Jonathan Rinehart, 86

Fri, 09/23/2016 - 8:30am

“Jonathan Rinehart, who is credited with helping to pioneer the field of deal-making communications, died on Aug. 30. He was 86 and lived in New York.”

So began an obituary that appeared on Sept. 9 in the New York Times. It focused primarily on Rinehart’s professional career as public relations consultant to such storied corporations as Eastern Airlines, Seagrams, and Solomon Brothers. The Times rounded out its coverage with the usual essentials — birth 1930, college Yale, military service U.S. Navy during the Korean conflict, early career as Time/Life journalist, his marriage and his children. No mention of the man’s heart and soul, which were devoted to conservation of the animal kingdom and the habitat to support it. And significantly for these pages, no mention of Block Island, where in 1988 he built an imposing house overlooking Mansion Beach and spent summers and shoulder seasons. 

In that time, many here have come to know his warmth and common good sense. His New York apartment may have remained Rinehart’s residence, but Block Island was home. 

Chris Littlefield, 25 years heading up the island’s Nature Conservancy office, is one who epitomizes that relationship. He writes: “First of all, Jonathan was a friend and mentor, very much a father figure to me, a great listener and a great supporter of our work on Block Island. He was very concerned about the future of the island and the preservation of the quality of life here for both summer and year-round residents. He saw the link between our land conservation work and our education and outreach programs, and their positive impact on the people and wildlife of the island.” 

Littlefield goes on to note that Rinehart was on the board of the Wildlife Conservation Society, to which over the years he had been a generous contributor. That organization acknowledged his support with a second entry in The New York Times: “The Wildlife Conservation Society is saddened by the death of Jonathan Rinehart, a longtime and dedicated supporter of the conservation of wildlife. …he helped support bison habitat in the American West and many other conservation efforts, including wild dog projects in Kenya and wolves in Ethiopia… We will always remember Johnathan for his support, advice and love for all animals.”

Jonathan’s daughter Annabelle writes: “My father and mother were introduced to Block Island by Roy Rowan in the early 80s — they were old-time colleagues at Time/Life.” And they were fishing buddies who, as it happened, died within a few weeks of each other. Annabelle, in her communication to The Block Island Times adds the final lines of her father’s memoir:

A few years ago, I stood on the sandy beach at The Cut, through which the boats transit between Great Salt Pond and Block Island Sound, fishing for stripers. Not one, but two caught my lure just as dawn broke. The sun came up and washed that whole lovely island in this golden light and the fish were up on the beach and it was a beautiful morning.