In memory of Herb Rabinowitz
When I began this blog more than a year ago, I intended it to be simply a vehicle on which to post autobiographical ramblings and to sound off with my opinions on political and other current events. But I've sadly found another function: to memorialize people who have had important roles in my life. They are, like me, old guys and they are passing away.
Herb Rabinowitz, who died of a heart attack on April 7, at his home in Shrewsbury, N.J., would have been 82 later this month. He was my first cousin, my best friend, and the brother I never had. We grew up together, started school together, and maintained close contact with each other throughout our lives. Aside from my wife, no one knew me better than he did.
We shared the traumas of military service in wartime and the loss of young daughters. In each case, I found emotional support and an intimacy that only some one like Herb could provide. Herb was a longtime executive with Monsanto Co.'s Textile Division and later the executive director of the Knitted Textile Assn. During World War II he served with the 75th Infantry Division during the Battle of the Bulge.
The best way to describe Herb is that he was fun to be with. His love of life and sense of humor was contagious. He was talented enough to have been a stand-up comedian. We both entered kindergarten at P.S. 64 in the Bronx the same day. I have always remembered that one of us threw up because of nervousness. For decades we jokingly argued whether he threw up or I did. Herb settled the argument at my 80th birthday party by reporting that we both threw up.
Herb's father, my Uncle George, was an ardent baseball fan. The only time that Herb ever disappointed his father was when he failed to share his father's enthusiasm for baseball. So when my uncle wanted to attend a game at Yankee Stadium when both Herb and I were young boys, my uncle would take me with him because Herb had no interest in going. Thanks to Herb, I attended lots of Yankee baseball games. My own father, who didn't know a baseball bat from a tennis racket and regarded sports as an alien activity, would never had taken me.
Herb and I maintained a great lifetime rivalry over who was more knowledgeable about minutiae and trivia, particularly on obscure matters dealing with geography. He very rarely failed to match my expertise.
Herb's death leaves a void in my life and in the lives of all who knew him. I was proud and fortunate to have had him as a cousin, friend and surrogate brother.