clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Former Sun-Times reporter remembered for travel stories and sense of humor

Marvin Weinstein visited more than 80 countries, often writing pieces for the Sun-Times travel section.

Marvin Weinstein and his wife, Virginia Van Vynckt take a break from a bicycle trip through Bavaria in 1988.
Marvin Weinstein and his wife, Virginia Van Vynckt, take a break from a bicycle trip through Bavaria in 1988.
Provided

Marvin Weinstein’s story can’t be told without the word “curmudgeon” or rough-and-tumble travel.

Mr. Weinstein, a Morton Grove resident who was a reporter and copy editor for the Sun-Times for 38 years, died Nov. 12 at 82.

Despite being born and raised in Chicago, he didn’t miss his chance to get out and see the world. Mr. Weinstein visited more than 80 countries, often writing pieces for the Sun-Times travel section.

His wife, Virginia Van Vynckt, was a features copy desk chief at the Sun-Times and technically her husband’s boss before they got together.

“My brother said ‘You either have to fire him or marry him,’” Van Vynckt said. “So I married him.”

When Mr. Weinstein and Van Vynckt began a relationship, she sneaked the news into an announcement from the copy desk — to the surprise of some coworkers. They were married in 1986 and adopted two children, Lian and Daniel Weinstein.

In his travels, Mr. Weinstein was especially drawn to Nepal, India and Turkey, where he was a fan of the food, Van Vynckt said. Although he was an “adventurous eater,” he was also a sucker for the classics.

“I always joked that he married me because I could make lasagna from scratch,” Van Vynckt said.

Marvin Weinstein, a former Sun-Times reporter and copy editor, on a visit to Rhodes in the 1960s.
Marvin Weinstein, a former Sun-Times reporter and copy editor, on a visit to Rhodes in the 1960s.
Provided

Luxurious travel and fancy resorts weren’t for him, according to his wife. He hiked and biked his way around the world, preferring to deal with the inconveniences of “down and dirty” travel.

Once, while in India, Mr. Weinstein was sleeping on a train when bandits came in through the roof and robbed him and other tourists, Van Vynckt said. She said the tour agency later called Mr. Weinstein to let him know bookings increased after that because people were drawn to that type of adventure.

Even though he may have been pick-pocketed once or twice, he picked up some tricks to keep his belongings safe during travel, which he shared in a 1993 column, “Don’t let a camera thief unravel your travel fun.”

Despite “occasionally driving the bosses crazy” in the newsroom, Mr. Weinstein is remembered as a detail-oriented editor with a “grouchy sense of humor.”

He represented a “different generation” of reporters, according to Lloyd Sachs, who worked at the Sun-Times for 24 years.

The way to describe Mr. Weinstein in one word seems to be “curmudgeon” — it was affectionately used by every person interviewed for this story.

“If you had to stick a word on him, curmudgeon would work just fine,” Sachs said.

Weinstein was described by his wife as the “features curmudgeon.”

Marvin Weinstein hiking in Nepal in 1976.
Marvin Weinstein hiking in Nepal in 1976.
Provided

Henry Kisor, who wrote literary reviews for the Sun-Times for 28 years, called him a “curmudgeon with the heart of a marshmallow” in an email to the Sun-Times.

He certainly earned his title as the office curmudgeon, but Weinstein had a soft side few got to know. He loved musicals, especially “The Sound of Music.”

One night, when Weinstein was the only night editor, the horoscopes weren’t sent in to be published. Weinstein made an executive decision and published the same horoscopes from a few days earlier with only minor edits. Van Vynckt said no one noticed.

“Marv, being a practical guy, figured they’re all the same anyway,” she wrote to the Sun-Times.

Lynn Voedisch worked at the Sun-Times for 17 years and sat next to Weinstein for around 10 years. They often commented on the boats passing by on the river outside or how disgusting the water was. She remembered Weinstein poking fun at her when a coworker repeatedly asked her to go to the opera with him, even though she wasn’t interested.

“There’s Marvin, laughing his ass off,” she said while telling the story.

Mr. Weinstein left enough of a mark on Kisor to work his way into his novel “A Venture into Murder” in the form of the character “Morrie Weinstein.” Kisor said the character was inspired by Mr. Weinstein, meant as a reminder that “people were not always what they seemed.”

Mr. Weinstein attended DePaul University and Northwestern University, and Van Vynckt said he was well-read in politics and history. Not only did he read about these things, he talked about them too.

“You know how they say don’t talk about politics and religion? He didn’t know that phrase,” Van Vynckt said.

Marvin Weinstein snapped this picture of a rhinoceros on a trip to Zimbabwe in 1987.
Former Sun-Times reporter and copy editor Marvin Weinstein snapped this picture of a rhinoceros on a trip to Zimbabwe in 1987.
Provided/Marvin Weinstein