A Tribute To My Friend
In health, Ronny was a healer. He was sharp with the commanding presence of a physician who could calm his patients’ involuntary movements.
His illness began with the tremors that moved throughout his body like a violent storm, his limbs chaotically thrown into the wind and back again. It took his voice, making his speech slow and words slurred, eventually becoming barely audible.
He knew Parkinson’s disease well. It was an enemy for years, but it afforded him a career and a chance to temporarily ease the unwanted movements in his patients. Now, he was one of them.
Ronny was one of the earliest investigators to study L-DOPA for the treatment of this disease, never thinking that one day he would be taking the drug himself.
Some time ago on a visit to Ronny at Gurwin Nursing Home, my wife Ellen & I, found him in the recreation room resting in a wheel chair. His was happy seeing us there. We reminisced, capturing moments at the hospitals where he once worked. For a while he enjoyed remembering those days, but soon he drifted off, gazing at a flowering magnolia tree in the distance through the large window on a sunny afternoon. I
blathered away about the good old days, when we played competitive tennis, Ron winning the championship at Good Sam Hospital’s first tennis tournament in 1976. I talked about how we danced the night away at the yearly Good Sam Ball, and lived it up at his daughter’s wedding in the Berkshire Mountains. I reminded him of all his passions — concerts at Carnegie Hall, nights at the opera and the Tanglewood Music Festival.
His eyes lit up as I recounted the stories he shared with me “a taste of paradise” — naturally the Hamptons— lush farmland, picturesque vineyards, regattas against the wind and high waves; cruising to Montauk Point as the sun sets, luxuriating at the Westhampton Bath & Tennis Club, and Gurneys Inn; regaling at Star Boggs, The Palm, Andrea & Fred Terry’s place, also known as “LUNCH” for Lobster Rolls, and other restaurants along the strip of Montauk Highway and the ocean front.
Suddenly, we heard a piano in the room and turned to see a frail old woman dancing her fingers across the keys. “Dancin’ in the rain—“.
“Ellen, did I ever tell you that Ronny is a pianist and even composed music?”
“No, you never mentioned it to me. That’s great Ronny. You are a man of many talents besides being an accomplished physician,” she offered.
He lifted his head so his eyes reached mine. He held his gaze as I assured him —“It might be possible to beat this thing.” We both knew better. All he was hoping for then, he said, was the strength to get out of there and have steak.
I hope that wherever you are now, Ronny, you will have all the steak you could want!
He was not only a good friend of mine but also a tennis partner— a formidable opponent across the net fighting for each and every point, once week, for nearly thirty years. He had a unique way of calling the lines. If the ball missed the line, he would shout ” negative,” so I named him a Beethoven- Einstein.
Like in tennis, he didn’t yield to the debilitating illness— the storm —that was after his freedom, body and soul, instead battled courageously for more than twenty years.
In illness, he struggled with forming words and hated to be dependent on others for routing daily tasks. Although he lost strength in his body, tremors became uncontrollable, gait turned unsteady, his mind, however, remained razor sharp unlike most other patients with the same malady.
Only a month ago, Ronny called me to find out if I knew anything about some condominiums going up in Farmingdale area suitable for seniors. He expressed interest in it as a real estate investment or a place to move from his Oak Beach home.
Like all the fine things he loved in life, he cherished sun and fun on the court. So I say to him, buddy, “I will bring the tennis racquets; you provide the balls! Just make sure the tennis court comes with your new suite, wherever that will be — your ashes floating on the water of Long Island Sound or landing on the mountain top! Will have St. Peter call the lines!”
We will miss you and remember you always as a dear friend, a colleague — an astute clinician — who provided his patients, hope and healing.