In memoriam – Roy Silberstein

Roy investigating in the basement of the old Oregon State Hospital, 2009

Roy investigating in the basement of the old Oregon State Hospital, 2009

Our friend and colleague Roy Silberstein died Sunday, September 28, 2014 at Kaiser Westside Medical Center. He was 72, and had been ill for several years.

Roy was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, not far from old Yankee Stadium. His father, a dentist and amateur photographer, took him to ball games and made Roy a lifelong baseball fan. Roy’s mother had schizophrenia and was hospitalized through most of his childhood. She died in 1999.

For his undergraduate education, Roy attended the University of Wisconsin, where he studied history and literature. His own delusions and fears brought him to Mendota State Hospital in Wisconsin several times.

In the early 1970s, Roy studied library science at the University of California at Berkeley and married Bärbel. She was a music student and played the recorder. Bärbel died in 1975 after a long bout of cancer. Roy finished his coursework at the university, but did not complete his dissertation due to repeated and lengthy hospitalizations.

Roy stayed in Los Angeles, where he worked as a librarian for Lockheed Martin. He worked briefly with his father, and finally settling to live Portland Oregon where he volunteered for the Oregon Advocacy Center (now Disability Rights Oregon) and Mind Empowered, Inc., which closed in 1994. After a long hospitalization at the Eastern Oregon Psychiatric Center in Pendleton, Roy volunteered for the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (now the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI) of Multnomah County. Following his service to NAMI, he was employed by the Washington County Assessor Office.

A stalwart advocate for the civil liberties of persons with mental illness, Roy formed the Mental Health Association of Portland in 2003, and defined its unique bylaws, governance and long-term advocacy strategy. He was author of several distinctive commentary essays published in Oregon and in national publications. He designed the demolition strategy for the Oregon State Hospital, and was a key technical adviser to the documentary film “Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse.”

Roy Silberstein

Roy Silberstein

Roy loved classical and jazz music, classical and European literature and poetry. An Ashkenazi Jew, he was a deeply moral person but not religious. He maintained many long and complicated friendships, including Brian Garrison and his family; Sandra Chisholm and her family; his godson, Emile Klein; fellow MHAP board members Jeff Donohoe, Will Hall, Jason Renaud, Michael Hoproft and Jenny Westberg; Matt Davis; Jack Wolinsky; Stephanie Parrish Taylor; Andrew Saunderson and Brian Lindstrom; Beckie Child and Casadi Marino. Along the way Roy got help from many people and agencies, including Jewish Community and Family Services, Lifeworks Northwest, Disability Rights Oregon, the Housing Authority of Washington County, and public defenders in Multnomah, Washington, Wasco, Umatilla, Lane and Linn counties.

Roy’s work, service and advocacy left a lasting imprint on the world, the people who knew him, and the organizations he shaped. Roy will be remembered – and missed.

Here is an example of Roy’s advocacy.

READ – Letter Response to the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Annual Jails Report

UPDATE – thanks to Hesed Shel Emet and Rabbi Ariel Stone for helping Roy after his death.