You Can’t Take It With You

Patty Andrews  1918 to Wednesday
Ms. Andrews was 14 when she began singing with her sisters.  21 years, 75 million records, one Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B later, she entered the pantheon of great American entertainers.

My Norovirus 2013 to last Tuesday
Forgive my internet absence last week.  I found myself ill with that dreaded Norovirus that came all the way from Australia just to render me and my housemate Tim prostrate.  This microscopic inorganic particle leave behind a week without You Can’t Take It With You.

J. Richard Hackman 1940 to three weeks ago Tuesday
Hackman was not an engineer or pilot but did manage to make air travel much safer.  He was a psychologist and his study of group dynamics in cockpits led to airlines improving their policies for “crew resource management”–including empowering the co-pilot to let deference go and correct a pilot when he makes an error that endangers the airplane (as Malcolm Gladwell points out in his clumsy but oh-so-interesting essay, Outliers).  He leaves behind innumerable airplane crashes that didn’t happen.

Hadiya Pendleton 1997 to Tuesday
It is hard to write this.  Hadiya Pendleton died Tuesday in Chicago.  After an early dismissal from school, she had been in a local park where she was shot.  She leaves behind his little brother: “It’s very painful to see your big sister get slaughtered,” the soft-spoken boy said, tearing up as he went through photos of Hadiya on his phone.

Dave Purchase 1939 to last Monday
“With a borrowed television tray and a folding chair that he set up on a downtown street steps away from a heroin den, Mr. Purchase began handing out syringes, bottles of bleach, cotton swabs [cookies], and condoms in the summer of 1988.”  It was the country’s first needle exchange.  Purchase never saw himself as a crusader, just as a guy who wanted to stop the spread of HIV-AIDS.  He explained what he did thus:  “You give me an old one, I give you a sterile one, and it keeps your butt alive.”  When asking for money from the state legislature, he simply noted that by withholding funds, “You’re letting people die.”  He leaves behind his needle exchange which became the model for 196 others in the States that together trade more than 36 million syringes each year.

Larry Selman 1942 to Sunday
Over 40 years of asking passersby for one or two dollars, Mr. Selman–known as The Collector of Bedford Street–raised more than $300,000 for charity.  Not too shabby for a guy with a 10th grade education.  He left school at 16 when forward progress became tough.  He had an IQ of 62.  Still, he was determined to live independently and, for the most part, did successfully.  Certainly his philanthropic career is noteworthy–so much so that he was invited to Qatar by the royal family as a guest of honor at an opening of a national center for disabilities.  He leaves behind friendships with the dozens of people he would daily ask for a dollar.

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Banner photo by Mark Voorendt via WikiCommons.