It was with great sadness that we learned of the recent passing of Shirley Bunis – who was responsible with my father, Bert Gaster, for keeping the Ledger surviving and growing during a crucial 25-year period in which they were “The Ledger.”
From the moment Bert came to Hartford to join the Ledger in 1958, they worked together pursuing their areas of expertise: Bert in news and editorial, Shirley in business and advertising.
In 1966, the time came for a successor to the Neusners, the Ledger’s founding family.
The natural candidates – who understood and appreciated the Ledger and its legacy far better than anyone else – were Shirley and Bert. They stepped up to the plate, assumed the reigns of control, and became partners and co-publishers of the Ledger.
In an era in which the existence of local Jewish newspapers was threatened, they preserved the independence and local control of the Ledger and increased its recognition and influence in the Connecticut Jewish communities.
Although Shirley and Bert had distinct personalities and areas of expertise, they worked together with shared common goals for the betterment of the Ledger and the community it served.
It took the dedication and hearts of two people who only wanted the Ledger to thrive to be a success despite limited resources. It was their personal efforts that took the Ledger to the next stage when they turned over control of the Ledger in 1991.
Bert passed away shortly thereafter, but Shirley persevered to the ripe old age of 97.
Her passing brought back so many personal memories for me – as I was personally involved with the Ledger for many years and interacted and worked with Shirley and the Bunis family.
As my father’s young protégé in many respects, I often worked in the Ledger office on news-related assignments. I also assisted Shirley with many of the non-editorial aspects of running the paper, from selling advertising to processing subscriptions. Over the years – at the Ledger and on weekend outings – I came to know Shirley as a kind and supportive influence, exemplified no more so than in the way she cared for her family.
We were two families bonded together in an enterprise of love, who would literally do anything they could to make the Ledger a success and maintain its reputation for fairness, honesty and leadership in the community. Bert and Shirley were different people, but their talents and personalities complemented each other so well that they were able to publish a weekly Jewish newspaper that was regarded in a class with the larger daily newspapers.
I personally took tremendous pride in the Ledger taking its place right beside the Courant and the Times in politics, sports and other community affairs. The paper could not have achieved this status without their joint efforts.
Our family and Shirley had some great times. Now I have great memories.
New York, N.Y.