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Kendal View

Kendal on Hudson’s Bimonthly Journal

Volume 14 Issue 1

Sept./Oct. 2018


FYI

W

e welcome the coming of autumn and hope that the extremes of weather that characterized our summer will be tempered more toward the usual and allow those who can to enjoy the outdoors. Our offerings are bookended by two short biographies of Kendal residents: Muriel Fox recounting Bert Pepper’s life of extraordinary achievement, and Norman Sissman’s interview with Bill Lyons about his experiences as a fighter pilot in the Second World War. In between, Gloria Cooper muses charmingly about Fate; Bill Smethurst reviews the history of the vigorous and high quality art programs at Kendal that have contributed so much to the pleasures of living here; Frank Neuwirth explores his personal response to the special day that commemorates one of the most important events (in which he participated) of World War II; Eugene DuBow imagines the story of an unusual CCRC resident; Norman Sissman recounts the life of the Hudson Valley’s most famous author, Washington Irving; and Ursula Hahn takes us along on a camping trip she took through Norway several years ago. Horst Berger selected and processed the color covers. On the front cover is his view of the imposing futuristic support towers of the new Tappan Zee Bridge. On the inside front cover, Horst has photographed another iconic bridge in our area, which the engineer in Horst points out has none of the structural problems of the recently collapsed Morandi bridge in Genoa, Italy. On the inside back cover, Bert Pepper brings us close up to the reproductive organs of a brilliant red hibiscus blossom. On the back cover Arthur Brady captures some seagulls sitting on a row of light poles in Cold Spring several autumns ago. All for your pleasure, and maybe some education!

Norman J. Sissman

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Bert Pepper, Our Renaissance Man Several distinguished careers. Two or more avocations. At least two religions. Bert Pepper exemplifies our frequent boast that Kendal on Hudson residents are unusual people. He also demonstrates that our residents have led very interesting lives within Kendal’s walls as well as outside. Bert still practices once a week as a psychiatrist, maintaining an office in Rockland County. He also cochairs our Music Committee (with Fran Kelly). And for ten years, as a violinist, he has played with a group of four to eight musicians who practice here every Thursday evening under the title of Musicians on the Balcony. They’ve moved to the library here because of better lighting, but they’re still known admiringly as the mob. Bert and his wife Peggy McLaughlin, founding residents of KoH, are both copilots. They created our invaluable “Give and Take” table, which one week a month provides a chance for residents and staff to pick up items we can use and/or to deposit items we no longer need. And they also established the “Getting to Know You” archive of resident biographies in our library. Bert is a trustee on the KoH board of directors, and he served on the search committee that selected Jim Antonucci as our CEO to replace Pat Doyle. Oh yes, he also cochaired our joyful 13th Anniversary Celebration this spring. Bert was born in the Bronx and entered Music and Arts High School at the age of thirteen, specializing in violin. (He also passed the test for Science High School, but declined their invitation because the school did not admit girls at that time.) He attended NYU Medical School and obtained a graduate degree in public health from Columbia University. He always maintained a private practice in psychiatry while also holding such posts as Commissioner of Mental Health for the State of Maryland, Regional Commissioner of Mental Hygiene for the downstate region of New York State, and founder and director of the Rockland County Mental Health Center. For many years he was also founder and executive director of the Information Exchange, which provided all states plus European countries with a one- or two-day workshop on the interrelationships between drug and alcohol abuse and mental health. This nonprofit organization educated mental health professionals as well as patients and their families. It integrated a variety of treatments, ranging from 12-step to talk therapy to medications. Bert and Peggy will celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary in December. Their happy relationship is unique because of their numerous differences and agreements. While both enjoy art and travel and politics, Peggy does not share Bert’s love of classical music – preferring rock and roll instead – or esoteric plays such as those of Samuel Beckett. Sometimes they’ll see the same movie at different times, and Peggy observes a much earlier bedtime than Bert. They have a grown son and a granddaughter. Peggy was raised as a Roman Catholic, whereas Bert is still Jewish; but they’re active Quakers now. They reinstated the Quaker meeting at KoH; Bert describes himself as a Jewish atheist Quaker. Bert served on our Music Committee from the beginning, succeeding the late Henry Marasse as cochair. The committee has benefited from a $300,000 bequest from our deceased resident Peter J. Cohn. When Henry Marasse headed the committee, some residents felt that his musical choices ranged mainly from Mozart to Mozart. But now the classical programs extend from Baroque (Bert’s 2


special interest) to Bartok and beyond. Programs were mainly classical at first, but now they are experimenting with jazz and blue grass and Broadway songs and an annual steel drum concert. “We don’t expect everyone to like everything,” Bert says. He is eager to receive suggestions and assistance from residents. For instance, Janet Schloat helped him recruit world-famous harpsichord player Anthony Newman for a concert that was well attended by appreciative Kendal music lovers. Newman performed on our resident harpsichord. What other CCRC maintains its own harpsichord? The current Music Committee, apart from co-chairs Bert and Fran, includes Lila D’Adolf, Art Brady, Sheila Darnborough, Gene DuBow, Phyllis Fross, Ed Hanin, Bill McFeely, Michael Rapaport, Janet Schloat, and Bob Singleton. The committee meets monthly, listens to CDs of prospects, and reviews past concerts to decide which groups should be invited to return. The quality and quantity of concerts here is maintained for a surprisingly low annual budget. This magic is achieved with the help of student recitals plus generous donations from residents and their families. For instance, Michael and Jo-Ann Rapaport have financed a concert by Elizabeth Pitcairn and her students and will sponsor a return in 2019, while the family of Adila Goldman has supported an annual series in her name by the Baroque specialists Rebel. Through the years several families have subsidized memorial concerts in honor of deceased residents. Bert and Fran are eager to work with families to develop musical memorials. In addition to his musical talent, Bert is also an accomplished photographer. His pictures have appeared in a number of exhibits here at Kendal and in Kendal View. Bert and Fran Kelly recently spearheaded a group of people who created a brochure for prospective residents. The brochure, titled “From the Residents of Kendal on Hudson,” compares our life here to “a cruise ship” or “a year-round arts festival.” Copies of the brochure are available in the KoH main lobby. It says the best of all attractions are “the Kendal people – diverse, friendly, accomplished, and stimulating.” That’s a perfect description of our multitalented resident Bert Pepper.

Muriel Fox

Here’s Looking at You As time goes by I find myself thinking more and more about Fate. It started during the winter holidays when, surfing the cable channels, I happened upon still another showing of everyone’s favorite movie. As always, each beloved line of dialogue was both familiar and fresh; this time, however, one line in particular kept echoing in my head long after Rick and the captain had strolled away together into the Casablanca fog: “Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.” 3


Eventually the echoes stopped – only to be replaced by the sound of my own inner voice announcing a variation on the theme: “Of all the CCRCs in all the towns in all the world, I walk into this one.” Huh? The juxtaposition was jarring, to say the least, for while no one can deny the parallel syntax, the two scenarios differ profoundly on the fundamental things. For instance, Ilsa’s walk into Rick’s cafe was written in the stars and had to be, whereas my walk into Kendal was the practical result of research and analysis, not to mention a fortunate sufficiency of the necessary cash. Of course the world will always welcome theories about itself and how it works, so in weighing their relative merits, you must remember this: that the ones that involve preordination, appealing though they be, are still the same old story, pretty much out of date. Nowadays for that kind of knowledge it’s on science we rely. And indeed, it is all too clear that when it comes to ordinary human experience, such cosmic principles as uncertainty and chaos unfailingly apply. And yet . . . As I look around the Gathering Room at all my Kendal mates, woman and man alike, I can’t help wondering how and why this particular collection of one-of-a-kind individuals came to be assembled at this particular place at this particular moment in our waning years. Kismet or coincidence? Predestination or chance? Fate or fluke? The existentialists (like me), whose hearts are full of passion for reason and reality, would explain their presence as simply the latest (the last?) in a lifetime of choices by which we create and define our very being and for which we alone are responsible. On the other hand, the romantics (also like me), wooed by moonlight and love songs and visions of glory, would sigh and say that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in that philosophy, chief among them the forces of destiny. Only one of those answers to my question can be right. Or maybe not. In any event, whatever our means of arrival, we made it, each and every one of us a case of do or die. And so here we are, for now, together – no matter what the future brings as time goes by. Gloria Cooper

Art at Kendal In the anxious quest to find the ideal spot to rest our increasingly weary bods as advancing years crept up on us, Bix and I inspected a mix of retirement communities in New Jersey and greater New York. Some of them lacked adequate facilities. Others appeared humdrum in a wide variety 4


of ways. Only a few offered first-class facilities, superior care, and an upbeat clientele. All of them, both high and low, had one thing in common. The artwork on the walls of the facility reminded us of the boring and lackluster pictures on the walls of the motels we frequented on our annual travels west to the summer cottage in Wisconsin. Kendal on Hudson was a revelation. Sometime after Bix and I moved to KoH we traveled to Chelsea in New York City, where we met three of her artist friends from New Jersey. We visited a goodly number of the neighborhood galleries there and surveyed the artwork, which was for sale at very high prices. In viewing these pricey pictures my greatest pleasure was the realization that, in general, the art hung on the walls outside the Art Room at Kendal on Hudson was just as good and, in many cases, better than that displayed in the galleries of Chelsea. How did KoH arrive at this exalted status? To explain this is the purpose of this article. Right from the start at Kendal on Hudson there was a powerful interest in art and its expression among residents. This deep interest took two forms, closely related. One was to ensure that art on the walls of the common areas of the community was of the highest and most interesting quality. And the other was to provide the means and facilities for residents to express their artistic instincts in an upbeat way. The result of these aspirations and their interaction has made Kendal on Hudson uniquely wonderful. When KoH was in its infancy in what we would now consider almost prehistoric times, two inspirational women were responsible for creating, nurturing, and directing the artistic impulses among our early residents. They were Dorothy Hill and Helen Price. Both of them, alas, are no longer with us. The Art Room and the Craft Room were an important part of the initial KoH configuration. According to Joan Oltman, one of the founders who was intimately involved in the planning of KoH, this arrangement is quite customary in new and exisiting Kendal retirement communities. The attractive hallway that runs between the two studios and overlooks the swimming pool, and which is now an exhibition space, was conceived by Helen Price and brilliantly named “Rue des Artistes.” Since the beginning it has been the venue for remarkable art shows of works created by Kendal residents. Most of the Rue’s paintings, prints, sculptures, fiber fabrics, and other forms of visual art were produced in the Kendal Art Room. The Art Room is well equipped and spaciously designed for creative work. The lighting ambience of the space, both from its large windows and plentiful electrical fixtures as well as ventilation, would do justice to any workshop in Soho or Montparnasse. On Saturday morning, an Open Studio guided by resident artists Ann Lasusa and Bix Smethurst is available for everyone living here – from the curious novice to accomplished professionals. In addition, visiting professional artists arranged for by the Kendal Art Committee offer instruction. These outstanding teachers have included Paul Jeffries, Bob Demarest, Pam Dietrich, Alice Harrison, and Myrtle Johnson. 5


The initial design of Kendal on Hudson included both art and craft rooms. According to Joan Oltman, one of the founders who was initmately involved in the planning of KoH, this arrangement is quite customary in new and exisiting Kendal retirement communitities. The primary impetus in organizing the program and building enthusiasm for it has been the Art Committee of the Residents Council. Thanks to the vision and unflagging energy of Dorothy Hill and Helen Price art at Kendal was an instant and contiuning success. Helen conceived and was responsible for planning and implementing the Rue des Artistis on a stretch of wall that overlooks the Kendal swimming pool. It has served as a marvelous gallery for displaying residents’ artwork. All of the exhibits there have been greatly enhanced by the beautiful signage calligraphy of Priscilla Holmgren. In 2003, two years before Kendal on Hudson opened, other committees were already being formed by prospective residents. Members of one of these committees wanted to be sure that shared spaces – lobbies, corridors, dining areas, and the like – be as attractive, inviting, comfortable, and interesting as was humanly possible. Right from the start, a dedicated Jackie Wilke chaired the committee of nine members that became known as CAFA (Common Areas Furniture and Art). Upon learning that the Kendal Design Team had not been mandated to provide art for the walls, CAFA went into action. Incoming residents were contacted and offered the opportunity to make tax-deductible donations of suitable items that they or their families could no longer use. Both from photographs and home visits by committee members, the process of prospective resident downsizing yielded amazingly high-quality paintings, limited-edition prints, vintage engravings, art posters, and much more. The availability of excellent pianos, wall units, cabinets, chests, occasional tables, and other pieces allowed us to upgrade and complement the basic furniture ordered by the Kendal Corporation. Once KoH was opened, CAFA was confronted with the huge task of deciding where to place the voluminous materials arriving daily. Naturally, the health care unit received special attention as serene colors and appealing art work are known to enhance the comfort and healing of patients. At the present time much of CAFA’s activity is devoted to counseling new residents who want to hang pictures they already own on a wall near their apartments when they move in; the committee wants to ensure that these additions do not adversely alter the aesthetics and appearance of the entire corridor. In 2016, after more than a decade of selfless and devoted service as CAFA chair, Jackie retired, and was succeeded by Marilyn Bottjer. Current committee members include: Sheila Benedis, Barbara Gochman, Bix Smethurst, Jan Myers, Jackie Wilke, Barbara Hopkins, Barbara Bettigole, Ann Holloway, Jetta Gordon, Gisa Indenbaum, Jane Kratovil, Betty Morefield, Suzanne Sadler, Florence Seligman, Martin Smolin, and Cobb Stewart. Judging by the quality of the artwork reviewed by the author and his wife at other retirement communities in the New York metropolitan region, the residents at KoH should consider themselves most fortunate. We thank you, Jackie, and your devoted colleagues for making KoH an artistic paradise. 6


Aren’t we lucky to live at Kendal on Hudson where the artwork is vibrant, of the highest quality, and a living, challenging, and changing tribute to ourselves – and our fellow residents. Vive l’art and KoH forever!

Bill Smethurst

D-Day It has now been seventy-four years since the Americans, the Brits, the Canadians, and others established a beachhead in Normandy, France. I often think of my time in combat on the European continent. I often also think of the GIs who were killed (KIA) or died of their wounds (DOW). I remember a number of the KIAs and DOWs from my outfit, the 821st Tank Destroyer Battalion. These were guys who had faces and personalities. These were guys, with some of whom I had a close relationship. Seventy-four years after their deaths, my recollection of them has, unfortunately, faded. Soon, given my present age and the possibility (probability) that I’m the only member of the battalion surviving, there will be no one who will remember them. They will become, as did the dead of previous wars and World War II, only names on grave markers. Therein lies the tragedy when one visits an American Military Cemetery or any cemetery: The dead who are buried there are only names. The KIAs and DOWs, their lives cut short in combat, have become just names disconnected from life: The circumstances of their deaths, the pain that they may have suffered, the fact that they probably died all alone, the anguish of their families, and the general tragedy of death at a young age are all just incorporated in names on grave markers. Little, if any, emotion except a “tsk, tsk” is expressed by visitors. When I visited the American Military Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer, I visited the graves of all of the members of my outfit. I cried each time I visited because I realized that, at the time of my visits, I had lived longer since the time of their deaths than they had lived. Now that I am approaching my ninety-fifth birthday I can no longer visit. Who will cry for them? If you go to Europe or to the Pacific, visit a military cemetery. Look at the grave stones and realize that the persons buried beneath once were more than just names: they were living and breathing beings who were cut down in the prime of their lives. Shed a tear – they deserve it. Frank Neuwirth June 6, 2018 7


An Oligarch in Our Midst Yevgeny Sokolovsky Fedorovitch (Sok to his friends), a minor Russian oligarch, had been summoned to the office of Vladimir Putin. “Sok,” Putin said, “You’re eighty, made lots of rubles, and it’s our opinion it’s time that you retire.” With Putin, “opinion” is a kinder word for “decision.” “We have to make way for younger fellows who believe it’s their time to get an opportunity to feed at the ‘Ruble Trough.’” “We’ve mapped out a plan for you. Our people in the U.S. have found a place for you to have a comfortable retirement. Your children will be able to visit, and you’ll be living with people who are very accepting of almost anybody. The place was founded by the remnant of the family of a former American presidential candidate, Wendell Willkie. It’s called Wendell on Hudson. There is a problem of getting your many millions of rubles into the U.S. However, we’ve found ways in the last number of years to regularize wealth so it’s acceptable. The Americans call it ‘money laundering.’ You’ll have to spread your wealth around and bring it into the U.S. in small amounts in cash or bank drafts.” Later Sok, a widower, met with the Marketing Director at WoH. Asked about his health status, he replied that he was very healthy, noting to himself that he would have to tell the Russian health officials he had on his payroll to write something positive about his current health status. Then, asked about his financial standing, he replied by producing bank checks from Agroinkombank, Baltkredobank, and the Bank of Moscow. In addition, he took out a rather fat wad of Russian bank notes, saying that it should take care of a down payment and that Wendell’s bank could handle all the transfer paper work. Six months passed, and everything seemed in order. An apartment at Wendell was assigned, a truck with a load of brand-new furniture appeared, and shortly thereafter Yevgeny Sokolovsky Fedorovitch became a Wendell resident. Sok was not much different from the other residents except that a month after he arrived, a young man wearing dark glasses visited, wanting to meet the WoH Executive Director. He didn’t really say much about who he was except that he worked for “Washington” and considered Sok as a “person of interest.” Finding that there was nothing unusual, he left without saying much else. Shortly after that, a normal-looking car, with two men in it, was regularly seen parked in various places around Wendell. There were various opinions then about it: they were people from the fire department, building inspectors, even that they were the CIA. That one got a lot of laughs. Sok had some trouble fitting in. He couldn’t get the hang of the “no tipping” policy. He was used to what genteel conversationalists would refer to as “tipping in advance.” Law enforcement people call it graft or payoffs. It was hard for him to understand that some of the “extras” he wanted could not be accomplished by a quiet gratuity. However, socially he got along well with the other residents. He especially seemed to like the Wine and Cheese sessions though he didn’t touch the wine. In its place he brought along small medicine bottles of a clear liquid which appeared to be some sort of specialized water. The 8


liquid came shipped to him from Russia in larger bottles adorned with Russian lettering. No one questioned it. If he liked special water, well, that was his business. He drank a lot of it. Sok loved the committee structure. He kept referring to the Residents Council as the Central Committee and said on many occasions that strong central management was an outstanding way of making sure Wendell was run efficiently. At the Fireside Chats he enthusiastically applauded every time the Executive Director had something to say. While most of the residents sat stolidly in their seats, he was up cheering and whistling. However, the Director, Pat Boyle, became annoyed when he frequently referred to her as Petrushka. All went along swimmingly for Sok, including dips in the WoH pool, until the Washington guy in the dark glasses reappeared. He wanted to know how much mail Sok was receiving and how he was paying his bills. Ms. Boyle responded by saying that he was paying his monthly bill regularly but, surprisingly, mostly in cash. When asked where she thought the money came from, she replied that some people at Wendall came from wealthy families except the pensioned teachers who scraped by every month or, at least, that is what they told everybody. Sok was no teacher. With Pat Boyle’s O.K., “Mr. Washington� passed himself off to a number of WoH residents as a representative from Wendell Corp. He quietly and off the record asked a lot of questions about Sok. The conversations were all positive, except the one with the Steve, the regular postman who made almost all the deliveries. He reported that Sok got a considerable number of thick envelopes from outside the country. Several weeks passed and suddenly, without explanation, Sok seemed to be gone. Word passed around that he had a sick relative and had gone off to Russia to visit her (or was it him?). No one seemed to know. The mystery was soon solved. The New York Times reported that a certain Russian oligarch who had come to live in the U.S. had been arrested, not for money laundering, but for bribing a New York State Senator. Peculiarly, the bribe was to be paid for the senator to introduce social welfare legislation, whereby retirement communities could be governed by a very small group of residents, perhaps even a single person, rather than by a democratically elected board. The Senator, not normally one to turn down money from any source, became suspicious because of the decided accent of the person suggesting the bribe. Rather than just accepting the money as he normally did, promising to work on a specific project and then doing nothing, he called the police. Before long, the man in the dark glasses and several more like him (all with similar dark glasses) interrupted the next planned conversation between the Senator and the man with the accent, and took the latter into custody. The Washington people involved in the case decided that, since the bribe was to be paid for such an unbelievably stupid and inane reason, it would be best to hush it up, forget it, and just deport the perpetrator. No announcements were made. 9


The Wendell residents soon forgot about Sok. He was a nice man, they agreed, but people come and go in retirement communities and so his disappearance was not an unusual case. However, months later one of the residents, a former State Department professional, came across a paragraph in one of the obscure Russian newsletters he regularly read. It noted that Yevgeny Sokolovsky Fedorovitch, the Fourth Deputy Secretary to the Deputy Chairman and Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, had passed away. No further information was provided. Soon after, a yellow rose appeared in the lobby alcove at Wendell on Hudson.

Eugene DuBow

Overheard in the Bistro Several months ago, in my column on the origin of local place-names, I reported that Sleepy Hollow was first christened by Washington Irving. Now, I feel that a look at some aspects of the life and career of Irving, the most famous writer from our area, might be of interest to you, my readers. Washington Irving was born in 1783, an important year in our country’s founding, in what is now Greenwich Village. He was the youngest of eleven children, and throughout his life was close to his seven siblings who survived infancy. His father was a moderately successful merchant whose older sons developed many contacts in business and political circles in the small city that was then New York; one of his brothers served several terms in the U.S. House of Representatives. Irving became a law clerk, but never practiced law to any significant extent. Instead, as a young man, he began writing satirical articles on society, the arts, and politics for local newspapers, the most well-known of which was called Salmagundi. His models for these literary efforts and, indeed, for much of his writing during the following decade, were the British satirists Laurence Sterne, Jonathan Swift, and Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, editors of the London journal The Spectator. After only a few years of this newspaper work, Irving, in 1809, under the nom de plume Diedrich (a pun that can be read as “died rich”) Knickerbocker, published his first book, A History of New York. It was a rollicking, irreverent, sardonic, highly amusing, but not meanspirited account of the development of the city, especially during the years it was administered by the Dutch as New Amsterdam. Its tone captured the mood of the intelligentsia and many other citizens of the brash new nation of the United States, and it became America’s first best seller, making Washington Irving famous and financially well off. 10


Soon thereafter, Irving embarked on the first of his many trips abroad, mostly to Europe. Included in these peregrinations was a visit of a week’s duration to another of his favorite authors, Sir Walter Scott, who had, in turn, developed an admiration for Irving’s writing, and helped him find publishers in England. Over the next fifteen years, Irving published several collections of fictional tales, which were as popular as his first book. The most famous of these was the first, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., that contained Irving’s two most iconic stories: “Rip Van Winkle”, the tale of a simple henpecked husband who goes for a walk, sometime before the American Revolution, in the woods near his Catskill home to escape his wife, and falls asleep in a copse, only to wake up about twenty years later to a world he barely recognizes; and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”, the account of a simple superstitious itinerant schoolteacher, Ichabod Crane, who is courting Katrina Van Tassel, the daughter of a wealthy merchant. One dark night, after a party at the Van Tassels, as Ichabod is riding home on his old stag, he is set upon by his rival for Katrina, one Brom Bones, who gallops by him in shrouds and appears to detach his head and throw it at Ichabod (in reality, of course, the head was a pumpkin). Ichabod is so frightened that not only does he abandon his pursuit of Katrina, but he runs away from his home and his school and is never seen again. Irving never married. In his early twenties, he reportedly fell in love with an eighteen-year-old woman who died shortly thereafter of tuberculosis. Irving idealized her and later claimed that he could never find another potential partner of equal beauty and innocence. Modern psychologists have other, less romantic, explanations for Irving’s lifelong bachelorhood. I find it interesting that wherever Irving traveled in Europe (London, Paris, Madrid, Amsterdam, Vienna), he repeatedly sought out American families living abroad in these cities, especially those headed by widows with young daughters, and then frequented their homes as a guest for meals and social events. After the publication of two more “sketch books” of tales, reviewers became less kindly disposed toward Irving’s writing; they criticized his last volume as repetitious and derivative. After 1827, he wrote only travel books, histories, and biographies. His Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus was hailed by critics on both sides of the Atlantic and was continually reprinted until 1900. One of his most popular books was Tales of the Alhambra. Irving visited this ruined moorish castle in Spain in 1827, and became so entranced with its beauty and history that he convinced its caretakers to rent him a small apartment on the grounds. During this time he continued his earlier study of Spanish and became fluent in it. In 1835 Irving bought a house on the eastern shore of the Hudson River in Tarrytown, an area he had loved since he had spent some vacations there as a child. He renovated and enlarged it and named it Sunnyside; it was his home for the rest of his life. Now it is a historic site, open to the public. He put up many members of his extended family there, most of whom he supported in the poverty that resulted from his brothers’ deaths. He actively continued writing and produced his many-volumed biography of George Washington, hailed as a masterpiece despite its overly hagiographic tone. He was active, also, in other public spheres, most prominently serving as charge d’affairs in his country’s London embassy for three years and as U.S. ambassador to Spain for four; in both positions he served with distinction. He was a close friend of John Jacob Astor, who appointed him the first chairman of the board of trustees of the new Astor Library, 11


predecessor of the New York Public Library. Irving died peacefully in 1859 of chronic kidney disease; he is buried in the Sleepy Hollow cemetery. Thus, a sketch of a good literary and public life. A charming print of Washington Irving, taking a stroll at Sunnyside with young members of his family, hangs on the north wall of Kendal’s Main Street, across from the cubbies, for your delectation. Norman J. Sissman

By Camper Through Norway’s Rugged Landscape In the spring of 2007, my childhood girlfriend Gunild, who lives in southern Germany, invited me to inaugurate her newly acquired VW camper on a trip to Norway, and I jumped at the opportunity. We had no predetermined itinerary but planned to hike as often as possible in the country’s pristine wilderness rather than to visit cities. Equipped with pots and pans, an electric stove, and a supply of groceries, wine, and beer (all very expensive in Norway) we set out on a June day traversing Germany to Denmark and camping along the way. After exploring the area around Skagen, a picturesque village in Jutland at the northern tip of Denmark that is frequented by painters, and splashing in the cold water where the Baltic and North Seas meet, we embarked on an over four-hour ferry ride to Kristiansand on Norway’s southern coast. We then drove west and north along the coastal highways. The mild climate in this area makes milk, cheese, potato, corn, rye, vegetable, and hay production possible. Typical redpainted, sod-covered farm houses stood on one side and rounded granite rocks, which look like beached whales, lined the shore on the other. Hundreds of archaeological sites dating to the great migration of the Gothic tribes into Europe (Iron Age) are found here. Soon the first fjords to be crossed by ferry or through tunnels, each up to two miles long, appeared. We were surprised that, with three exceptions during the three-week journey, supermarkets sold only frozen fish; red meat was available in great quantities. At a campground in Egersund we were grateful for a gift of fresh fish caught that morning by a German couple. All the campgrounds offered kitchen use (free), but showers, saunas, washers and dryers cost extra and the fees were relatively high. We turned inland at the town of Sandnes and crossed the large Høegsfjorden by ferry. Our destination was Preikestolen, the flat-topped “Pulpit Rock” that rises 1,800 feet from the fjord and can be reached only by a two-and-a-half-mile uphill hike. It’s a very popular tourist attraction, and sitting at its edge is a favorite photo op. Soon, while heading inland on one-lane roads along narrow fjords and lakes, the rain began. Ever more waterfalls cascaded down the almost vertical mountain sides, while clouds hung very low and snow-covered peaks were rarely visible; the landscape turned dark and somber. Instead of waiting for ferries we began to use tunnels; one day we passed through fifteen. Ascending one of the plateaus, we reached the tiny town of Røldal, where we could inspect, close up for the first time, the sod-covered roofs of houses and farm buildings sporting wildflowers, small evergreens, and birch trees – a natural cooling and insulation method. The entire interior of a small 13th-century wooden stave church was covered by murals of flowers and plants. 12


We had planned some serious hiking in Hardangervidda National Park, a huge mountain plateau covered by tundra, moors, and lakes, but we had not expected the entire region to be still under snow in June. However, we were able to hike to the Buarbreen, a tongue of the Folgefonna, Norway’s third largest glacier. On a sunny (surprise!) day, we hiked into a narrow valley, near Odda, along wild water and through a birch forest until we reached the tree line, where the rockscrambling part began. Unfortunately, melt water cascading from several directions made it impossible to reach the glacier’s edge. The Hardanger region is known as Norway’s orchard, as the mild climate along the fjords, despite the brief growing season, facilitates strawberry, apple, and cherry growing; short, espaliered fruit trees are planted in steep rows like vineyards. The return of poor weather made Gunild decide to pay a quick visit to a distant relative in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, on its western coast. In the city we explored the inner harbor with its old wooden trading buildings and warehouses that constitute Bryggen, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and even found a bustling open-air fish market. That night, fireworks, and loud celebrations of the solstice by mostly drunken people kept us awake until the early morning hours. From Bergen we headed northeast toward Jotunheimen National Park. In the town of Voss, a statue of a man holding a football caught my attention; it was Knute Rockne, the famous football coach of Notre Dame University, who was born in Voss. Passing roaring waterfalls and through more tunnels, we reached the Lærdaltunnel, at over fifteen miles the world’s longest road tunnel; it took much concentration not to succumb to claustrophobia. Despite rain-soaked campgrounds, low-hanging clouds and dense fog at the end of the tunnel, we still hoped for a chance to hike, and we ascended the steep, winding Sognefjell road to Norway’s highest mountain pass. At its 4,200 foot elevation, the sun broke through the clouds, and snow fields, glaciers, and distant snow-covered mountains came into view. The snow had become soft in the sun and as we couldn’t estimate its depth, we resumed our journey dejectedly and continued to the next campground at Lom, the northernmost point of the trip. The Lom stave church, first recorded in 1270 but believed to be older, is always teeming with international visitors, so we took only photos of the outside and the old graveyard. We then decided to end our trip earlier than planned and ascended to the eastern flank of Jotunheimen, where a reindeer herd could be seen crossing a snow field at one point. That made our day! The landscape changed quickly to small villages, farms, and forests. In the impressive stave church in Gol and its small museum of Viking mythology, we were fascinated by the intricate wooden construction, carved floral decoration Stave Church in Heddal, Norway reminiscent of Celtic designs, and depictions of serpents or dragons biting their tails. Farther south, we visited Norway’s largest stave church in Heddal with its magnificent pagoda-like roof, turrets, and gargoyles. 13


Our point of departure for the return ferry to Denmark was Larvik. The Oddane campground southwest of Larvik turned out to be a parking lot-like spread of more than 400 sites, almost all occupied by permanently installed RVs with fully furnished add-on living rooms, flowerbeds, and statuary, and equipped with restaurants and nightly entertainment – not to our liking. The next morning we bought freshly caught fish in a picturesque village and fresh vegetables at a farm stand. The coastal weather was clear, and the sun didn’t dip below the horizon until 11 p.m. Thus ended our tour on an enjoyable note, even if all of our goals had not been accomplished. We had circled almost all of southern Norway.

Ursula Hahn

Flying to Victory I think it is safe to say that, for our generation, the signal historical event of our youth (in addition to the Great Depression) was the Second World War. Of course, we were involved in it personally to varying degrees; obviously, those who served in the Armed Forces in combat were affected most deeply. A significant number of past and present Kendal residents saw service, and we have featured many articles about them. One of the latest to arrive here is Bill Lyons, and it was a special pleasure to interview Bill about his experiences. As we started our talk, I became impressed with the completeness of Bill’s recall of the details of his time in the Air Force, and the array of supporting documents and photographs that he has collected. Many details have been published elsewhere, notably in a long article on a particularly dangerous air raid over Germany in November 1944 in which Bill barely escaped with his life but succeeded in downing an enemy Messerschmitt 109; it was published in the March 2013 issue of Aviation History. Motivated by patriotism, and later by a desire to avenge the death of a favorite older cousin, Major Sylvan Feld, who had been killed in France after a distinguished Air Force career, Bill had to wait until he was eighteen years old, after graduating from high school at seventeen, to enlist in the Air Force. In response to my questions, he described in detail the four flight training schools, located in four southern states, each about two months in duration and each devoted to flying increasingly powerful and faster planes, through which he progressed. Cadet classes lost significant numbers of students through failure to meet ever more demanding requirements, or because of training accidents. Finally Bill became one of only three percent of his class to graduate 14


as fighter pilots; the rest became bomber pilots, or if they “washed out,” navigators, bombardiers, or gunners on bombers. He was then assigned to a small base in an English town called Steeple Morden, near Cambridge. From there, as a member of the 355th Fighter Group of the 357th Squadron of the Eighth U.S. Air Force, he flew missions over Germany, as escort protection for B-17 and B-24 bombers. He flew a single-pilot single-engine P-51 Mustang; it had three machine guns on each wing, which fired forward. To hit your target, you had to aim your plane. When he got his own plane he had its name painted on the fusilage, Tiger’s Revenge, using his nickname among his buddies and expressing his desire to honor his deceased cousin. During our talk, I learned about many aspects of these raids, both factual and relating to the emotional reactions of Bill and his colleagues to events. Here are some, in no particular order: a) American bombing raids often involved over a thousand bombers in a fifty- to a hundred-mile long formation, and between three hundred and five hundred accompanying fighter planes to defend them. b) The fighter pilots all operated under the orders of the force commander, General Jimmy Doolittle, to “ATTACK ON SIGHT.” In other words, don’t wait until the bombers are threatened – take the offensive immediately on contact, no matter the enemy’s number. This strategy worked, with a reduction in the numbers of bombers downed. c) Aerial dogfights involved speeds of four hundred to seven hundred miles an hour and violent maneuvers. Split-second decisions were crucial to survival. It wasn’t like the movies; there was chaos, and battles were over in minutes, even seconds. Each P-51 had ammunition for about twenty seconds of firepower. There was no time for orders, no combat planning; all was improvisation. There were no do-overs; you had one chance. d) The sense of comaraderie among fighter pilot groups was deep, and protecting your buddies was paramount, as well as defending the bombers. e) The mortality rates among bomber crews and fighter pilots were 20 percent and 35 percent, respectively. f) Emotional reactions to killing enemy pilots were complex, especially when the actual sight of your enemy became clear, and remained forever (e.g., when he was trying to escape from his damaged plane or when you saw him being torn apart by machine gun fire). g) Reactions to the loss of one’s friends and colleagues, some of whom were witnessed bailing out of their damaged planes with parachutes that failed to open, had to be, of necessity, muted, and expressions of grief brief, in order to do one’s duty in the greater cause of prevailing over the enemy. g) Of special interest to me, Bill, as well as his fellow pilots, often masked details of their combat experiences in letters home to their families. For example, after a particularly difficult and dangerous raid over the oil refinery city of Misburg, Germany, Bill wrote his mother that he had spent the day in London sightseeing. She, in turn, never wrote to him that she had started working in a defense factory at a nearby Brooklyn army base, and that she had read his name, with a description of his exploits, in a New York Times article about the Misberg raid! h) Finally, Bill has always been somewhat uncomfortable with the relative luxury of his unit’s living quarters compared with the daily life of the allied ground forces fighting their way through mud and cold across France and Germany. The officers’ quarters included a servant to make up the beds with fresh linen, excellent food services, and a well-stocked officers’ club that invited local women to attend weekend social events. The offset, of course, was the high risk of death, injury, or capture during the air raids. Bill completed sixty-three combat missions for a total of over three hundred hours. He had downed three enemy planes and participated in many strafing attacks. He had experienced several very close calls. His awards were the Distinuished Flying Cross, the French Legion of Honor, the 15


Air Medal with eight Oak Leaf Clusters, and Two Presidential Unit Citations. By the end of his tour, the European war was over, and he returned home for a month’s leave. After that he was given the option of a discharge or reassignment to the Japanese theater. As his father had died during his absence and he felt the need to take advatage of the G.I. Bill and become an earner for his family, he resigned and began his college education at MIT, followed by a career in business. He became active as president and director, for a time, of the 355th Fighter Group Association, which held annual get-togethers. By now, only two members of this group survive. The latest of many events in his honor was in June of this year, when Bill and his wife, Carol, were fêted at a Brooklyn Air Force base. The ceremony included many dignitaries, including a congressman, who inserted Bill’s name and his squadron’s record into the Congressional Record, and the British Embassy Air Attaché. His very own fighter plane, refurbished with its wartime squadron colors and a second seat behind the pilot’s, was brought to the occasion. The high spot was Carol being given a ride in the plane, including a surprise barrel roll! A history well worth celebrating! Norman J. Sissman

Kendal View Staff Editor Norman J. Sissman Managing Editor Pat Taylor Editor Emerita Joan Oltman Editorial Staff Gloria Cooper, Eugene DuBow, Doris L. Eder, Muriel Fox, Edith Litt, Deborah O’Keefe, Sue Phillips, Bill Smethurst Photography Editors Horst Berger, Arthur Brady, Caroline Persell Advertising and Billing Norman J. Sissman

Kendal View is published by The Residents Association of Kendal on Hudson, a nonprofit organization in compliance with IRS regulations under 501 (c) (3). It is printed by Accel Printing & Graphics, 128 Radio Circle, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549.

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Kendal View September-October 2018  

The bimonthly journal published by residents of Kendal on Hudson.

Kendal View September-October 2018  

The bimonthly journal published by residents of Kendal on Hudson.

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