In Memoriam

There are very few people you meet that are truly a pleasure to interact with every time you speak with them, and Sidney Kess was one such person. He was genuinely interested in helping everyone he could, generously sharing his knowledge, experiences, relationships, and contacts. Every time someone called me and said Sidney suggested they call, or whomever Sidney asked me to call, I deemed it an honor and thrill. That’s the kind of person he was.

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Sidney was “old” by my then-standard, having first encountered him when I was a “kid” and he was a well-established leader and innovator teaching one of his early tax workshops in 1967. We met in 1976 through Martin Edelston, the founder and publisher of Boardroom Reports and today’s Bottom Line/Personal newsletter. A funny thing happens when you first meet someone older than you: you think they are “old” regardless of the way the relationship develops. That never happened with me and Sidney. He never aged and never seemed, or acted, his age. He was as active the months before his passing as he was when I first met him. Although he had extensive experience, he always was in the present and thinking and planning about the future. He was excited about what he was going to do tomorrow and who he could help. As our relationship developed, the age gap vanished; he and I became good friends.

Along the way we became colleagues as co-editors for Martin Edelston, through AICPA and other conferences, and then via Rick Kravitz, CPA Journal editor-in-chief. We co-wrote dozens of columns for The CPA Journal, and we co-authored many more articles for other professional publications and presented CPE programs together.

Sid and I maintained a friendship and close collaboration, and he was always there to help me out with some tough issues or introduce me to someone. He also arranged for me and other partners and staff at Withum to speak at AICPA and other conferences, have articles published in professional publications, and introduce friends looking for a new position. He never said no and took great pride in being able to help people advance themselves.

Sidney was a brilliant tax person as well as a remarkable innovator and thought leader, marketer, networker, writer, and instructor. The tax workshops and conferences, video courses, and multimedia presentations he developed and taught were groundbreaking—they were said to have more than 1 million attendees—and his tax practice management books are still significant and in use. He seemed to have a photographic memory and whenever we were discussing something outside the box, he would have his executive assistant Rose Ann Beni send me something he wrote years ago explaining that topic.

I have many friendships with people I met through Sidney, and we never ceased talking about him and how amazing he was. Whatever the discussion, he came up.

People forget that his generation fought in World War II and then went to college on the GI Bill. Sidney—and many others like him, including my uncle and cousin who were also lawyers in the tax field—were true heroes.

Sidney and I developed a custom of speaking every Friday and wishing each other a Good Shabbos, and this became a great joy as well as a way to keep in touch when we weren’t working on an article or CPE program.

I, like everyone who knew Sid, have many stories about his generosity. Here is one that just occurred a few weeks before he passed away: I received an e-mail that I was nominated for an award and the questionnaire had a space to recommend anyone else for that award. I recommended Sidney and someone else from my firm, Withum. When we spoke about it, it turned out that Sidney had recommended me for that award! That’s the way he was—always helping.

Sidney was a remarkable person, and a true gentleman and mensch. Every interaction with him was a delight, a joy, and a learning experience, and I will miss him dearly. The world is a little less nice and caring without him.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is emeritus partner at Withum and adjunct lecturer at Baruch College, Sidney’s and Ed’s alma mater.