Renato Valente, of Spencertown and Manhattan, passed away in the early morning hours of March 16, 2020 at the age of 93. The cause was cancer. Reny, as he was known by many of his friends and admirers, was born in Gloversville, NY in 1926 to Mariano and Amelia Valente each of whom had emigrated from the Province of Avellino in the Campania Region of Italy. Moving to Brooklyn at age 8, Reny lived through the Depression and the outbreak of WWII. He enlisted in the Army and in 1945 was stationed in Yokohama, Japan, with the Occupation Forces. He bartered for cigarettes from sailors on the Navy ships in the harbor to trade for things like ice from the local Japanese, which made his canteen the only one to offer cold beer to servicemen — at age 19, an early sign of his entrepreneurial acumen. He received the Army of Occupation Medal, the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, and the WWII Victory Medal. When he returned to the states, he enrolled in NYU under the G.I. Bill, which he cites as one of the greatest single legislative acts ever passed. The first person in his family to attend college, Reny always expressed deep gratitude for that opportunity, which opened for him and many thousands of other returning service members in the fifties and sixties new doorways to a variety of professions and skilled work, but also created an educated generation that coincided with the opening up of America’s highways and expanded cultural life to help create a boom in financial markets which ultimately became Reny’s life work. From starting out at an empty desk with a telephone and a stack of leads, Reny advanced by virtue of his dedication, long hours and attention to detail that did not go unnoticed by the heads of the firms where he worked. Held in high esteem by his clients, colleagues, investment partners, and friends alike for his extraordinary honesty and caring, he was also highly respected for his analytical ability in investing and his judgement in evaluating companies, new technologies, emerging investment opportunities, and risk. He was a founding partner of Goldwater, Valente, Fitzpatrick & Schall, a New York Stock Exchange member firm that undertook investment banking and institutional brokerage; and he played a major role in noteworthy underwritings such as Janis Films (now Janis & Criterion Films). Reny affiliated with the firm of Bernard Herold & Co. from the late 70s until this year. As a long-term investor, he provided his clients with significant appreciation over the years for their portfolios.
It was during the strong stock market of the 1960s that Reny and his wife, Ellie (the former Eleanor Mostel), came to Columbia County and purchased their country home in Spencertown. In counterpoint to his investment work, Reny built stone walls, cut wood, and established beautiful flower gardens together with Ellie. (Ellie passed away in 2012). They traveled extensively, and regularly vacationed in Italy, where his cousins and their families treated them as most honored guests. St. Tropez was another favorite destination as was the French island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, where for more than 30 years Reny successfully avoided the cold New York winters. He encouraged travel as an invaluable experience in understanding life and the differing customs and sensibilities of other peoples and cultures.
Always mindful and grateful for the opportunities he was given, and those that he seized, Reny was remarkably generous. He never forgot where he came from, and he consistently gave back and supported organizations like Doctors Without Borders, Public Radio and Television, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Hospice, Columbia County Land Conservancy, Central Park Conservancy, as well as many local causes, cultural endeavors, and friends in need. If you were at a restaurant with Reny, there was little chance you could get the check.
Reny loved good food, home-cooked or at a restaurant; and he was seldom happier than when at a dinner table or outdoor cafe, having coffee and a croissant while reading the paper and sharing good conversation. He could surprise you with his earthy sense of humor and his Neapolitan skepticism of those chasing power. Special pleasures in his life also included jazz and the American Songbook, which Reny knew by heart and loved. He was there, on 52d Street in New York in the fifties, listening to many of the jazz greats; and though not a musician, he had an ear for good playing, knew all the lyrics, and was a true jazz aficionado. Reny read extensively, favoring biographies, memoirs, and historical novels. His knowledge of history and the movement of world events gave him an understanding and wisdom that expanded his perspective on current news and the markets, and helped him identify coming trends and passing fads. Of course, he was not always right in his investment decisions; but he had the ability to recognize when he had “made a bad trade” and move on without dwelling on the loss. In summing up a discussion he had with his close friend, Eric Valdina, Reny remarked, “Show me a man who can take a loss, and I’ll show you a winner.”
One of the sadnesses in Reny’s and Ellie’s life was that they were unable to have children; and one of Reny’s greatest joys in life was seeing little children and talking with them. He believed in helping children and adults alike to have positive self-esteem, and avoid negative people and situations in life whenever possible. He often quoted Cicero: “What a man leaves behind is not what is written in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” Renato Valente was a precious and vibrant thread in the lives of many. He leaves a nephew, Chris Langmeyer of New York, cousins in Italy, and the many of his dear friends and families who loved him and who are stronger and happier for having known him.