Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Fine Memory!

The universality of remembrances of Marty as incredibly positive, funny, giving and joyful continued Monday night in a memorial service celebrating "not how he died, but how he LIVED!" My impressions of this stirring event:

Wow, wasn’t that great! Touching speeches. Margaret Marsh unable to hold back the tears. Marty Rosenberg speaking eloquently and remembering Marty as a Mensch. Jerry Jerome drawing an analogy between St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and Marty- the architect Christopher Wren’s monument is "all around you", as Marty’s was all around us, the 200+ people in Gordon Theater. Julianna Baird singing Ave Maria auf Deutsch, Marty’s best foreign language. Proclaiming that on a night honoring Marty, we cannot be still. His dear friend Joe Schiavo recounting their long history with humor and warmth- laughingly, at finding out that Marty was actually older than he; recounting Marty’s vanity; and recalling his wonderful relationship with so many people. Bob Ryan, an English professor with dysphonia (a neurological condition that causes strained, difficult speech), describing Marty’s coaching of him as so full of joy and laughter. Kyle Jacobowski, former student, speaking for the theater program and all Marty gave to it. Performing on behalf of the students, Melissa Tepperman and Mat Wright delivering a beautiful rendition of "For Good" from the Broadway musical Wicked. Nancy Ellis, Theater Instructor, connecting us to Marty through Shakespearean sonnet. Christina DeSanzo, his delightful Italian Instructor speaking ordinary prose so poetically in describing Marty. When complimented on her eloquence, giving Marty all the credit- the words came out like that because that was Marty’s life! Reciting the lyrics of an aria in its original Italian and then in English. The Rutgers-Camden Repertory Singers with a soulful rendition of “Forever Young” which finished with a backdrop of Marty performing, his recorded aria putting the finishing notes on the memorial service. Just as he finished his life performing, up in Vermont.

Then off to the reception and the opportunity to meet and get to know some of his many friends, his family. Joe Schiavo, his best friend. Jon’a Meyer, creator of the memorial website, born deaf, healed through an operation, who had been studying with Marty. Margaret, the minister from the Grace Lutheran Church on 4th and State in Camden, for whom Marty played organ, with her ever-smiling son Josef. His friend Rebecca Broberg, who inadvertently introduced him to Robert Kahn’s work by connecting Marty with David Greiner, Kahn's great-grandson, for their performances in Tutzing, Germany. Marty’s charming parents Sidney and Edna Dillow, both of whom welcomed me to stop by any time I was near Portsmouth. His sister Shauna Travis, who expressed repeatedly how nice it was to meet me, and all of us; brothers Steve, who expressed how even he, a football player with little interest in the arts, grew to love Marty’s work, and Micky, who was so happy for the gift this memorial was to his parents. All so warm, appreciative, joyful to celebrate his life as we were.

Even while commemorating such a life, one gropes for explanations: clever, profound, compassionate, timely words with which to sum up the cutting short. Casting about for such words, I said many things to many people that night. My favorite was to Camie Morrison, who manages the grant programs at Rutgers and had spent much time seeking money for Marty's applications. We wondered: he was so successful in his career--why now, when his success was about to take a quantum leap, had he been taken from us? I decided it was to bring all of us together to share the inspiration his life has been, and to renew the fires and passions in all of us to create art, to enjoy it, to live it! To live life artfully, as Marty did. To find, in all of us, the “art in yourself”, as Stanislavsky described it, and to let it shine.

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