Today in My History

2001:   Weird Night
Come Out, Come Out, Whoever You Are
Blessed are the Peacemakers
A New Reason to Diet
Exciting E-mail
Hunter and Gatherer
Lana and Martin: Day 1
Cousins Day-March
A Non-Howling Success
The Wooing of Bri
No More Love-ins
2012: Life is Good Again

2013: Witness to History
2014: Sunday Stealing
2015: An "Animated" Discussion
2016: Like Sleeping on a Cloud

"At My Age..."
Unintended Marathon
Saturday 9
2020: Raised Eyebrows

Theater Reviews
Updated 3/14/21

Books Read in 2021
 Updated 1/13
Murder on the Orpheum Circuit
by Jim Brochu

Personal Home Page

My family

Bev's 65 x 365

Books Read in 2021
Books Read in 2020

Books Read in 2019
Books Read in 2018

Books Read in 2017
Books Read in 2016
Books Read in 2015
Books Read in 2014
Books Read in 2013

Books Read in 2012
Books Read in 2011
Books Read in 2010

Cast (updated 7/16)

(you know how to fix it)

Some Background Links:
The Philosophy of Juice & Crackers
The story of Delicate Pooh
The story of the Piñata Group
Pumpkin pies
Who IS this Gilbert person anyway?

mail to Walt / mail to Bev  


16 March 2021

Merrick Garland, the new Attorney General, is someone I will always recognize.  From the first time I saw him on TV, I thought how much he reminded me of my old boss, Fred Reif.

Garland's face is thinner and he definitely has a happier expression most of the time, but there are times when the way he turns his head he just looks so much like Fred.

In looking for the right photo of Fred to use in this entry, I discovered that he had recorded a YouTube video about his experience on the SS St. Louis, the "Voyage of the Damned," the ship that took more than 900 German Jews to Cuba, when he was 15.  The ship arrived in Cuba and the Jews were not allowed to leave and had to return to Europe, where many of them lost their lives.

I knew Fred had given a talk to some high school students in 1997, telling the experience of his family and how they escaped Hitler and ended up settling in the United States.  I never knew that his father, a dentist, committed suicide after Kristallnacht, when he was forced to close his practice and was not permitted to work under Nazi rule.

At 12 Fred became the father in the family especially when they settled in New York in 1941, because his mother spoke no English and he spoke 3 languages. 

Fred and I became close friends when I worked for him for four years and we remained friends until his death in 2019. I typed his book, "Fundamentals of Statistical and Thermal Physics" three times on a regular typewriter (before computers).  The book is now available for rent, since it's so expensive to buy.  It has been translated into dozens of languages. He once showed me the Japanese version, where in the acknowledgements page, the only word NOT in Japanese was my name.

I think I was drawn to his sadness.  "“I was always very pessimistic about life,” he said in the video. “Somehow, I don’t quite feel like other people. I think I felt lonely ... for most of my life, sometimes excruciatingly so.”

We actually only saw each other a couple of times after 1966, once when I was working in DC for 6 weeks and took a weekend to fly to Pittsburgh, where he was then on the faculty of Carnegie-Melon.  I spent a weekend with him and his wife.  We exchanged Christmas cards each year and occasionally a letter, but the first year I did not get a Christmas card from him, I tried to find out if he was alive or not.

I contacted the head of the Physics Department at Carnegie-Melon and wrote to his wife, and apparently he was OK, but I never heard from him again until I found his obituary a year or so ago.  I wrote to his wife, who did not respond, and I wrote to his sister, Liane (if we had a second daughter, I wanted to name her Liane because I loved the name).  I didn't hear from Liane, but I did hear from her husband, who told me that she was in a facility for Alzheimers.  I am assuming Fred developed Alzheimers and that's why I never heard from him again, though he was 92 when he died so he could just have died of old age.  I know he had physical problems when I saw him in Pittsburgh.

It's a strange feeling when someone like Fred leaves your life.  You almost never have any contact with him and you know he's dead, but it just seems strange that you can't drop him a note now and then.  There isn't the deep grief that you feel when someone close to you dies, but it's a quiet grief that pops up now and then.

Especially when you see someone like Merrick Garland, alive and well.



I'd love it if you'd leave a comment!  (Comments show up after I approve them)
Remember to sign your name in the "Name" box or else you will show up as "anonymous"
(unless you want to be anonymous, that is!)

HTML Comment Box is loading comments...


<--previousnext -->

Journal home | bio | cast | archive | links | awards |  Flickr | Bev's Home Page


This is entry #7661