My father, Joseph Flom, was born Dec 21, 1923. He will die this weekend. He had an amazing life. A very American life. And one driven by values.
If you'd like to read more, join me below the fold.
UPDATE I am off to dinner with wife and kids. Back later.
Oh, and Spider Robinson said "Pain shared is lessened, joy shared increased" - maybe that should be dkos' motto
The last 6 weeks of my dad's life are the least interesting. He's been in the hospital throughout - first for heart surgery, then his kidneys shut down, then he had lung problems. The last few days he's been psychotic. Now he's sedated. Feh. He may wake up briefly tomorrow, but we don't know if he will be psychotic. UPDATE I have spoken with my brother and we've decided NOT to take him out of sedation at all. My mother's father wished for only one thing - to live a long time and die quickly. That's a good wish, believe me.
But the previous 87 years! Wow.
My father's parents immigrated from a shtetl in what is now (I think) Russia. From what I can determine, Kipula (sp?) was a tiny spot, somewhere near Chernobyl. They got out early, around the turn of the century and came to New York. Our name is an Ellis Island name. When my grandfather got off the boat, he was asked his name. He said something along the lines of Itzig Flomn. He was asked how to spell it. Well, he could spell it in Russian (with Cyrillic letters) or Yiddish (with Hebrew letters) but English? So they wrote down what they thought he said. My grandfather was a ragpicker and a union organizer. His wife was a housewife. One thing they made sure of is that their boy Joseph would study. And study he did. Combine a brilliant mind with a lot of studying and a lot of drive and things happen. He always knew he wanted to be a lawyer. In 6th grade, he did a book report on "Cases in Constitutional Law".
And work. He worked during high school, doing homework on the subway between work, school, and home. One job he tried to get was delivering telegrams. But they didn't want a Jew. He graduated just in time to be drafted, and the army, showing wisdom, looked at this 5'6", 210 pound boy with 20 - a bazillion vision and kept him far from the front. They sent him to college, but he never quite got a BA. Then he applied to Harvard Law. At that time, Harvard would sometimes let in people without BAs. He graduated 23rd in his class and was editor of the Law Review. But when he got out, he couldn't get a job at a "good" firm - they didn't hire Jews. So he joined a small firm with three partners. He was their first associate, but became a partner quickly. The firm eventually was named Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, and it's one of the largest in the world. Heh.
His legal career is legendary. But I don't want to talk about that directly. I'll mention that his firm was one of the first big firms to make a woman a partner, and one of the first to make a Black person a partner.
But he did some other things too.
When Arkansas passed a law about teaching creationism in the public schools, Skadden donated many hours to the ACLU. That law was defeated in court.
Later, he established the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. That foundation pays a salary and benefits to law school graduates who wish "to provid[e] legal services to the poor (including the working poor), the elderly, the homeless and the disabled, as well as those deprived of their civil or human rights"; it also helps the fellows pay off law school debt.
He's also served on hospital boards and the board of the NYC Holocaust Memorial Commission.
And, in the I Have a Dream program, he adopted a graduating class of 6th graders from one of NYC's poorest neighborhoods, helping them and providing services and tuition assistance through college. I went to the talk he gave to the sixth graders.
More directly related to Daily Kos, he's helped raise money for many political candidates (Democrats of course!).
Perhaps more remarkably, he kept growing and changing, right into his 80s. In his 70s he took up gardening. After my mom died a couple years ago, he remarried, and all of a sudden was doing things like learning to cook and listen to classical music.
Oh? And Western Union? That wouldn't hire him to deliver telegrams? They're a client.
So, dad, I'll remember you for the 86 years of your life, and not the last six weeks. And so will my brother and sister, and your wife, and your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. To say nothing of your clients, partners, associates and friends.
Updated by plf515 at Sun Feb 13, 2011, 03:04:11 PM
Major update: He woke up, is coherent and changed his mind. He will have further surgery tomorrow. So, he won't die this weekend.