When steel is so light.
I only intended a short five mile boardwalk bike ride. It was Easter Sunday morning, a glorious sunny morning. The boardwalk was alive with early joggers, bikers and just plain, be-ers.
Yes, I intended only to ride a quick round trip of the boards needing to get back home and prepare to leave for an Easter visit with family. But I do have this tendency to spot people and things that interest me on my ride…and just about everything interests me on my ride.
I often ride past a subject who first catches my eye, then about fifty feet of bike progress farther I make a U turn to capture the image…and maybe corral a word or two. I did this bike boomerang several times, each time including the stop-and-chat. It’s about the ride and the beauty, I do this very often because there is so much beauty in the world.
I came upon Colleen Feerick decorating her family’s memorial bench for Easter.
Colleen loves to come and decorate it for holidays.
I spotted a pair of Easter angels, one of whom was adorned with an Easter basket chapeau.
That takes recycling to a whole new level. Kudos for her…and her creativity.
I spotted a lady, Ginger Lowe, parked by the rail on a tri-wheeler. She seemed engrossed in the vista of the Easter morning sea. As I approached I asked if I could take a photo.
Ginger said, “Sure, but I’m just wiping away a tear.” I asked why the tears? She said it was her first day out on her new bike and she was “just so happy about it.”
As I biked along I noticed a familiar man walking toward me of whom it’s most appropriate to say, “Walks the walk.” It was the legendary Harvey Weisenberg, the man who I wrote about in my previous blog post, ” A Voice through the Heart.”http://tinyurl.com/Rickys-voice
So I didn’t have to U turn it when I spotted the Lion of Long Beach, I just veered toward him. He greeted me with a big smile and said how happy he was with my post about his son Ricky and direct caregivers. He said he received a lot of great responses about it. I told him I did as well.
As we chatted in the Easter morning sun I knew my time was limited but I couldn’t tear myself away from his story, the history of Harvey, his family, their contributions to public service in general and to Long Beach specifically.
Harvey was born in the Bronx on New Year’s eve, 1933 after his mom had four previous miscarriages. The family moved the following year to 25 Broadway, Long Beach, NY. His dad worked at a Long Island defense plant, his mom worked at the Lido Navy base, (The current Lido Towers) a military receiving facility of WWII years. Harvey said the troops would come off the trains and go to the base to be processed out. His mom worked as a secretary there.
His dad was big and very strong, winning a contest for being able to carry the most weight of steel on his shoulders. But sadly his dad died of a stroke at 47.
His grandmother lived in 25 Broadway too and he had several aunts and uncles living in Long Beach, another aunt lived in Brooklyn. “But on Sundays eighteen of us would have brunch in a studio apartment,” he said. “That’s when families were families.” His Uncle Buster spent many years as Long Beach City Manager. Maurice (Buster) Flieschman was appointed to that post in 1950. Buster later went on to be NY State Comptroller.
Harvey went to Niagara University on an athletic scholarship. He said the old Long Beach High School, now the Lindell Elementary School, dedicated their athletic field to him. He said, “I was the state quarter-mile champion, track.” I noticed that the Long Beach Recreational Center is dedicated to him as well for his lifeguard work and his successful advocacy for the center in Albany.
At Niagara, a Catholic school, he said, “I was the only Jew in the school.” He later became a Long Beach police officer, then a teacher, first a student teacher in West Long Beach, then in East Merrick for twenty years. “I taught in a private school, Kings Point Country Day School as well,” he said.
He said when he was a Long Beach cop, “and the kids were in trouble I’d take him home and tell his father, you beat him or I will.” I don’t doubt that that was the was personal application of justice-in-action back then but I’m suspecting that policy would get a cop fired today.
Harvey has spent decades as a Long Beach lifeguard in addition to his calling to a wide spectrum of other public service, from cop, teacher, City Councilman, to twenty-five-year NY State Assemblyman. Harvey’s had quite a ride.
Today Harvey’s retired from the NY Assembly but he still is a Lifeguard Examiner testing and certifying lifeguards. Harvey laughed when he said, “The guy in charge of it came over to me and said, ‘Harvey, remember me? You certified me fifty years ago’.”
Harvey said, “The best rewards in life are the thank-yous I get.”
Harvey spoke of the strength and love of his now deceased wife, Ellen. As I write and publish this post, April 18th, 2017, it is exactly one year since Ellen died.
Harvey said he put Ellen’s ashes into the ocean. He said that he and his son Ricky will join her there one day. He said he placed her ashes in the sea with the help of John Skuddin:
“I coached him when he was eight years old. We rowed out and I was going to say the Lord’s Prayer but then I remembered something from High School: I do believe that God above picked you out from all the rest because I loved you the best. I had a heart in here it’s true but now its gone from me to you. So care for it as I have done because my dear you are the one. Heavenly Father up above please protect the one I love. Keep her always safe and sound no matter where or when she’s bound. Help her to know and help her to see that I love her and make her love me.”
I asked why he had intended to say the Lord’s Prayer in the first place instead of a selection from Hebrew Scripture. He laughed and said, “When I was bar mitzvah’d the whole audience was all non-Jewish.”
I told Harvey that at our earlier boardwalk encounter, when our conversation became a blog post, I had only gone to take photos of oystercatchers and beach construction. I said, “But then I came upon you.” He said, “That was meant to be.” I said, “Yes, I think so and maybe today too.” He said, “Well…I was looking for you.”
By now the rising sun was baking into the back of my unprepared neck. I told Harvey I had to get home, that I was heading out to Suffolk to have dinner with my daughter and her family. Harvey said, “That’s wonderful. I’m going out to Ricky’s. I have a fifty eight-year-old child that I can hug and kiss. Not a lot of people can do that.”
Certainly Harvey carries life as lightly as his dad shouldered steel.
I finally rode my bike back home. It was not quite the efficient exercise ride that I had anticipated. But what the ride lacked in physical conditioning, it made up for with acute awareness of the beauty in everyday life. Yeah, maybe it’s really about the ride.
I spoke with Harvey last night by phone. He said he just had dinner at a restaurant and the waitress told him her daughter was soon to give birth to a Down syndrome baby. Harvey said, “I told her that baby will give her more love than she can imagine.”
I wonder why Harvey just sees silver linings. Maybe it’s because he only sees life…through love colored glasses?
You can see, and especially hear, Harvey’s powerful passion in the video here:http://harveyandellenweisenberg.com
And the heartfelt video of Harvey’s life, love, and happiness, with Ricky, his “messenger” son:
See also: https://wherethesundontshine.net