The Two Most Interesting Men in the World
Remembering Steve Leimberg (1943-2022)
We are profoundly sad to announce that our dear co-founder, Steve Leimberg, died on December 1. Steve was a legend, a true renaissance man with a warm and generous heart who made a tremendous impact on so many of us with the amazing life that he led. In this article, we offer our tribute to Steve.
A Tribute to Steve Leimberg
The year that I first met Steve Leimberg in the mid-90s, it was about 10 years before a beer commercial featuring “The Most Interesting Man in the World” began its 10-year run.
In 2006 and the years that followed, I was struck by two things:
- The uncanny resemblance between the actor in that commercial and Steve. That actor is not pictured above for privacy reasons.
- The belief that Steve, in real life, could pull off some of the things that were being claimed in the commercials.
Steve Leimberg was a giant of a man. And he was a prince of a man.
“He was patient. He was kind. He did not envy. He did not boast. He was not proud. He did not dishonor others and was not self-seeking. He was not easily angered and kept no record of wrongs. He did not delight with evil but rejoiced with the truth. He always protected, always trusted, always hoped, and always persevered” (adapted from 1 Cor 13:4-7 by the Connect Baptist Church of Auckland, New Zealand).
He was the Great Connector. He was the Great Motivator. He was the Great Inspirer. He was the Great Integrator. He was the Great Aggregator.
He was grand and he was class.
In return, Steve was admired, revered, and loved by all who crossed his path.
He was, quite simply, our very own Most Interesting Man in the World.
- He once made a weeping willow laugh.
- Roses stopped to smell him.
- If he were to visit the dark side of the moon, it wouldn’t be dark.
- In fact, the dark was afraid of him.
- He was the life of parties he never attended.
Many years ago, Steve and his business partner Bob LeClair (and their wives Jo-Ann and Jeanne) began a wonderful tradition of hosting an Annual Meeting of the Leimberg/LeClair circle (Leimberg & LeClair and Leimberg Information Services, Inc., or “LISI”). This was both social (with spouses) and business. They were first-class two-day gatherings of some 15 people held at the following locations for the three Annual Meetings I was honored to attend (before COVID struck in February 2020):
- 2017: Newport, RI
- 2018: Philadelphia, PA
- 2019: Cape May, NJ
Steve made everyone feel welcomed. The meals were sumptuous. His e-mails over the years were always signed “warmest”, and this was contagious.
- His personality was so magnetic that he could not carry credit cards.
- When he ate at a restaurant, the waiter tipped him.
Steve would suggest an idea, make you think that it was your own, nudge you along the way, and cheer for you as you made progress.
- He could make diamonds from peer pressure alone.
- He once gave a pep talk so compelling that both teams won.
Steve spoke everywhere and often during his career, and usually brought down the house with his presentations. He gave one of the finest talks I ever attended, some 20 years ago at the Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning in Miami Beach.
He would mingle with the best of us and with the least of us and with everyone in between, and treat them all the same.
- If he had patted you on the back, you would list it on your resume.
- Bigfoot tried to get pictures of him.
- Presidents would take his birthday off.
Steve was a world-class photographer. Once in January 2017, I had the pleasure of visiting Steve and Jo-Ann at their home in Amelia Island after the end of that year’s Heckerling Conference. We had a meal in the village, then stopped for ice cream at one of his favorite ice cream shops. At around that time we encountered someone who was new to the area. As usual, Steve engaged this new friend in interesting conversation. That new friend eventually explained that one of the reasons he had adapted so quicky to his new surroundings was through a book of photographs about Amelia Island that someone had published. Steve had no choice but to reveal that he was that “someone”.
It turns out that Steve was known as the “BirdMan of Amelia”. His website http://unseenimages.com has this credit on the home page:
Professional fine art photographer Stephan R. Leimberg was the 2008 International Nikon - Popular Photography Mentor Series Grand Prize Winner, won first place in the 2014 Amelia Island Shrimp Festival for photography, and was a winner in the Photo District News January 2018 Faces contest. His photo books include Meet Me on Amelia Island, A Day on Amelia Island, Birds of Amelia I and II and A Day at White Oak Conservancy…Steve works as a professional photographer for The Amelia Islander. Known as The "BirdMan of Amelia", Steve is well acclaimed for his stunning prints and postcards of birds and other Amelia Island wildlife and landscapes and was featured in an extensive article in the Amelia Island News-Leader and also in the Amelia Islander. His painter-like photographs of flora and fauna provide a photographic artist's unique view of that stunning island.
Steve’s range of interests and abilities was remarkable.
- He was so quick it took him only a half an hour to watch 60 minutes.
- He could kill two stones with one bird.
- His 10-gallon hat held 20 gallons.
Steve and Jo-Ann loved to travel. They took cruises to many interesting places (the Arctic, Greenland, Japan, and Antarctica), traveled multiple times to Iceland, sailed their own boat up and down the Atlantic coast, and both achieved their “100-ton Master Captain’s Licenses.” In 1990, Steve and four crew members crossed the Atlantic from France to the U.S. in the 50-foot Leimberg Amel sailboat. Steve was even an avid motorcyclist until he had to give it up after an accident cramped his style.
- Once while sailing around the world, he discovered a shortcut.
- When in Rome, they did as HE did.
- When he went to Spain, he chased the bulls.
- The circus ran away to join him.
- His passport required no photograph.
- Cuba imported cigars from him.
- He once taught a German shepherd to bark in Spanish.
One of my favorite stories: Steve and I worked together in about 2007 on building “DecoupleCruncher”, a counterpart to NumberCruncher that focused on the 21 or so states that had “decoupled” or “quasi-decoupled” from the federal estate tax law starting in 2005. This meant that there were then 21 different ways (now 13) that states had designed their forms to calculate and collect state estate taxes.
We hosted a lunch meeting at Heckerling for about 80 attendees to launch this new product. Steve and I both had lavalier mikes as we welcomed the crowd. After initial remarks, Steve stepped out into the lobby while I began demonstrating the software. But we all noticed some gentle, maybe even romantic crosstalk over the sound system. It turns out that Steve had forgotten to remove his mike and was whispering sweet nothings to Jo-Ann.
- He never relied on mistletoe.
- He once went to the Virgin Islands. It’s now called the Islands.
In October 2022, Valmark Financial Group awarded Steve its first-ever “Golden Rule Lifetime Achievement Award”. The presenters talked about his consistent dedication to professionalism and ethics. They also described what an extraordinary individual he was in defining what it meant to “Bring the Golden Rule to Life.”
Had he lived just a bit longer, the following might very well have become true:
- He won the same lifetime achievement award…twice.
Steve was the Great Integrator and the Great Aggregator. And he and his team were prolific. The thoughtful tribute published on December 4 by the new owners of LISI was Newsletter #2999! The first newsletter was published on November 15, 1998. LISI also produced hundreds of webinars starting in about 2018, and thousands of podcasts starting all the way back in 2005.
Steve jumped on new technology and made the best and most innovative use of it, years before it became mainstream. In 1984 he and Bob built the first version of NumberCruncher using VisiCalc, the very first spreadsheet ever invented. Today, NumberCruncher has some 3,500 firms with some 10,000 users, including the Internal Revenue Service.
- If opportunity knocked, and he wasn’t home, opportunity waited.
- In a past life, he was himself.
- His only regret was that he had no regrets.
Steve was a model for the ages in his persistent efforts to make his profession better. Through the LISI newsletters, webinars, and podcasts, Steve assembled the best thinkers and speakers of the past 50 years in the estate planning, financial planning, and insurance planning worlds – an all-star cast numbering in the hundreds.
- Superman has pajamas with his logo.
- His signature won a Pulitzer.
- The Holy Grail was looking for him.
Through his teaching, his writing, his presentations, his coaxing, and his counseling, Steve has influenced tens of thousands of professionals and perhaps just as many friends. He would bet on people and on ideas, and, more often than not, he was right.
- Find out what it is in life you don’t do well, and then don’t do that thing.
- His reputation was expanding faster than the universe.
- When he had a 50/50 shot, the odds were 80/20 in his favor.
- It was never “my bad”.
The tributes are now starting to pour in. Here are some of the first:
Steve was a great guy and a real pioneer. We were friends for a long time. Larry Katzenstein
Steve was a true giant in spirit and intellect. Kind, giving and professional, he helped so many in the financial and estate planning community and no doubt other family and friends. I have very fond memories of all my meetings and interactions with him. His legacy will live on. Ed Morrow
[Expanded tribute from Paul Hood posted as a comment to the November 2021 LISI “A Few Words of Thanks” Newsletter #2922].
2021-the year that was. When I read the annual LISI Thanksgiving message this year, I couldn't help but notice that Steve Leimberg didn't sign it as usual. I thought it appropriate that I express a most sincere and tear-filled (with joy) thanks to STEVE LEIMBERG. A visionary and incredibly smart and gifted thought leader who started LISI, which forever changed professional education in our respective subspecialties in the estate, financial planning, life insurance, tax and charitable planning space. I was blessed that Steve asked me to start writing for LISI back at almost the beginning. It's been a fantastic ride (over 500 LISI contributions), and as Steve transitions to a well-earned time to slow down and smell the roses (and take plenty of pictures along the way - Steve's a world class photographer), I would be remiss in not telling everyone that as magnificent as Steve Leimberg has been in our fields, Steve is an even better person. In Thanksgiving 2021, you know what I am most thankful for? It's STEVE LEIMBERG. Thanks, sir. Well done. With eternal love. Leonard “Paul” Hood
A giant in financial services with a brilliant mind and a wonderful personality. Was kind and sharing to everyone he met. An inspiration to everyone in the life insurance industry. Thomas Commito
Steve was an amazing person and friend. He was a beacon of sage advice coupled with true kindness. His legacy lies not in LISI or L3 but in thousands of people he touched over fifty years. There was truly no greater light. Bob Keebler
I'm very sad to hear of Steve's passing. He was a great artist and a special friend and mentor who changed my life in a very positive way. We shared many many good times together. The wisdom he shared with all of us will live on. His life was truly a blessing. Howard Leshner
Steve was an early professional hero to me when I started in the life insurance business. Later in my career, I was blessed to have multiple opportunities to work together with him. Steve was a consummate professional and a generous soul. I was shocked to learn of his passing and I will miss him. Linas Sudzius
The night before Jesus died he shared these words with His disciples, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,” John 13:34 – 35.
- Jesus wore a WWSD bracelet.
This is the legacy of Steve.
Steve Leimberg, the man, the myth, the legend.
Steve Leimberg, our very own Most Interesting Man in the World.
As he might say, “I don’t always crunch numbers, but when I do, I prefer….
Love one another, my friends.”
Note: The author wishes to acknowledge Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma (“CCM”), the Mexican subsidiary of Heineken International, producers of Dos Equis, and Euro RSCG Worldwide, creators of the iconic “Stay thirsty, my friends” beer campaign (2006 – 2016) from which the above quotes have been adapted.
Vincent F. Lackner, Jr., J.D., is President of Leimberg, LeClair & Lackner (www.leimberg.com) and President of The Lackner Group (www.lacknergroup.com).
He is the primary author of The 6-in-1 Estate Administration System, first released in 1986 and currently relied upon by nearly 1,500 users in law firms, accounting firms, and banks throughout the United States. He received his undergraduate degree from Harvard University and his law degree from New York University School of Law.