Mount Vernon, Henry Littlefield and Myself -August 25, 2006


Mount Vernon, Henry Littlefield and Myself


Letter to Mal Gissen


Richard J. Garfunkel

August 25, 2006



Thanks, and great to hear from you after all these years. Remember Henry was only 9 years older than you were and he was really from a different world. I think that it took him a few more years to really adjust to MV. He had gone to Trinity Prep, knew and taught Jimmy Brown how to wrestle in the Manhasset, LI YMCA, got his BA and MA at Columbia and became a ROTC officer in the Marine Corps. Mrs. L. went to Wheaton and was from Smithtown. I believe that when the Littlefield's came to MV they were in culture shock with the Jews, Italians and Blacks. For sure it was the Jews that shocked them the most. Henry was used to the city Jew and not a confident suburban somewhat smart ass Jew. As open-minded and progressive as they eventually became, they were not ready for MV. I got to know them quite well and though they knew Jews were smart, they never realized how able they were to conduct their affairs in an assimilated world, of which MV was. All in all, in the years after you left he came into his own as giant among men.


Regarding my relationship with Henry, I was much more of a roughhouse type and after a rough year at Horace Mann I was a bit more dysfunctional. I related to Henry quite quickly as a friend and outsider. To a degree I was always an “outsider.” In the fall of 1961, after Vinnie Olson cut me from the BB team. (He regretted it later and told me, and Gene Ridenour the new coach the next year, in 1962-3, was my gym teacher and saw me play each day in phys-ed. He asked me to play on the varsity. I told him that I didn't want to sit as a senior, and I had tossed in my hat with HML and totally committed to what he wanted. Gene and I remained friends for many, many years after that!)


Meanwhile the year before, and right after being cut, I wandered around a bit and even though I had never met HML I decided it was time. Tony Taddey, who was a neighbor and a year younger, had joined the football team and raved about Henry. So I went up to him, told I knew Gus Petersen, the famous trainer, former star wrestler from the turn of the century and long-time coach at Columbia U, at Horace Mann and we clicked. On a long 3-hour bus ride to Cheshire Academy, in the fall of 1961, we talked about history (WWII), a common interest for both of us and we became quite close. Over the years I always worked for him and had the pleasure of running the NY State Section I Wrestling Tournament held in MV for three years in a row 1964-5-6. I came in from college for the event and did all of the coordinating. I wound up being his closest friend and acquaintance from MV. We exchanged 5000 letter, post cards, and e-mails from 1963 until his death in 2000. Randy Forrest and I went to his funeral in Monterrey, which was attended by over 1000 people! 


Aside from all of that, one late afternoon Bobby Danetz, who was my neighbor, and I were walking home after a wrestling meet. Bobby had been pinned by some opponent. Bobby was quite strong, but he did not have a real killer instinct. He was too nice a guy and there were some real studs out there in the light heavyweight and heavy weight divisions (175 and Hvy). He just couldn't cut it with finesse. As we walking up Prospect he slipped on the ice and fell right on his back with all his books and gear. I jumped right on top of him and said now you've been pinned twice. I did not see Bobby for many years after that until I attended a funeral for one of Jimmy Cotton's parents. My parents were quite friendly with the Cottons and were in Florida I suppose. So I went as an obligation. Bobby was there, and he had not changed an iota. Still soft spoken, still nice, and still very decent! Later on he showed up at our 40th reunion and we shared a few laughs and memories.



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