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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Remembering Herb Lewin

Today a memorial was held to celebrate the life of Herb Lewin, an old friend and comrade of my parents whom I also knew.

I'd heard a few weeks ago of his death at age 95, which occurred 18 March, but didn't learn the time and place of the memorial till today, after arriving at the event in Elmwood Park described in my previous post. Being without a car or a ride, I had to leave that event early to get to this one.

It would actually have been quite appropriate had the memorial been held in conjunction with the Elmwood park event. The park was sited where it was because of a major labor struggle that was waged just a few blocks away. In fact, I've learned that this was the very struggle that put Herb's picture on the cover of Life magazine, being clubbed by mounted police.

A few years later he was dismissed for his political views and his coworkers walked out to demand his reinstatement along with another worker likewise fired as a "security risk," which they won.

After becoming a socialist in early adulthood, Herb spent his entire life as a radical labor activist. He also ran for office for several times, including once for President (as the candidate of California's Peace and Freedom Party) and twice for governor of Pennsylvania. His obituary appeared in the 29 March edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer, on page B08.

It's unfortunate that because of a lack of communication the two events weren't coordinated. But for me there was no question about priorities. Herb had attended and spoken at my mother's memorial seven years ago. I had to be at his, and felt I should speak at it too, despite -- or in a sense, perhaps, because of -- knowing I would get emotional. But that seemed appropriate to the circumstances so there was no embarrassment.

Thanks are due to Doug Buchholz and his partner Simone for organizing the memorial, to the officiant and other staff of Unitarian Universalist House (I'm afraid I don't remember their names) for hosting it, and to all those who attended. I estimate that about forty were present.

Eric Hamell

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