Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

January 25, 2010


What better way to resume my neglected blogging than by celebrating friendship, a very special friendship! Ralph and Rose Hittman requested that I conduct a renewal of their wedding vows at an anniversary celebration. Unusual? Yes. Ralph and Rose are Jewish! The anniversary is their seventieth, Seven oh! Unusual, indeed!

I had cautioned Ralph and Rose when they made the request. Your family and probably most of your friends are Jewish. What will they think? A chap with a Roman collar conducting the ceremony! Not to worry, Ralph replied. That's the way Rose and I want it - by you, a friend of over fifty years! So a couple of Saturdays ago, roughly a hundred or so guests gathered at Xavier's, an upscale restaurant in the renovated old Hudson River Dayline pier in Yonkers. Ralph welcomed me: "What are you doing here? This is a Jewish affair!" A festive reception and lunch preceded the ceremony. Both responded briskly, "I do." Ralph at 90; Rose, with her grandmotherly Jewish accent, 89. The original blessing of the ring was recalled; the cup of wine, shared. My homily was eclipsed by Ralph's eloquence. He is a master architect of the spoken and the written word!

Back in the early sixties, I was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Boys Brotherhood Republic, founded by Ralph. The BBR was a center for athletics and education about democratic government. In the summer, it operated Camp Wabanake in the Bear Mountain region, the best looking camp in the area, spic and span with its fresh paint and flowery borders. I recall the youngsters coming down the hill for lunch, each one slapping Ralph's outstretched hands. Rose presided over the chef and kitchen. If a camper got sick, Rose was the Jewish mother with the chicken soup! As a Board member, friendships developed with my fellows. I recall an evening by the lake with Meyer Licht, a retired state judge, who acquainted me with the details of Moses Maimonides' different degees of charity. Back in the city, I encountered David Tagit at an urban affairs seminar. He looked at me in my civilian garb - suit and tie. "What's going on, Harry. You getting married?" No, David. I just like to blend in." "We don't want you to blend in. We want you to stand out!" Another Board member was Bernard Nussbaum, an attorney closely connected with President Clinton. Impressive Board, indeed!

Ralph advertised in Europe to enlist counselors for CampWabanake. Among those responding for the 1969 season was a young German, Gerhard Markov. He, now completing six years as conductor of the Symphany Orchestre of Ireland, flew in from Frankfort with his wife to attend this celebration. He described, how on arrival at Wabanake, he became ill. Rose put him to bed, gave him tea, and shepherded him to a quick recovery.

Our long friendship saw Ralph and Rose in regular attendance at Sister Rebecca's annual musical productions by the students of the Epiphany
School. They showed their delight in the performances of these young people, who once on the stage, would never be the same again, comparable to the way the boys of BBR and Wabenake would never be the same after their experience of the love and care of Ralph and Rose. I have been blessed by my friendship with this extraordinary couple and by what I have learned from their wise words and their dedication to the young. Amen! Alleluia!