The obituary I couldn't, but had to write, about my beloved baby brother, the keeper of my secrets, my life witness, my best friend.

Joe, "Josh" Cytrynbaum, of Evanston, an extraordinary Chicago teacher, student advocate and deeply adored father, son, brother and friend, died Saturday at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, after suffering an incredibly rare intra - cerebral hemorrhage. He was 37.

He was an assistant professor and Coordinator of Field Education in Northeastern Illinois University's Social Work Program, a job he started just one year ago. He came to Northeastern from his position as program director for Umoja Student Development Corporation, a not-for-profit organization that works with Chicago's most challenged high schools to keep students in school, see them successfully graduate high school and prepare them to go on to college.

Joe's impact on students is reflected in the hundreds of messages and pictures on Facebook from students whose lives were deeply touched and changed by his contagious faith in everyone, his unfathomable enthusiasm, his transcendent empathy and compassion, his unmatched energy and love, his roaring laugh, and his relentless sense of humor.

"Joe made every single person - especially all of his students - feel that no matter what, he had all the time in the world for them, their lives, their stories," said Lila Leff, Founder and Executive Director of UMOJA, where Joe worked for four and a half years. "We are remembering his laser-beam focus and passion, and his generosity of spirit that allowed him to connect with EVERYBODY, crossing all differences and obstacles. No matter the stress, Joe moved through this world with grace and kindness," Leff said.

The fast-growing Facebook messages on hundreds of students' Facebook pages are a testament to Joe's spirit, impact, and the extraordinary power of his kindness, Leff said. "They're multiplying by the minute, kids are posting photos with Joe, writing ‘Joe was my guide,' ‘Joe was my mentor'; ‘Joe was my father figure'...Joe was a moral and creative compass for us, and the world."

One of his favorite parts of his work at UMOJA was serving as coach and mentor to the students on the "Louder Than A Bomb" team, a group of students who created, wrote and performed spoken-word poetry out of the Young Chicago Authors program. Joe was also on the board of Young Chicago authors. Joe also adored taking groups of high school students to visit colleges and universities all around the country. One of his greatest joys was helping to open the world to students.

He is a 1995 graduate of Northwestern University. He received a master's degree in social work from Columbia University in New York , and a PhD from the School of Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

Joe's greatest joy was being with his wife, Erin Flynn, and their astonishing son, Rocky Seeger, who turned 1 July 3.

"He was the best person I ever knew. He had the biggest heart, the sharpest mind, the most encompassing soul ever lent to this earth. He was my baby brother, but I wanted to grow up to be just like him," said his older sister, Pamela Cytrynbaum, a former Chicago Tribune writer.

Survivors include: his wife, Erin Flynn, son Rocky Seeger Cytrynbaum; parents, Bryna Cytrynbaum, Solomon "Sonny" Cytrynbaum and Susan Lee; sisters, Pamela Cytrynbaum and Glenna Cytrynbaum; parents-in-law, Peter and Joan Flynn; brothers in law, Clark Peters and Jeff Sklansky; sister-in-law, Kristin Flynn Peters; nieces, Leah and Maggie; nephew Lincoln; the loud and loving Toronto family; his beloved Evanston crew; friends and comrades from Philly, from New York; hundreds of students from the Umoja family and Northeastern, from whom he found so much inspiration and love.

His memory is a blessing to us all.
Pamela Cytrynbaum

Older sister reflects on loss of her best friend
Mary Schmich July 15 2009
Pam Cytrynbaum witnessed her brother Joe's life from start to finish.,0,711...

Dr. Joseph Cytrynbaum, 1972-2009; helped guide lives of urban youth in Chicago, taught at Northeastern Illinois University
Remained active in Umoja at Manley after joining university's staff,0,3860954.story

About the Author

Pam Cytrynbaum

Pamela Cytrynbaum teaches at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

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