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Sunday, November 30, 2008


To my Dad- my eulogy this morning

I know this is pretty self indulgent, but it is my blog!

Too bad you can’t speak at your own funeral. This is the kind of thing Dad always did so well.

At heart, Dad was an entertainer, and not only when he was on stage. He was just plain fun to be around, not in an overbearing way, not especially ostentatious, just humorous, upbeat, optimistic, entertaining. He sang at parties, not only because he wanted to, which he did, but because almost everyone else wanted him to. He had a trained voice and the ability to entertain in almost any setting. His song was never “My Way,” because the lyric didn’t fit, it usually didn’t have to be his way. “The Best of Times is Now,” that was his song. It fit his optimistic spirit.

Selling insurance, and teaching others to sell was another kind of performance, but one with a special urgency because he was helping families and businesses assure their long term well being. Since selling an intangible takes special talent, he would channel his performing ability to convince his clients to take important steps to secure their futures, and almost all of those clients were grateful that he did.

Dad could act, and he played many roles on and off the stage. On the radio show, Live Like a Millionaire, he could be an Irish Tenor. For Theater 2, he was FDR and a loony character who was pretty sure he was Teddy Roosevelt. At home, he could provide wise advice in a subtle way, like Bing Crosby as Father O’Malley. And, of course, he could do all the accents. He joked about being Dr. Sloane too, prescribing doubtful home remedies for common ailments, often in a funny accent.

Though he could, he rarely had to mete out discipline. It was awful enough to suspect his disapproval. The main thing was to do your best, and your honest effort would be recognized. And to do all things in moderation.

One thing, Dad was a sucker for kids, almost any kid, and he took special pride in the accomplishments of his nephews and his niece, just as he did in his own kids. He was a go to person for them too, never imposing his view, but often finding his counsel requested.

Dad had a strong sense of justice though he didn’t wear it on his sleeve, he was more of a quiet crusader. Our house always subscribed to progressive periodicals. I am pretty sure that I was the only person in Glen Cove High School that was a regular reader of The Nation and I.F. Stone’s Weekly. Dad was a fairly avid baseball fan, it was about the only sport that really seemed to interest him other than playing tennis, and he took me to my first baseball game when I was 5, a night game no less at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn against the hated Giants. Needless to say, we stayed for the entire game which the Dodgers won in the 11th inning. I asked him if he had always been a Dodger fan and he said no, he had been a Yankee fan until the Dodgers signed Jackie Robinson. See, the Dodgers had done the right thing, and that was so much more significant than allegiance to a team. Later on, when the Dodgers tried to trade Robinson and left Brooklyn, he lost interest in baseball until the Mets were born, and so was a new rooting interest. When Dad became Aetna’s first Jewish Vice- President, I always thought he considered that breakthrough a smaller scale version of what his baseball hero had accomplished, and he was really proud of that.

Dad recognized foibles and weaknesses in others, but rarely spoke of them. About the
harshest thing I can ever remember him saying about anyone was an occasion where I
was pointing out that someone we had run into seemed really annoying, and his response was, “well, it’s a shame, when he says hello, he makes you want to hit him.” I remember thinking how incongruous the line was since it was virtually impossible to imagine Dad hitting anyone, then realizing he was only making the point that some people mean well but just come off badly anyway. It was a very good lesson in tolerance, delivered with utter simplicity.

Dad was a very lucky man in most ways. He had great parents, was blessed with talent
and the determination to cultivate it, he had excellent health until the last couple of years, he married the girl of his dreams, and they had 64 years together, three healthy and very grateful children, an adoring grandchild, and a wonderful extended family. He has left us with so many memories of really great occasions, unforgettable moments. Singing with his sister Ann, singing at our weddings and birthdays, his and Mom’s 50th anniversary party, their trips to far off places, his Aetna retirement party, the Yom Kippur Torah readings, the last few from memory since though he seemed to be reading, he could no longer make out the letters on the scroll. Anyone lucky enough to have been here when he and Lois Morton sang, in memory of her husband, about the Nightingales in Barclay Square could never forget that.

So we say good bye to Dad but in the physical sense only. We will always follow his
living example, to do the right thing, the right way, the best you can, enjoy the best of times.

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