Obituary: Cornerstones Chair Stu Rakoff Leaves Legacy of 'Love and Compassion'

Stu Rakoff was the chair of Cornerstones and a longtime Restonian.

Stu Rakoff, chair of Cornerstones and longtime Restonian, passed away Sunday, Jan. 5.
Stu Rakoff, chair of Cornerstones and longtime Restonian, passed away Sunday, Jan. 5.
Dr. Stuart Rakoff, 69, passed away Sunday, Jan. 5. A Restonian since 1974, Rakoff was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis in September of 2012. 

He was a native of Manchester, N.H. and Rakoff served as chair of Cornerstones since May 2013, where he helped transition the organization from Reston Interfaith to Cornerstones. 

“Cornerstones is about foundations. Cornerstones is about strength. Cornerstones is about building blocks and the mortar that holds them together,” he said about the transition. “I am a cornerstone because I believe deeply that it is only through service that we maintain the humanity and decency we strive to achieve … when we act in unison and strength we can create the cornerstones that sustain our communities and families.”

Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said Rakoff's passing leaves an "immense void in our community."

"Stu was committed to all things that made us a better community. He embraced sustainability, but for Stu, sustainability was the efficient use of our resources to improve lives and thus the entire community," she said. "He was an unrelenting voice for affordable housing and mental health services; he embraced the arts and education as key to enriching the soul and he so looked forward to being on that first Silver Line train and seeing how this new service would improve lives."

Rakoff blogged about his experiences dealing with ALS, both on Patch, and on his personal site

"What a treasure Stu has been to our community. Through his writings, chronicling his battle with ALS, Stu gave us an enourmous gife on how to live no matter the circumstances," Hudgins said. "His poignant reflections reminded us of the essentials which give meaning to our existence: love of life, love of family and love of community."

Rakoff's response to his illness inspired almost everyone around him. For his last birthday, he purchased a blue convertible. Knowing it was likely the last summer he would be around, he could be seen on almost every good weather day driving around Reston with the top down. 

"He faced his illness with a degree of humor and candor, sharing his private thoughts and fears in a way that showed what a thoughtful, brilliant man he was," said Jill Norcross, vice-chair of the Cornerstones board. "He was a truly remarkable man, everything he did in his life was based on his love and compassion for others."

His sense of humor could be seen even as he lost the ability to speak. He began using an iPad program to translate his text to speech, but even then his sense of humor came through in everything from normal conversation to Cornerstones board meetings. 

"Friendship, true friendship, has no beginning or end for friendship in truth transcends both time and calculation," said Charles Derr, a longtime friend. "Stu defines true friendship, and always will."

As a lover of food, eventually Rakoff knew he would be unable to chew properly, so he worked out a new solution: purchasing a VitaMix blender to consume his favorite meals in liquid form. 

Once his mobility began to decrease, Rakoff did not let that stop him. He received a scooter from the ALS Association's Washington, D.C. chapter last October, and used it to participate in their annual fundraising walk. 

He earned his undergraduate degree is from Colby College in Maine, and his graduate degrees from the University of Minnesota. Rakoff was an associate professor at SUNY Binghamton from 1969 to 1974, prior to his move to Reston. 

He was formerly the Director of Manpower Planning and Analysis in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. From 1994 to 2013 he was the president of Rakoff and Associates.

He has served as board member and President of Chadds Ford Homeowners Association; as board member, committee chair, treasurer and vice president of the Greater Reston Arts Center Board Member; Co-President of Shoreshim and as a member of the Board of Trustees of Fairfax County Police Retirement System. 

He is survived by Roz, his wife of 47 years, his son Simon, daughter-in-law Jodi, two grandchildren, his mother and brother. 

His last blog entry, appropriately titled "Love," was written on the day he passed. 

"Surrounded here by so much love and care I feel I am ready for the next step. I have no regrets at all – I have had a full life, touched and been touched by such wonderful family and friends. So if there is to be a final lesson for me it is that love is the ultimate gift — love and honesty," he wrote. "I will soon be at peace, my struggles past. But I will be here in spirit to help strengthen each of you in your lives. So if you hear a little voice whispering 'Love,' know it is me."

What are your favorite memories of Stu Rakoff? Tell us in the comments below.
Stella McEnearny January 07, 2014 at 09:35 AM
What a gift he and his blog have been to all of us... Wishing Roz and the family all our love at this very painful time. Stu will be profoundly missed.


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