Jason Spielberg, a former East Hampton, N.Y. resident and longtime landscape business owner there, died on July 9 at Thompson Health Center in Canandaigua, N.Y. from respiratory failure due to pneumonia. He was 71 and had been in intensive care for five weeks.
Mr. Spielberg operated a successful landscape business in East Hampton for 38 years before retiring, with his wife, Sherry Spielberg, to a house on Cayuga Lake in upstate New York.
His deep connection to the natural world made him an insightful plantsman whose mindful nurturance of the plants in his care mirrored the thoughtful attention he gave to the people in his life. He wore his success lightly and derived joy from spending time with his family and his friends, who will remember him for his generosity, his big heart, and his charismatic smile.
Born in Manhattan on March 17, 1951 to Oscar Spielberg and the former Shirley Waldheter, he grew up in Flushing and attended Francis Lewis High School. In 1979, he graduated from Cornell University with a degree in ornamental horticulture.
In Trumansburg, N.Y., where he lived during college, he had a small landscape business, tended bar at the Rongovian Embassy, a watering hole and music venue, played baseball with the local team the Eddy Street Truckers, and met his future wife of more than 40 years, the former Sherry Richards.
After two years in Trumansburg, the couple and their young daughter moved to Reading, Pa., where Mr. Spielberg worked for a landscape company. They were married there on July 24, 1981, and that year moved to East Hampton, which would become their longtime home.
The couple purchased a lake house in the Trumansburg area in 2014, and moved there full time last year. At the lake Mr. Spielberg enjoyed watching the sunrise, walking in the parks, socializing, and taking his motorboat out on the water.
Mr. Spielberg worked for Marders landscaping company for a short time after first moving to East Hampton and then started his own business. He later acquired a Pantigo Road, East Hampton, garden center site, and he and his wife ran Spielberg Nursery and Landscape Company there for 13 years.
In addition to his wife, of Interlaken, N.Y., he is survived by a daughter, Summer Wolff of Montaldo, Italy, two grandsons, Ettore Samuel Iuli and Gioahccino Jason Iuli, and a granddaughter, Bianca Mar Spielberg. A son, Samuel Jacob Spielberg, died before his father, in 2013. Also surviving Mr. Spielberg is his sister, Marcia Winter of East Hampton.
A good storyteller with a wry wit and a mischievous sense of humor, he loved to make people laugh, even if they didn’t always get the joke. A sports fan, he loved Yankees baseball and was a core member of East Hampton’s ad hoc Maidstoners softball team that for years would gather at the Maidstone Park ballfield on Sundays. He also liked a good poker game, and was a participant for some time in a standing game in East Hampton.
He enjoyed travel to new and unusual places as well as extended visits to Italy to spend time with his daughter and her family and friends.
A smooth and graceful figure on the dance floor, he enjoyed all kinds of live music and loved dancing with his wife.
A Celebration of Life for Jason will be held on Sunday, July 24th from 2:00 to 6:00pm at Cayuga Shores, 7930 County Rd. 153, Interlaken NY, 14847. From 3:00 to 4:00pm there will be music and readings, along with the space for anyone to stand up and share memories. There will be some nibbles and libations; and we also invite everyone to bring their favorite photo(s) of Jason to share on a photo table.
A Celebration of his life will be held in East Hampton in the fall on a date to be determined.
Memorial contributions have been suggested to the Nature Conservancy at preservenature.org.