Twelve years ago today, our son Ben and I were playing tennis when Vickie walked up to the courts. We knew something had to be very wrong if she showed up in the middle of our game. We were dumbstruck when she told us my beloved first cousin Harry had a sudden heart attack and died.
Our family was in shock!
Harry was vibrant, alive, to all appearances healthy, and then in an incomprehensible instant he was gone! Our hearts and our minds reeled in disbelief. My cousin Harry was kind, easy going and had the most wonderful smile and infectious laugh of anyone I have ever known.
It is no surprise to me that family and friends gathered from London, California and many places in between to bid him farewell and pay him tribute.
One of the most remarkable things about Harry is that he was still friends with almost all of the people with whom he went to grammar school, high school and college. It is remarkable the way he stayed so closely connected with so many different people.
If we could choose a motto for Harry Fuchs, we could do no better than the words, “Life is Good.” Indeed, life was good for Harry, and Harry was good to life. He lived each day to the fullest. He managed to fit exercise, reading, cooking, work, parenting, and often much more into each day and still get to bed at a reasonable hour. He was intellectually, curious, he had a wonderful sense of humor, and he was – and now will be – forever young.
Harry William Fuchs never aged. At 53, he looked like he looked in college—maybe even better. I guess Harry was never meant to grow old. He left life in its prime. He was never sick, he never had to depend on anyone, and he never gave anyone reason to pity or feel sorry for him.
It was always easy to remember Harry’s birthday. He was born on 5/5/55 in Manhattan, but he lived most of his life in Great Neck. I loved my Uncle Ali and my Aunt Mimi dearly, but they had Harry rather late in life. That reality did not make life easy for a child of the 60’s and 70’s born to European parents who both grew up with great wealth but came to this country with nothing. They deeply loved Harry, but Ali was often away on business, and Mimi always had a hard time saying, “No,” to the apple of her eye.
After high school Harry went off to Wyndham College, but after that institution folded, he completed his studies at the University of Vermont. In his youth he sometimes tried to hide it, but Harry was a very deep thinker with a fine, curious mind who majored in chemistry. The last thing on his mind was to enter the fur business with his father, but Ali was persistent, and the fur business at that time offered a much more comfortable lifestyle than that of an unemployed research chemist.
I am sure there were some clashes in those early days between strait-laced nose-to-the-grindstone Ali and his “when does the party start” son. But things changed dramatically after Harry cut his hair and became seriously successful in the fur trade.
I still can hear the pride and love in Ali’s voice – and such gushing praise did not come naturally to Ali – when he spoke to me about Harry.
As years went by their relationship changed. At the end it was Harry who was looking after and taking care of Ali. Lovingly he drove his father to and from work every day, and in so doing allowed Ali to cling to his life in the fur trade that he loved so much. It was a heroic chapter in the life of Harry William Fuchs which he very seldom talked about.
My cousin Harry always loved kids, and they loved him. My now grown children – who flew across the country to attend Harry’s funeral – remember vividly his and their joy when he carried them on his shoulders years ago when we all visited the Statue of Liberty.
Along his all too short life’s journey Harry Fuchs was blessed with several positive influences.
Linda Canina was Harry’s first lasting love. They lived together for ten years. They were different in so many ways, but she made his spirits soar and inspired him with her intellectual brilliance and love for life. She seemed to awaken in Harry his deep and eclectic love for learning. He read widely and avidly—on politics, sports, fashion, Israel and the Middle East. He was interested in everything.
And then there was Bonnie! I’ll never forget the first time I spoke to Harry after he had met Bonnie on a ski trip. It was like his whole world had changed and his whole demeanor was somehow different. They had much in common and shared a deep and special love. Although their marriage ended in divorce, their mutual respect and affection abide. To their great credit, each has worked hard and made many compromises to make things as easy as possible for Casey.
When Harry met Randi, she brought a whole new dimension to his life. She gave him a newfound sense of stability and calm. She is so down to earth and comfortable with herself that Harry became more grounded through her love. He still loved to live well, and he did, but he no longer needed to jet around the world. Rather he could find his pleasures in life with Randi, the music on his ipod, the beach, his bike, and a beautiful sunset.
And then of course, there is Casey!
When Casey came into his life, Harry became a different person. In his own words Harry said: “I really learned to love after I became a father.”
In Casey, Harry’s life came full circle. Harry adored Casey, and I know that love will NEVER die.
As Casey told me, “No matter what I did, he was always interested. The most important thing for him to know was, ‘How was your day?’”
When Casey was in the hospital, Harry slept there. He was there when she went to sleep, and he was there when she woke up.
Twelve years later, it is still hard to believe that he is gone. Yet, when we close our eyes and think of him, we shall see his smile, we’ll hear his laugh, and his memory will remain a blessing in our lives . . . always.