May 2nd 1945! My Birthday

On this day of my birthday, I think back to my many conversations with one of my oldest and brightest friends, Professor Warren Adis, who just retired from decades of teaching at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Since we were both born in May of 1945, we often discussed how lucky we were, as Jews, to be born in America. We were both raised in Mount Vernon, NY, which in 1945, was a mid-sized city of about 65,000 souls. Mount Vernon was about eight years from celebrating its 100th year of incorporation, and had been a settlement that went back to the days of Anne Hutchison. Here we were, teenagers in Mount Vernon, discussing that when we were born, Jews were being killed all over the world, anti-Semitism was rife everywhere, including the United States, concentration camps were being liberated, the awful truth was finally being revealed. Here, in 1963, we were enjoying a great life in a wonderful, pluralistic city that offered us a great education at the well-respected AB Davis HS. My greatest lesson I learned from growing up in Mount Vernon was tolerance and respect for others. I had been raised in a well-off, upper middle class family, sheltered from just about everything. My great awakening were my years at AB Davis HS, my association with people of other races and religions, and my great friendship with my coach, the late, great Henry Littlefield, a giant of a man in every imaginable way. He taught me lessons that I cherish today

I always believed, that in 1963, on my 18th birthday, I was living in the greatest year. We loved and admired John F. Kennedy, we were at peace in the world, the country was prosperous, the struggles for Civil Rights seemed to be moving along and that summer Nat King Cole, released his song, “Those Lazy, Hazy, Days of Summer.” It was idyllic time that would end forever on November 22, 1963, our last real day of peace.

On my birthday, May 2, 1945, as my mother was recovering, she was worried about her brother, Captain Aaron Kivo, who was in midst of the European combat as Nazi Germany was collapsing. In that remarkable week, on May 8th, the surrender of Germany happened at a school house in Reims, France where 33 French kings’ coronation was consecrated. VE Day officially ended the 2nd World War in Europe. Over these decades, my only regret, was that the great architect of victory, and my most cherished hero, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was unable to be there for the final victory and drink from the cup of triumph.

On May 2nd, as Berlin fell to the Soviets, and Italy surrendered, the battle against Japan continued. Many years later, I became aware of a great book, Brave Men, Brave Ship. On my birthday, six kamikaze planes hit the destroyer minelayer USS Aaron Ward (DM-34) in the early evening of May 2, 1945. Although the attacks killed 42 men, the ship managed to stay afloat but never returned to action. The author, Arnold Lott, a former Navy Lieutenant Commander who sailed in the 1920s on the first destroyer named Aaron Ward, performed extensive research for this history. This included numerous interviews with surviving crewmembers and bereaved family members, examining official Navy logs and action reports, and reading hundreds of letters from the crew. Brave Ship Brave Men, a tribute to the courageous men who served on Aaron Ward, depicts regular life aboard the ship before the kamikaze attacks and provides personal glimpses into the crew’s emotions as they faced incoming planes and recovered after the strikes.

The first five of eight chapters cover the ship’s first five watches on May 2, 1945, from midnight up to 6 p.m., as the crew waits in anticipation of Japanese plane attacks. The author introduces the ship’s history through a series of flashbacks. Aaron Ward, which had been originally built as a destroyer (DD-773), was converted to a destroyer minelayer before her commissioning in October 1944. These first few chapters also describe the many different jobs of the some 350 men aboard this ship. The crew passes the first 18 hours of May 2nd with little excitement but much tension about enemy planes that could appear over the horizon at any moment.

On one hand, in Europe, Axis belligerency had virtually collapsed and were surrendering to the Allies, but in the Pacific, ordinary men were doing extraordinary feats to survive. That was what was happening on that momentous day in May 2, 1945.

Thank you, to all who have sent me best wishes. I appreciate and cherish your friendship. Aside from one’s family; my great and brilliant wife Linda of 47+ years, my daughter Dana, my son Jon, their spouses; Craig and Jocelyn and three beautiful grandchildren; Sophie, Josh and Emma, what else can one really need?

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A lifelong New Yorker, who now lives full-time in Palm Beach County, Richard was raised in Mount Vernon, New York and he was educated in the Mount Vernon public schools He graduated from Boston University with a BA in American History. After spending a year on Wall Street as a research analyst with Bache & Co., he joined a manufacturing and importing firm, where over the next twenty-five years he rose to the position of chief operating officer. After the sale of that business, Richard entered into the financial services field with Metropolitan Life and is a Registered Representative, who has been associated with Acorn Financial Services which is affiliated with John Hancock Life Insurance Company of Boston, Ma. Today, he is a retired broker who had specialized in long-term care insurance and financial planning. One of Richard’s recent activities was to advise and encourage communities to seek ways to incorporate “sustainability and resiliency” into their future infrastructure planning. After a lifetime in politics, with many years working as a district leader, which involved party organizational work, campaign chair activity and numerous other political tasks, Richard has been involved with numerous civic and social causes. In recent years, Richard served in 2005 as the campaign coordinator of the Re-Elect Paul Feiner Campaign in Greenburgh, NY and he again chaired Supervisor Feiner’s successful landslide victory in 2007. Over the next few years, he advised a number of political candidates. He has served as an appointed Deputy Supervisor of the Town of Greenburgh, with responsibilities regarding the town’s “liaison program.” He was a member of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board of the Town of Greenburgh, NY. Richard has lectured on FDR, The New Deal and 20th century American history in the Mount Vernon schools, at the Westchester Council of Social Studies annual conference in White Plains, and at many senior citizen groups, which include appearances at the Old Guard of White Plains, the Rotary Clubs of Elmsford and White Plains, and various synagogue groups around Westchester. In the winter of 2006 Richard was the leader of the VOCAL forum, sponsored by the Westchester County Office of Aging, which addresses the concerns of Westchester County’s Intergenerational Advocacy Educational Speak-out forums for senior citizens. Richard has given lectures for the Active Retirement Project, which is co-sponsored by the Jewish Community Center on the Hudson, the Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and other groups around Westchester County. Richard also is the founder and Chairperson of the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, that judges and grants annual prizes to students at Mount Vernon High School who submit essays on public policy themes. He also sponsors the Henry M. Littlefield History Prize for the leading MVHS history student. Richard serves on the Student College Scholarship Committee of Mount Vernon High School. In past years Richard chaired and moderated the Jon Breen Fund Award’s cablecast program with the Mayor and local and school officials. Richard has been a member of Blythedale Children’s Hospital’s Planned Giving Professional Advisory Board, and was a founding member of the committee to re-new the FDR Birthday Balls of the 1930’s and 1940’s with the March of Dimes’ effort to eliminate birth defects. Their renewal dinner was held at Hyde Park on January 30, 2003. Richard is currently an active contributor to the Roosevelt Institute, which is involved in many pursuits which included the opening of the Henry A. Wallace Center at Hyde Park, and the Eleanor Roosevelt – Val-Kill Foundation. In 2007, he proposed to the City of Mount Vernon an effort to develop an arts, educational, and cultural center as part of a downtown re-development effort. Richard was a team partner with the Infrastructure & Energy Solutions Group. IEFG which has developed innovative strategies for the 21st Century. Richard hosted a weekly program on WVOX-1460 AM radio, called “The Advocates,” which was concerned with “public policy” issues. The show, which was aired from 2007 until May 15, 2013, has had amongst its guests; Representative Charles Rangel, Chairperson of the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Jonathan Alter of Newsweek, along with hundreds of others. All the 300 shows are archived at Richard currently gives lectures on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, FDR and the Jewish Community, The New Deal, FDR and Douglas MacArthur, 20th Century American Foreign Policy Resulting in Conflict, and Israel’s Right to Exist. Richard lives in Boynton Beach, Fl, with his wife Linda of 44 years. They have two married children. Their daughter Dana is a Rutgers College graduate, with a MS from Boston University, and is the Assistant Director of Recruitment at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. Their son Jon is an electrical engineering graduate of Princeton University and a senior software architect at NY/Mellon Bank in NYC. Richard J. Garfunkel Recent Appearances: KTI Synagogue, Rye Brook, NY- Long Term Care & Estate Conservation- Anshe Shalom Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY- Long Term Care- American Legion Post, Valhalla, NY- Long Term Care and Asset Protection- Doyle Senior Ctr, New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care and Asset Protection- AME Methodist Ministers, New Rochelle, NY, LTC and Charitable Giving- Profession Women in Construction, Elmsford, NY, LTC and Business Benefits- Kol Ami Synagogue- White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Disability - Beth El Men's Club-New Rochelle, NY-Long Term Care-Is it Necessary- Greater NY Dental Meeting Javits Ctr, NY, NY- LTC and Disability- IBEW Local #3 , White Plains, NY, Long Term Care and Asset Protection, Health Fair -Bethel Synagogue, New Rochelle, NY-LTC and Disability, Heath Fair- Riverdale Mens Club CSAIR- Riverdale, NY- LTC- Life Weight Watchers of Westchester and the Bronx-LTC and Tax Implications Sunrise Assisted Living of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, NY-LTC Sprain Brook Manor of Scarsdale-LTC- November 15, 2001 Sunrise Assisted Living of Stamford, Connecticut, February 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, February, 2002 The Old Guard Society of White Plains, NY, April, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY August, 2002 Kol Ami Synagogue, White Plains, NY, October, 2002 JCC of Scarsdale, Scarsdale, NY, November, 2002 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY, January, 2003 The Rotary Club of White Plains, NY January, 2003 The Westchester Meadows, Valhalla, NY April, 2003 Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, NY January, 2004 Mount Vernon High School, Mount Vernon, NY March 2004 Kol Ami/JCC of White Plains, NY November, 2004 The Westchester Reform Temple, Scarsdale, January 2005 The Sunrise of Fleetwood, Mount Vernon, April, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, November, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, December, 2005 The Woodlands of Ardsley, assisted living, January, 2005 Rotary Club of Elmsford, April, 2006 Kiwanis Club of Yonkers, June, 2006 Greenburgh Jewish Center, November, 2006 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, February, 2007 Hebrew Institute, White Plains, March, 2007 Temple Kol Ami, White Plains, NY, April, 2007 Westchester Meadows. Valhalla, November, 2007 Hebrew Institute. White Plains, November, 2007 Art Zuckerman Radio Show- January, 2008 JCC of the Hudson, Tarrytown, February, 2008 Matt O’Shaughnessy Radio Show, March, 2008 WVOX –Election Night Coverage, November, 2008 WVOX – Inaugural Coverage, January 20, 2009 The Advocates-host of the WVOX Radio Show, 2007- 2010 Rotary Club of Pleasantville, February, 2009 Hebrew Institute of White Plains, May, 2009 JCC Hudson, Tarrytown, December, 2009-10-11-12 Brandeis Club, Yonkers, March 25, 2010

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