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He is a Legacy, but He Has Never Been More Proud to Be a Beta Sig“But why interview me? I have never been a big player in the Beta Sig organization.” 

Barry Fireman ’63 proves in the first two minutes of an interview that he is a modest man, and, in his words, many of the Beta Sigma Beta brothers are, too. 

Barry Fireman got his start in the fraternity from his brother, Ray, a member of the original Beta Sigma Rho fraternity. Through the trials of pledging, he became a brother and forged a bond with many of its members that would last a lifetime. 

“Well, there was a comradery that existed in the Beta Sig family. There was a brotherhood; there was a certain feeling that I’m sure other guys in other fraternities know. If you’re not involved in a fraternity, it’s kind of hard to explain. But there is a bond between us, among us, and no matter how many years go by, no matter how much time goes by, it’s always there. If any of those guys needed help … any one of them … I would step up. That’s what Dave did for me. And he was my fraternity brother. Not my pledge brother! There was a certain bond we will never forget.”

The “Dave” that Fireman speaks of is Dave Lipson ’65, or, as Fireman calls him “Mr. Beta Sig,” who stepped up to help Fireman’s daughter — suffering from a serious genetic condition — get access to a doctor in Washington, D.C., who was closed to new patients. Through friends of friends and other Beta Sigs whom Fireman had never met, Lipson was able to get his daughter the care she needed. 

“I had tried to say thank you; I said it over email and over the phone, and I sent him a tray for Passover. I thought I would see him at the 100th anniversary dinner so I could thank him in person, but he died a few weeks before the dinner,” he said. That evening at the 100th anniversary dinner, as Fireman recalls, the crowd was in its usual rowdy and jovial form. However, the minute he mentioned the name of David Lipson, you could have heard a pin drop.

“The rest of the night,” he said, “I wore my pledge card around my neck. It read, ‘I am a legacy. That is the only reason I am here.’ And you know, that is true. I am a legacy, and they didn’t have to like me or want me. But I must tell you, after what Dave did for my family, I have never been more proud to be a Beta Sig than I am today.”

Fireman has also done a lot since his graduation in 1963, including interaction with other Beta Sigs:

“I got out of college and almost got drafted. But my Beta Sig roommate, Jay Epstein '63, got me into the reserves where we both hid out from being sent to Vietnam War … In the ’60s, if you were not a student, you got drafted. You didn’t have much of a choice. In those days, if you were lucky enough to find a reserve unit that was taking recruits, you could go on active duty for six months and then spend the rest of the six years in the reserves. I jumped at the opportunity the day after my Beta Sig roommate told me about it. I served six years and never got called up.

“After the army, I entered my family’s business, which was coin-operated equipment. Video games, cigarette machines, juke boxes, etc. Anything that operated with a coin, we did it. My older brother, who was also a Beta Sig, was my mentor.” 

But this, he says, was not his biggest achievement: 

“My marriage to my wife was one of my biggest life highlights as well as the successful rearing of my three children.” He corrected himself, “Helping my wife rear our three children. Being successful in business was necessary, and we worked hard to make it happen. My brother and I did well at times and at other times we struggled, but it all ultimately worked out. My brother and I were really good partners.” 

In his spare time, Barry Fireman has also had time to write a book titled, “From The Broken Windows: A Story of Survival,” which came out in 2009. The book chronicles the survival of the Fireman  family during historically unheralded times when Jews found themselves under attack in their towns and homes in early 20th-century Ukraine. The story covers the circumstances of the appalling escape and flight to America. The book is available on Amazon Kindle, in hardcover and in paperback, and all the proceeds from book sales go to charity.

“But why me?”

If one thing is clear about Barry Fireman, it is that he is a genuine and kind person. His life’s mission is “to be an honest man,” and he hopes that his children remember him as a devoted father who stayed involved with them and who loves them unconditionally. Lastly, he hopes he left them with the same legacy that was left to him by his grandparents and parents.

But perhaps the most poignant thing he said tied back to the members of the Beta Sigma Beta Fraternity and his continued support of  Beta Sigma Beta: “Every guy that I ever met, all the values that they stood for, are still there. And that’s why I continue to support Beta Sig. It’s a worthwhile organization that deserves to continue.”

In these times, it is certainly rare to have such a bond. He remarks, in advice to Beta Sigs, new and old, “Keep the fire burning! Remember the legend of 249. Every brother should know it and remember it and keep it in their hearts.”