Monday, May 10, 2010

A Sad Good-bye to Harry

I met Harry Weider (pictured), who died last month, at a party and was immediately taken with him. Harry was a Gay, Jewish, Disabled Dwarf, and he fought for rights for all of those groups. Life gave him a lot of issues to deal with, and he dealt with them with intelligence, humor, and tenacity. He was a very sweet and likable man. He was active in ACT UP, which fought for the rights of AIDS patients, served on community boards, and was always an advocate for the disabled and gay people.

In his late fifties, Harry had just started getting into opera. Knowing I was into opera and had written one tome on the subject, he emailed me a few times on the subject in general and on specific operas that he was planning to see. His always lively e-letters were always intelligent and opinionated in the right way. We also discussed the best places to go have a drink, as not every bar was comfortable for a man who had trouble walking and sitting. [Apparently he had a hearing impairment as well, which I was completely unaware of. I assume he was able to read lips.]

He frequently asked me to meet him for a drink, but unfortunately, the timing was always off. I hope he didn't think I was blowing him off, because I thought he was a genuinely fascinating person and wanted to know him better. Reading various tributes to him I realize that there was a lot I didn't know about him, a lot I didn't get the chance to appreciate.

I got a message from Harry via Facebook a few months ago, importuning me to sign up so that I could look at his "stories and photos." Well, I signed up, went to his profile, and discovered that there was nothing there but his name and photograph. The next time I saw Harry I said, "I only signed up for that thing because you wanted me to see your stories and pictures and there was nothing there." Harry laughed and said, "That's because I haven't put anything on there yet!"

Some of the tributes I read about him by fellow board members and politicians with whom he crossed swords focus -- in my opinion, too much perhaps -- on his feistiness, albeit affectionately, but he was also a good-natured man with a great sense of humor and warm personality.

Harry was leaving one of the frequent meetings he attended when he was struck and killed by a cab. He died on a Thursday. His funeral was on the very next day, which unfortunately meant that he was buried before many of his friends and acquaintances even knew of his death. I know there are a great many people who would have loved to have been able to pay their last respects to him, although a great many people did attend.

He is survived by his mother, a Holocaust survivor. My heart goes out to her.

So, I'll have a drink to Harry's memory tonight. And hope that wherever he is, he's givin' 'em hell and having fun.

You can read more about Harry here.

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