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The Rotary Club of White Plains is Club 5043, District 7230, Zone 32, Region USCB, Federal tax ID 13-6111471.

Mailing address: P.O. Box 1712, White Plains NY 10602.

Our "Foundation of the Rotary Club of White Plains" is tax exempt, New York State #219346, tax ID 13-6165380.

Website created August 2001.

The Rotary Club of White Plains was chartered October 1, 1919, charter number 540.
 

Brian Wallach:
Seeing the possibilities

By BILL FALLON

In all likelihood, Marie Sicuranzo, who’s been with Brian Wallach Agency Inc. in White Plains for 28 years, will read it to him. “She’s better than an ace,” Wallach said. “She’s a great assistant and a wonderful person, or a wonderful assistant and a great person.”

If it’s Tuesday, perhaps Carol Barkin will read this story to Wallach. Barkin is a published author who reads technical articles aloud every Tuesday: “Very boring stuff, but I have to be current,” said Wallach. Then he added matter-of-factly, “I have a good memory. People tell me that.”

Wallach’s sight began to fade while he played guard for the White Plains High School football team in the 1940s. By senior year, he had given up playing and was team manager, a position he called underrated: “It was the best job to have,” he said. “Better than playing.” The gold football on his keychain is a memento of the 1945 squad.

By age 25, Wallach had lost all sight: “I have no usable vision.” He said he was afflicted by several conditions that were exacerbated by detached retinas. “Everything was treated with hot compresses in those days,” he said. “A detached retina operation in 1950 had a 5 to 10 percent chance of success. Today, the rate of success is 90 to 95 percent, a complete reversal of success rates.”

Wallach began in the insurance business with Roy Fee on Mamaroneck Avenue in White Plains in 1949. (Fee died in 1991.) He sold hospitalization coverage that paid $10 per day for a semi-private room; $150 for hospital incidentals; $50 for a tonsillectomy; and $150 to have a baby. “The dean of obstetricians charged $300 for a delivery.”

Next, Wallach joined the Henry Deppe Agency, also in White Plains. Deppe introduced Wallach to life, group and property insurance. “But I always kept the name Brian Wallach Agency in my hip pocket,” he said. “Fifty-nine years in the insurance business and I’ve been successful every single year. I believe I have the one of the oldest active insurance licenses in the state.” (Deppe now lives in Florida.)

The Brian Wallach Agency has been at its current 1 N. Broadway location for 40 years. “We were among the original tenants,” Wallach said, noting his original rent was $4 per square foot, compared with “the high $30s they’re asking now.”

Wallach’s son, Todd Wallach, is now president of the agency. “I’m not CEO,” Todd gently corrected his father. “General Motors has a CEO.” Rachel Faber, the agency’s commercial lines manager, completes the office lineup along with Barkin and Sicuranzo.

Wallach identifies himself as “principal emeritus – I used to come in six days a week; now I only come in five.”

At his feet is 12-year-old Fritz, Walach’s sixth assist dog: “He’s very, very good,” Wallach said of his companion-in-harness.

In addition to Todd, Brian and wife Beth have a daughter, Jennifer Thomas, and five grandchildren.

Not the retiring type, Wallach has always maintained a rigorous physical life.

He bikes on a tandem bike. Last year, he and his tandem partner, David Eddy, raised $12,500 for multiple sclerosis research. The bike is a ’77 Schwinn that Wallach identifies as “mint; a guy comes to the house to service it.” Wallach and Eddy also have ridden the five boroughs of New York City 20 times during the city’s annual 43-mile cycle event. “The hardest part is when you get off the bike,” Wallach obliged with a laugh.

Come winter, Wallach skates, a sport he took up at 50. He used to bring Fritz to the rink, “But the kids were feeding him so we had to stop.” Wallach skates in hockey skates at the White Plains’ Ebersole Ice Rink weekends. And three times he has ventured to Ottawa to skate a 10-mile canal of 4-foot-thick ice. “It’s 35 below zero and the wind is blowing and you’re out there skating – it’s great,” he said. “The Rotary Club sends horses and sleighs along the canal and if you’re cold they take you in and cover you with buffalo robes.” At mention of the distant Ottawa Rotarians, Wallach points with pride to his own Rotary lapel pin: “A great group.”

In Ottawa, giant ice sculptures line the canal. “They’re really something,” said Wallach, who speaks from oral description and frosty fingertips. “I go right up and touch them.”

Further setting the example for septuagenarians everywhere, Wallach is an active swimmer, even doing laps one day per week in the winter.

The active life can produce its own artifacts and a tabletop in Wallach’s office bears a geological record in rocks and crystals of his journeys. He identified flint and schist and quartz crystals by feel. “New York City is built on schist,” he said. The flint is from England.

A conversation with Wallach – upbeat and engaging in every way – is an object lesson in the life well lived. He was just appointed to the county Legislature’s Compensation Advisory Board and is founder and past president of the White Plains Beautification Foundation. He founded and was president of The Westchester Lighthouse. He has been or is involved with 15 civic groups and has received 18 civic awards from groups as disparate as the White Plains YMCA, the Jaycees, the Rotarians and White Plains High School.

“Remember,” Wallach said, “you can’t do anything alone in this society. Anyone who says otherwise is unrealistic. We need each other.”

 


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