The Passing of Milton Garfunkel May-2005
This morning, my father, who was few months’ short of his 101st B-Day, passed away quietly at his home. He was assisted by hospice, but for the most part by his very dedicated caregivers, who have been helping both my parents for a time now. Miriam, who was with my parents for five years, helped manage their needs and supervise their overall care. Doxie was marvelous with both my parents for over a year. My father had been driving up to two weeks ago and had devoted all of his energies to my mother's well being, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a two weeks ago. He obviously had it for a while, but once the symptoms were manifested and he was diagnosed, his decline was quite rapid. He had a great powerful heart and I wasn't surprised that he was able to hang on for days. He was kept quite comfortable by hospice and passed away peacefully. We all should have his luck! He lived a very pleasant rewarding life, and was able to accomplish and witness whatever he wished. He enjoyed sports, especially golf, cards, especially gin and pinochle, and food, especially sardines, a kosher salami or corned beef. He was very proud of his strong athletic shape that he maintained throughout his life. He was originally a NY Giants fan, and always asked my what was wrong with the Yanks? The Yankees could have been in first place by 10 games, and then had lost one or two and he always asked that question. My father's family was in the clothing business and he loved to dress up. He owned a closet full of marvelous suits. He was always trying to get my son Jon to take them. But unfortunately my father's build and great shoulders were too wide for Jon. He had gotten those massive shoulders from years of championship handball at Manhattan Beach in the early 1930's and from being a great swimmer.
He was a moderate Democrat; he had no prejudices other then vestigial elements of his class and time, and always believed sincerely in equal rights and opportunity for all people. He was against our foreign intervention without provocation, and hated to hear of young men and women being lost overseas. But he was a realist and understood that there were no easy answers. He admired Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton, but was never a hero worshipper. Both my parents, and my sister Kaaren were great readers and I was lucky to have that habit passed to me early on.
I am not sure of the exact arrangements as of yet, but he will be buried in our family plot on Sunday, in the Mount Judah Cemetery in Queens, which my beloved grandfather John Kivo had purchased in 1937. We will be sitting Shiva at my home on Sunday evening and Monday.
2801 Watch Hill Drive
Tarrytown, NY 10591
This was written on the occasion of my father's 100th B-day- September 2004
My father was last child of Abraham and Kate Korn Garfunkel. His older siblings were Larry, Mike and Mack, and a sister Syd. I had the opportunity to meet them all. Some were musical, some were very humorous, and they all enjoyed long life. Larry lived much of his later life in Baltimore and had one daughter named Muriel. He loved postage stamps and passed that interest along to yours truly. He liked to juggle; he had a marvelous sense of humor and enjoyed the game of baseball. I can recall distinctively how excited he was when the Orioles moved to Baltimore from St. Louis is 1953. Quite often he would come up to Mount Vernon and stay with us for long weekends. Larry went to France with the AEF in World War I and served with distinction. My uncle Mack spent his long life in Brooklyn, NY with his lovely wife Helen Winick. They were a handsome couple and loved to spend time at the beach. I have great memories of going out to their summerhouse in Belle Harbor, which was a stone’s throw from the ocean and spending time with my second cousins, Marjorie and Susan. Mack and Helen had two beautiful daughters Adrienne and Francine who were married to wonderful guys Buddy Wolman and Sam Haber. Mack loved the NY Giants and always kidded me about my interest in the Yankees. He also had a wonderful sense of humor and never seemed to get angry over anything! The third brother Mike was an adventurous soul, who joined the US Navy between the wars and sailed across the Pacific to points west including; China and French Indo-China. He was well known for playing the piano, and had the honor and pleasure of entertaining “the Brass” aboard some of our large capital ships of those days. Mike developed asthma while in the service and therefore settled in Arizona in 1941, where he married and raised two sons Reule and Joel. I saw Mike a couple of times in his later years, and he could still play a great piano. Joel gave my father and me a wonderful collection of his music on compact discs. Mike loved to play in the Veterans’ Hospitals for our disabled vets! My father’s sister Syd, was married to a lawyer from Philadelphia named Charles Balder, and they spent most of their lives in Baltimore. They had three children, Jim, John and Gloria. Syd was a real grande dame, who visited our home in Mount Vernon quite often. She lived a long and happy life until the ripe old age of 102!
My father, he grew up on Kelly Street in the Bronx, commuted to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, and played baseball there against the great Lou Gehrig, when he was at Commerce High School. He later went off to CCNY. When his father died in 1923 he started to work in his father’s dress business and took care of his mother. My father loved to play handball at Manhattan Beach, was an excellent swimmer, loved the ocean and in 1935 met my mother Ethel (Peggy) Kivo. My mother was the daughter of John and Leah Alexander Kivo and had a younger brother Aaron, who was tall, handsome and athletic. Aaron was a dentist, distinguished himself as an officer in World War II in France, married Blanche Goldberg and had two sons Steven and Robert, who have raised wonderful families in California. Peggy and Milton were married, and lived in Brooklyn and summered in Long Beach before and during the War. My sister, Kaaren was born when they lived at 707 Beverly Road. Kaaren married Charles Hale, and they have two lovely daughters; Melissa (Princeton 1992) and Amanda (Bowdoin 1999), I was also born in Brooklyn, and when I was 6 months old, my parents moved to Mt. Vernon, where my sister and I grew up. Many years later, it was in the parking lot of Mt. Vernon High School that Linda and I met. As you know we married not long after that and have two children Dana (Rutgers, BS, 1994, BU-MS 1995 and Jon (Princeton 1998 BS-EE), who are with us today.
After a few years of marriage and during the war, my father joined my grandfather’s artificial flower business in 1941, My parents liked to dance, went to the theater and my father loved playing cards, and golfing. I have fond memories of watching my father and grandfather play pinochle and gin rummy. My grandfather loved cigars and introduced my father to that controversial pleasure. My father was a big sport’s fan, and loved the NY Giant baseball team. He could remember even the early days of John McGraw, the great and legendary Christy Mathewson, and Iron Man Joe McGinnity. He loved Willie Mays and when the Giants left for parts west he always remained a National League fan and took to the Mets when they were founded in 1962. I was always a Yankee fan, a habit attributed to my mother’s suggestion. He took me to the old Madison Garden once or twice and that is where I saw the great Bob Cousy and became a Boston Celtic fan. Dad has always loved show music and especially was a fan of the late great George Gershwin and the music of Al Jolson. My earliest memories of music are listening to old long-play 78-rpm recordings of the Concerto in F and the Rhapsody in Blue. We always had those fragile 78’s in the house and I can remember playing the old Decca 78’s of Al Jolson and Bing Crosby time and time again until they broke. I sort of remember my father liking Jack Benny, Bob Hope, Fred Astaire, Sylvia Sidney, Greer Garson, Victor Borge, Oscar Levant, Frank Sinatra, Phil Silvers, Hitchcock movies, and Clark Gable In my father’s later years he continued to play golf, and he had the good fortune to sink two holes-in-one within a few days of each other. Philosophically he was a moderate Democrat and a forward believer in progressive thinking. He was not terribly religious, but had respect for the beliefs of others. He liked to read and in his 70’s and 80’s could be seen reading long books by James Michener at times. In his last active years, before my mother became more limited in her ability to get around, and after his golf game ceased in his mid 90’s he would play gin at Lake Isle and come back with daily winnings. When he was still active as a golfer, my son Jon and I were able to get onto the golf course with him a few times. Only his weak knees stop him from playing today! He even drove his car up to his recent illness, and was a well-known personage in the Village of Bronxville. My father first drove at the age of 13 and drove continuously without an accident until over age 100! My father, as well as my mother, was an open-minded political and social believer, and I attribute my interest in history and politics to their vocal perspectives on those issues.