings who are different from one another.”

Like the teacher a rabbi is, Herson asked the audience to come up with the words of the Age of Enlightenment thinker Franois Voltaire that best represented Barovsky.

Peacock replied, “I may disagree with what you have said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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