Sitting on beach chairs in Montauk, sand dunes and a white picket fence behind them, David and Heather Hartstein describe their life together as a “fairy tale.”
The video interview is part of a four-minute montage shown at David Hartstein’s memorial service this past month after the 35-year-old Montauk chiropractor died of a hantavirus, leaving behind his wife and their three children, ages 5, 3 and 1.
The video shows picturesque scenes from the family’s life -- walks on the beach, playing with the children, cooking dinner. When it began to play at David Hartstein’s memorial service on June 23, Heather Hartstein began to cry.
“I was just so touched,” she said. “It had so captured the love that we had as a family in those brief four minutes.”
The video was a surprise to Heather Hartstein and most of the people who filled the room for her husband’s service.
The footage shown was a small portion of what had been captured by cameras that were following the family for about six months in 2010 to be included in an HBO documentary on the toll of the recession, said Jennifer Weiss, the documentary’s producer.
The crew’s first interview with David and Heather Hartstein was Fourth of July weekend of last year, Weiss said. When she and the crew heard about David’s death, they wanted to do something for the family they had gotten to know so well.
“We just wanted to help out in any way that we could,” she said. “They were a beautiful family. You can see it from the footage, too, all the love that was shared there.”
The documentary, which is being produced by Blowback Productions and directed by Marc Levin, has yet to be named but is expected to air on HBO in 2012 and in film festivals before that, Weiss said. It will feature several families from around the country that have been affected by the recession.
Heather Hartstein said the footage will go on to show a less picturesque aspect of their life, one of “financial ruin.”
The Hartstein’s house in Montauk, where Heather and David lived for eight years, is in foreclosure and they had filed for bankruptcy shortly before David’s death, she said. They had been living on David’s income alone since Heather lost her job as a special education teacher at East Hampton Middle School 2005, the same year she became pregnant with their first child.
When the recession hit, Heather Hartstein said her husband’s business took a hit and since then the family has depleted their savings.
But she said that through it all, they were always happy to have each other.
“We were in financial ruin but it certainly didn’t ruin us,” she said. “We had everything else.”
Heather Hartstein said friends and community members have shown tremendous support for her family since her husband’s death. On Friday, a benefit called Community Comes Together will be held at Sole East, in Montauk, to raise money for the Hartsteins.
Shira Barzilay, a friend of the family who lives in East Hampton, is organizing the benefit, which will include food, drinks, a silent auction and live music by Nancy Atlas. Tickets are being sold for $50, $100, $250 and $500 and are available at the door and at several locations including Devlin McNiff Real Estate and Martha Greene Real Estate.
“It’s in honor of Dave,” she said. “Something to benefit his family.”
Heather Hartstein believes her husband’s death was part of “something bigger.”
“Death happens to everybody not just us,” she said. “Dave’s death is going to help others be more aware of the preciousness of their own lives.”
Photo: David Hartstein of Montauk died June 17 of a hantavirus, which is spread by rodents.