Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Bucky

My uncle, Arthur D. Bachner, “Bucky”, died this week and the funeral is today. He was two days past his 97th birthday. 


Despite his age, it seems he suffered no known long-term illness besides being old. But he woke up, complained of stomach pain and perhaps had a stroke. Who knows?  A short while after, despite emergency medical attention, overseen by my cousin, quite a qualified nurse, he passed away. My condolences to Sindy and my other cousin, Evan, his life-partner Ed, their children, Daniella, Michael and Rebecca and their children’s children.

Bucky was married to my dearest Aunt Selma, my mother’s youngest sister, 


of the Nadel-Steckler family and their love story made it into the New York Times. I even was part of it, the 'toddler':

“And so her brother-in-law talked privately with Arthur. Then he asked Selma to babysit at his apartment while he and her sister went to the movies. She was reading on their couch, her toddler nephew fast asleep, when the bell rang. “I didn’t say ‘Who is it?’ or anything,” she said. “At the time, you just opened up the door. And Bucky was standing there.” “She had a smile on her face, and I knew that I had a chance,” he said. Six months later, they were married.”

Bucky was special in many ways. He and Selma were the ones responsible for treating me on my early birthdays. The Statue of Liberty, museums, NY Public Library. New York culture. 


One of my very first life lessons I learned from him.

Walking all the way up the Statue of Liberty he was behind me but going down, he was in front. I may have been 6 or 7 but I didn’t get the change of order. He explained that going up, if I tripped, I would fall backwards and he would be there to prevent any injury. And if I tripped descending, again, being in front, he would be there. One always needs someone to be there even if not doing anything or if anything is at that moment wrong. And now he isn’t there.

He was in the Marines* and fought in the South Pacific. 


He was in the refrigerator business and to me, he was strong and powerful. And he could prove it. 

At my Bar Mitzva, he was given the honor of raising up the Torah scroll (hagb'a) after the weekly portion had been read. It was a heavy scroll, big and with the old-fashioned wood rollers (etz chaim). As those who know, to lift it, one drops the bottom portion over the edge of the table (bima) a bit, and then one employs leverage by slowly raising it up and then, when you feel you control the balance of it, raising it up. Bucky walked up, grabbed the handles and just lifted the Torah scroll straight up, stiff-armed.

My childhood is, to my chagrin, a longways back, but I still have a vivid memory and good retention, if not perfect, and the news of his death revives so much: of the West Bronx (when I was born, it was almost 50% Jewish), until I was 7 and then later Queens where we already were, when they moved to Corona. He was funny. Quite funny. He could write backwards and I needed a mirror to read it. He did the NYTimes crossword puzzle with a pen.

He smoked, early on, a pipe (which he one let me hold while he took a dip in the sea at the Rockaways and which drew stares from people wondering why a youngster was nonchalantaly holding a pipe) and last November had a cigar.


After my cousins followed me into Betar, he and Selma provided a support group at marches, demos, overnight vigils (showing up around midnight to make sure we were okay and to supply all with hot drinks and munchies on a Manhattan sidewalk). And at Camp Betar in the Catskills. Bucky was unabashedly liberal and, perhaps, the only argument we had was over FDR. We, shall we say, discussed the Rosenbergs, too. But he was always reading and learning. I am sure reducing his library when they moved out of their New Jersey home was a painful task. Once, I, my father and Bucky were on the same couch and reading different sections of the Sunday New York Times. My aunt said to her sister, my mother, ‘the house would burn down and they wouldn’t move’.

A lot of the previous generation is gone. In fact, Bucky was the last survivor in my family of that generation. No more grandparents; no more uncles and aunts.


I last saw him end of 2019, November. 


And here we are during his 2010 trip to Israel:


My cousins took care of him well.


I could, and maybe, I should go on, but I have to get ready for the Zoom of his funeral service.




אברם דוד בן שעיה נפתלי וחיה הלוי
___________

* and they had an honor contingent at his funeral:



^



4 comments:

Unknown said...

Moving and every bit true. He was that and more. I will love him till the day i die.

David Framowitz said...

Condolences to the entire family.

goyisherebbe said...

It is always a privilege to have met a really amazing person, so much more to actually have had him in your family. May his memory be blessed, and may you be blessed by the memory of him.

Yehoshua Friedman

ROBERT DAMAST said...

Bucky and Selma were 2 of my father's favorite, albeit younger, cousins. I have only fond memories of them growing up seeing them several times a year at Bnei Isaac Family Circle meetings/picnics/holiday celebrations.
Meen Hashamayim Tenachamu.