Steve Ornstein

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Careers also included model, restaurateur

Steve Ornstein, the an Alpine councilman whose career spanned the military, the big screen and the company of baseball greats, died Saturday. He was 73. The cause of death was colon cancer, which Mr. Ornstein had battled for six years, his family said.

Mr. Ornstein's professional life took countless many turns: He was a lieutenant in the Army, then a model for Hathaway shirt ads; an actor on the television series "Bonanza" and in the movie "Downhill Racer" with Robert Redford and Gene Hackman, then a sportscaster and producer for "Sports Extra" in New York. In the 1980s and 1990s, he owned the restaurants Oren and Aretsky and Tatou, which became popular celebrity hangouts in Manhattan. He often invited professional athletes to stop by after a post-game interview. His son, Jim, remembered that his father once inviting the entire Yankee's ballclub to a barbecue at his home. Nearly all the players showed up.

"They were our buddies," Jim Ornstein, now 43, said of the Giants, Rangers, Knicks and Yankees players. "I used to play Wiffle ball in the street with Don Mattingly."

But, as usual, Mr. Ornstein was not satisfied. He needed a new direction. In 2009, seeing an opening on the Alpine Borough Council, the 70-year-old ran and won the seat.

"It wasn't about ego," said Jim Ornstein, who lives in Manhattan. "He just could never understand people who wanted to sit back and complain about things and not do anything about it."

Mr. Ornstein's issues ranged from national debates he was passionately against the death penalty to small-town quality-of-life concerns. He fought for years to abolish noisy leaf-blowers and persuade "people to pick up a rake," his son recalled.

Toward the end of his life, Mr. Ornstein entertained the thought of running for Congress, though that never materialized.

"He just wanted the best for everyone," Jim Ornstein said. "He was a great soul."

Mr. Ornstein is survived by his wife, Joan; daughters Rosie and Jeorjie; sons Jim and Gus; and five grandchildren: Maya, Gailie, Zoe, Henry and Shane.

Services will be held Tuesday at 11:45 a.m. at Riverside Memorial Chapel, 180 W. 76th St. in Manhattan. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the 's Coaches versus Cancer charity.,

Email: patberg@northjersey.com
Published in The Record/Herald News on Jan. 30, 2012
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