I had this thank you letter in mind that I was going to write to Peter Bernstein. It wasn’t going to be electronic, and it wasn’t going to be just a brief note. The proximate cause was the blurb he wrote for the back cover of my new book, but I meant to thank him more generally for making the book possible. He had given me the idea for it with his Capital Ideas: The Improbable Origins of Modern Wall Street, then given his blessing (over lunch with him and his wife Barbara) to my idea to write what was in one sense a sequel to and in another a refutation of his book. He later helped me shape my book proposal, and repeatedly offered encouragement as he completed a couple of books while I still struggled with the one.
That letter will never be delivered. Bernstein died Friday of pneumonia contracted after breaking his hip. He was 90. While he was never quite my own “personal Yoda,” as Jason Zweig once described him, he was an inspiration. For one thing, he had embarked on his career as a bestselling investing writer after turning 70—after very successful careers as a money manager and then founder and editor of the wonkily influential Journal of Portfolio Management. Oh, and before that as a spy: he worked in the OSS, the CIA’s predecessor, during World War II.
Anyway, I guess this is all just a convoluted way of saying that I want to be like Peter Bernstein when I grow up.