Muriel Siebert’s favorite songs suffused her funeral this morning with a feistiness that none of those gathered at Central Synagogue in midtown Manhattan would have found surprising.
They were completely in character. The first woman to hold a seat on the New York Stock Exchange, Siebert was devoted to her dog, Monster Girl. Her drink was vodka. And she drove fast.
Cantor Angela Warnick Buchdahl crooned Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
From the front pews, members of the Women’s Forum, which Siebert co-founded as “old boys’ network for girls,” sang lyrics set to the tune of “One” from “A Chorus Line,” written for a Forum meeting decades ago:
“We are positive believers in the power of dames/Our lives are joyous and jolly, for we’re on top/Although our men may annoy us, we will never stop.”
Siebert embodied those words right up until her death on Saturday at 84, judging by the stories told by participants in the service.
“She didn’t break the rules, she re-wrote the rules and made them fair,” Representative Carolyn Maloney said.
David Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, called Siebert a “tough old bird” while noting her warmth and generosity. At a party when she was 80 years old, he recalled, she sat down next to the pianist and serenaded the 150 guests for more than an hour.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker described Siebert as “a strong -- emphasis added -- superintendent of banking” for New York State in remarks that were read from the pulpit.
During her tenure in that job, from 1977 to 1982, Siebert liked to call herself “the S.O.B.,” Maloney said, adding that Siebert was an insightful adviser during the Dodd-Frank financial reform debates.
Jeanette Wagner, a friend, recalled joining Siebert to help elect Barbara Franklin as the first chairwoman of the Economic Club of New York. Afterward, they decided to form the “KBC” club -- standing for the “Kick Butt Club.”
Jane Macon, a partner at Fulbright & Jaworski, said she and Siebert were once in the south of France about to cook lobsters who clearly did not want to be eaten. Siebert, admiring their fighting spirit, refused to kill them.
“Cancer was the only fight she couldn’t win,” said Rabbi Peter J. Rubenstein, who noted that she joined Central Synagogue in 1978. The rabbi joked that he and Roosevelt were part of the service “for gender inclusiveness.”
Other male attendees included Bill Rudin, president of Rudin Management Co., who said his father, Lewis Rudin, was a good friend of Siebert’s, and Andrew Tisch, co-chairman of Loews Corp. (L:US)
Siebert founded a financial literacy program; other community affiliations included the Friars Club, the Boy Scouts of America, and the Animal Rescue Fund.
Recalling her road skills, Nancy Peterson Hearn, chairman of Peterson Tool Co. Inc. said, “We were driving out to the Hamptons and let’s just say Muriel had a lead foot. She told me to watch out for the speed patrols, because if she got another ticket she’d lose her license for a time. The next year she had a driver.”
On the synagogue steps after the service, Sharon Gamsin, who ran the New York Stock Exchange press office, recalled playing the role of Siebert at the Financial Follies, an annual gathering of financial journalists. Gamsin dressed as the Statue of Liberty and put on a blonde wig to sing “You Got to Know How to Borrow” to the tune of “Tomorrow,” from “Annie.”
“She came up to me and said I did a good job,” Gamsin said.
Siebert will be placed tomorrow in her family’s mausoleum in Cleveland.
Muse highlights include Laurie Muchnick on books and Manuela Hoelterhoff on music.
To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @amandagordon.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at email@example.com.