Saturday, April 03, 2004

Abel Jack Schwartz, ZT"L

My great-uncle, Abel Jack Schwartz ("Uncle Jack") died on Thursday morning. We knew the end was coming; Uncle Jack was diagnosed seven weeks ago with acute leukemia, and his passing was, I suppose, mercifully swift.

I already knew some of the stories of this unbelievable man's life:

- He was the youngest man ever to sit for the New York Bar Exam (at 19).
- As a First Sergeant in General Patton's army, he liberated Buchenwald concentration camp, forcing the residents of the surrounding town to enter the camp and face what they had permitted to exist in their midst.
- One of the best storytellers ever. (Although that's really a family trait. Ahem.)

I knew he was a self-effacing man, modest to a fault. My father noted Jack's embarassment when, after Jack spoke at a Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration about his experiences in the war, a man came up to Jack, kissed his hand, and thanked him for liberating him.

At his overwhelmingly well-attended funeral on Friday, I learned that Jack stated that in his life he "just tried not to hurt people, and hoped he helped them."

I'm expecting my first child this summer. I hope as a parent I can communicate that simple rule.

Try not to hurt people. Try to help them.

Goodbye, Uncle Jack.

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