Jon Breen letter to MVHS 3-12-03

The Jon Breen Memorial Fund

Mount Vernon High School

100 California Road

914-524-8381 pm/914-467-7802 am

MVHS Class of 1963 Website


March 12, 2003



Dear Classmates and friends,


I hope that this letter finds all of you and yours quite well. As we all should know this is our fortieth reunion year. It certainly has been a long time since those idyllic days at AB Davis High School. How little we realized then what great and traumatic events would be just over the horizon. Probably the 1950’s ended in that year of 1963. It wasn’t too long after that; we all endured the death of John F. Kennedy, the escalation in Viet Nam, the Beatles, the drug culture, the sexual revolution and a generation’s loss of innocence. In a sense it was our year that ended a long period of time that celebrated American greatness and invulnerability. Of course our parents knew better. They had experienced the Depression and the 2nd World War. But collectively they didn’t question the system and the establishment the way it was questioned, by our generation and the ones who followed, over the next 15 or so years. All in all, thankfully many of us are still here despite all the changes. Again another generation must deal with the changing challenges of the new century and millennium. The path ahead is fraught with uncertainty as the fog of war closes in on all of us. Who among us would have thought that terrorism on such a colossal scale would intrude upon our lives 18 months ago? Who among ourselves would have thought that there was so much hatred and bile directed towards our western way of life? Who amongst us would have thought that we would be isolated from much of Europe, especially the countries that we rescued and brought prosperity? How ironic is it, that the former Warsaw Pact eastern bloc countries are willing to support our efforts against Iraq. It is a confusing and exasperating world. No one has a crystal ball that will allow him or her to see the future clearly. But for sure we all find ourselves with less friends, as a nation, then usual and a world much more hostile than its been in a long, long while.


With regards to my recent activities, I have written a number of you about my own interests and efforts. Recently as you may or may not know, I was part of an effort to re-institute the Franklin D. Roosevelt/March of Dimes Birthday Balls, which were originally held from 1934 through 1945. They were organized primarily to raise money for the fight against polio. As you are old enough to remember, both Drs. Salk and Sabin’s work eradicating polio was funded by the March of Dimes, which was founded by FDR. As a result of our current effort, we held our first Birthday Ball, on January 30th, FDR’s birthday, at both Hyde Park and the Culinary Institute. We raised over $20,000 for both the March of Dimes current work against birth defects and premature births and the FDR Library’s educational and research work. Along with the effort it was great fun and the food was quite good. Since I last reported, I have had the pleasure of lecturing on FDR, and related topics all over Westchester, including senior citizen homes, the Rotary Club of White Plains, and the Mid-Westchester “Y”. It’s been great fun meeting old friends from White Plains, parents of contemporaries and people who have intense and vivid memories of that era. We have a tendency to trash the opinions of seniors in this country. At least from my perspective this practice is quite foolish, shortsighted and self-defeating.


As to the Jon Breen Memorial Fund, we are into the tenth year of its existence. Our class and its friends have raised over $20,000 and, according to our last statement we have close to $10,000 remaining in its account. These past monies have been used to award prizes to students that have submitted the best essays, each year, on public policy issues. As we move into the spring, this year’s essay subject will be chosen. Also, I have been selecting, with the help of the social studies department, the annual winner of the Henry Littlefield History Award.


Recently I received an e-mail from Michael Schlanger, AB Davis class of 1961, about the 100th anniversary of Columbia University’s wrestling team. Michael offered in his e-mail, and his note in the Anniversary Journal a wonderful tribute to Henry Littlefield who was a well-respected member of the Columbia class of 1954. Because of his e-mail, Linda and I went to see the Cornell-Columbia match at the NYAC where I met Doug Garr (MVHS class of 1967, runner-up NY State wrestling championships, 1967) and his brother Andy  (AB Davis class of 1961). It was a great match, viewed an enjoyed by over 500 fans and Columbia enthusiasts. The next Saturday I was able to visit with many former teammates of Henry’s at Columbia’s Lou Gehrig Lounge. What satisfaction and enjoyment was it to see and hear those guys reminisce over matches and events that happened fifty or so years ago. Also for all you old Mount Vernon basketball fans, yesterday the Knights won their fourth straight and 21st overall Section I title 82-59 over arch-rival White Plains.


As to my own little world, as I reported last October, we moved to Tarrytown from White Plains in June of 2002. I can still say with certainty that the nine months here has given birth to a new level of happiness. Its nice living in a town rather than a city and we love the comfort of a relatively new townhouse with none of the bothers of a big old white elephant that needs more hay to be fed day after day and year after year.


You all know, of course, that our fortieth reunion is on the way. In about six months many of us will be gathering in Tarrytown to celebrate another milestone of survival, and renewal. The aim to make the next reunion is always a long-term effort because it is five long years away. It is hard to believe that four and half years ago have past since we had such a grand time in Tarrytown. So make the effort, block out the time, your children will understand, your friends will thank you and you will feel good about yourselves for another five years.


Regards and stay well,



Richard J. Garfunkel



PS: If you want to contribute to the Jon Breen Fund, you can send a check directly to me at the above address.

Also is you wish to make a contribution to the March of Dimes/Birthday Ball effort to end birth defects and reduce premature births you can send it directly to me or to the March of Dimes office in Poughkeepsie. The address is just to the left. Just mention my name on your check, and thanks! rjg