At an Exchange Place office party many Christmases ago, employees of insurance companies traded office gossip and inside jokes. Then Robert J. Gschaar thought of a topic that would interest people regardless of where they worked. "If someone was to play you in a movie," he asked a small cluster of people, "who would that person be?"
The small group grew larger and nearby conversations ended as people overheard the question and joined in. Among them was Myrta Alvarado. "I noticed his eyes," she recalled recently. "They were kind eyes."
After they married in 1989, he helped raise her four daughters from a previous marriage, now 34, 28, 24 and 19. Family members said he treated his stepdaughters as if they were his own children. Three years ago, Mayra Leitner, his eldest stepdaughter, confided in him. "I just felt like everything was going wrong," she recalled. "He said there were people in worse situations than I was and I should always think of them."
After being laid off by an insurance company in Westchester County, he was unemployed for four years, and earned money by working as a temp. By waking up early to work the phones, send résumés and contact headhunters, Mr. Gschaar, 55, who lived in Spring Valley, N.Y., made pursuing a full-time job a job in itself, his wife said.
Mr. and Mrs. Gschaar were overjoyed in July 2001 when he was hired by Aon, the insurance company at 2 World Trade Center. They began planning their first vacation in years. It was to be a cruise, perhaps to Alaska, in September of this year.
Profile published in THE NEW YORK TIMES on May 19, 2002.