…and former NY Mayor Ed Koch is dead of heart failure at 88.
He was mayor from ’78 to ’89. The adjectives that quickly come to my mind—and probably to everybody’s mind—when thinking of him are colorful, flamboyant, outspoken. He was a special kind of character that New York City seems to specialize in.
The following is just about what you’d expect of Koch, isn’t it?:
Koch was born in the Bronx on Dec. 12, 1924, the second of three children of Polish immigrants Louis and Joyce Koch. During the Depression the family lived in Newark, NJ.
The future mayor worked his way through school, checking hats, working behind a delicatessen counter and selling shoes. He attended City College and served as a combat infantryman in Europe during World War II, earning his sergeant stripes.
I hadn’t known this, either:
While mayor, he wrote three books including the best-seller “Mayor,” ”Politics” and “His Eminence and Hizzoner,” written with Cardinal John O’Connor. He wrote seven other nonfiction books, four mystery novels and three children’s books after leaving office.
Politics? Well, of course, he was a liberal. That almost goes without saying, and there’s not much I can say about that except I came to disagree with him (strongly). His terms, especially in the latter years, were beset by some problems, and New Yorkers finally (as he himself noted) got tired of him.
But this is the kind of New Yorker he was:
At age 83, Koch paid $20,000 for a burial plot at Trinity Church Cemetery, at the time the only graveyard in Manhattan that still had space.
“I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone,” Koch told The Associated Press. “This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.”
And this was the kind of Jew he was, and what kind of American:
Not long after buying the plot, he had his tombstone inscribed and installed. The marker features the last words of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”
It also includes a Jewish prayer and the epitaph he wrote after his stroke:
“He was fiercely proud of his Jewish faith. He fiercely defended the City of New York, and he fiercely loved its people. Above all, he loved his country, the United States of America, in whose armed forces he served in World War II.”