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Ken Duberstein, a Former Reagan Chief of Staff, Dies at 77

Kenneth Marc Duberstein was born on April 21, 1944, the son of Aaron Duberstein, a fund-raiser for the Boy Scouts of America, and Jewel (Falb) Duberstein, a teacher. He grew up loving New York hot dogs and Broadway shows, often paying for standing-room-only tickets, his wifesaid. In his later years he became a trustee for the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington.

After high school at the private Poly Prep Country Day School in Brooklyn, he attended Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., graduating in 1965. He obtained a master’s degree in political science at American University in Washington the following year. There, he had his first taste of Capitol politics — as an intern for Senator Jacob Javits, Republican of New York.

“He would get in the car with Javits and drive him in order to have some time with Javits alone,” his wife said. “That’s how his love for government started.”

In addition to his wife, Mr. Duberstein is survived by four children, Jennifer, Jeffrey, Andrew and Samantha Duberstein; and two grandchildren. He was divorced from his first wife, Marjorie Duberstein, and from his second, Sydney Duberstein, who died earlier.

In Washington, Mr. Duberstein was active in civic life. In addition to being a Kennedy Center trustee, he served on the boards of the Brookings Institution and the board of the Council on Foreign Relations. At lunchtime, he could often be spotted at Equinox, a restaurant down the block from the White House, dining on his favorite meal: scallops.

Mr. Duberstein also began a White House tradition, arranging bipartisan luncheons of current and former chiefs of staff to welcome newcomers to the job.

Joshua B. Bolten, a chief of staff to the younger Mr. Bush, said Mr. Duberstein had three bits of advice: First, remain humble. “Remember, you’re a staffer,” he would say. Second, “make sure you take good care of the first lady.” (Nancy Reagan was famous for feuding with Reagan aides.) And third, know that the president relies on you for straight advice.

“He used the same phrase each time: ‘You’re the reality therapist,’” Mr. Bolten said. “And I think that sort of captures Ken. He was a reality therapist for a lot of people.”

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