Do you know anyone in American history, or world history for that matter, who has gone from dying in a hospice to living another year with renewed fame, international acknowledgment, plaudits and gifts from world celebrities?
During his last year, one man wrote a dozen newspaper columns to add to the 8,000 he already had written, added a new book to the 30 he already had published.
The man is Art Buchwald -- a Jew, a writer, a celebrity and a mensch. Suffering from kidney disease, Buchwald entered Washington Hospice Center Feb. 7 after deciding that he didn't want to prolong his life by having dialysis five hours a day, three days a week.
From February until July, he entertained family and friends, political and artistic glitterati at the hospice. When he didn't die and his kidneys seemed to be functioning again, he returned to summer at Martha's Vineyard, continuing his tradition of working the annual auction to raise funds for local social service agencies.
The hospice stay became almost a well-publicized celebrity roast. Visitors came by the hospice not only to shmooze and reminisce but to bring Buchwald his favorite foods. The mere mention from Buchwald that he liked hot pastrami resulted in 10 sandwiches from guests the next day.
Born to Joseph and Helen Buchwald in New York in 1925, Buchwald saw his mother institutionalized for acute depression when he was 3, and never saw her again. His father, unable to care for Buchwald and three older sisters, placed them in a Seventh-day Adventist home in Flushing, N.Y. Two years later they were transferred to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum in Manhattan.
Buchwald ran away at age 17 in 1942 to join the Marines. He said he hired a guy from Skid Row to act as his father because kids under 18 needed parental approval to enlist. He served more than three years in the Pacific and, while never a great supporter of war, he always cherished and helped the Marine Corps. After World War II he attended the USC and edited the campus magazine -- but he never graduated because the school discovered he didn't have a high school diploma. So Buchwald went to Paris, where a small job at the International Herald Tribune morphed into several humor/gossip/satire columns that were very well-received by expatriates, tourists and soldiers.
In 1962 Buchwald took his column to Washington, churning out three columns a week that were syndicated in 700 newspapers.
He always seemed amazed that politicians made his job so easy: "Just when you think there's nothing to write about, Nixon says, 'I am not a crook'; Jimmy Carter says, 'I have lusted after women in my heart'; and President Reagan says, 'I have just taken a urinalysis test and I am not on dope.' You can't make up anything anymore. The world itself is a satire. All you're doing is recording it."
Buchwald and his wife, Ann McGarry, adopted three children. Though they divorced in the 1990s, they remained good friends. He will be buried next to Ann on Martha's Vineyard.
Buchwald always had a marvelous relationship with colleagues, readers and aspiring writers. Many stories tell of his availability, his phone number listed in the Washington directory and his invitations to aspiring writers to have coffee, bagels and talk.
A memorial service will be held in Washington, and lots of people will be remembering Art Buchwald with his own words. After all, how can you not love and quote the man who said, "Now that Henry Kissinger has left Washington, I am the last remaining sex symbol here."
From all of us.
-- Dov Burt Levy, former political science professor and a columnist for the Jewish Journal--Boston North.
David Arditti died Jan. 1 at 75. He is survived by his son, Hal. Malinow and Silverman
Muriel Bleifer died Jan. 8 at 83. She is survived by her daughters, Alene (Dan) Whicker and Ronda (Gordy) Crane; son, Gregg (Lisa); eight grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and brothers, Sidney (Freida) and Alan Silverman. Mount Sinai
Harry Ferdman died Jan. 9 at 96. He is survived by his daughter, Lisa, and son, Dr Ronald (Susan). Mount Sinai
Ruth Goldberg died Jan. 5 at 92. She is survived by her daughters, Beverly (Dr. William F.) Bierer and Barbara Moore; and son, Joel. Malinow and Silverman
Sandra Hart died Jan. 8 at 46. She is survived by her husband, Robert; son, Daniel; parents, Paul and Marilyn Freeman; and sister, Louise (David) Goldstein. Mount Sinai
Frank hozinsky died Jan. 3 at 86. He is survived by his wife, Mildred; sons, Barry (Barbara), David (Yvonne) and Steven; four grandchildren; one great-granddaughter; brother, Harold (Rhoda); and sister, Ethel Einwahner. Malinow and Silverman
Ruth Kaminsky died Jan. 9 at 77. She is survived by her husband, David; son, Michael (Tamilyn); and granddaughters, Christine Perez and Jennifer. Mount Sinai
Steven Eliot Kaufman died Dec. 7. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Jill Taft-Kaufman; mother, Cynthia; brother, Bruce; sister, Glynne Rochon; niece, Cortni; and nephew, James.
Murray Kert died Jan. 8 at 82. He is survived by his wife, Beverlee; daughters, Sheila and Carolynn; and nephew, Marty (Felicia) Bresin. Mount Sinai
howard kunin died Jan. 1 at 75. He is survived by his wife, Claire; sons, Gary, Jeff (Audrey), Randy (June) and Bill; three grandchildren; brother, Larry (Sue) Kunin; and sister, Lorraine (Bob) Dennis. Mount Sinai
Ella Levin died Dec. 24 at 55. She is survived by her husband, Herbert; daughter, Jamie; and sisters, Yardena Cohen and Anat Finck. Chevra Kadisha
Loretta Dianne Nehouri Meraj died Jan. 8 at 61. She is survived by her son, Darian Merage; and cousin, Henry (Nouri) Nehouri. Mount Sinai
Dvosya Mintskovsky died Jan. 6 at 95. She is survived by her daughter, Bella Tsarovsky. Malinow and Silverman
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