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George Soter RIP
GEORGE SOTER, 84, husband of Effie; father of Nick, Tom, and Peter; father-in-law of Dora and Amelia; grandfather of Eva, Zoe, Xanthe, and Helena; and friend and mentor to countless others; said goodbye to the “whole catastrophe” and died peacefully on January 8. George was an award-winning advertising copywriter and creative director at most of the major agencies in the 1950s through the 1980s, and from 1963 to 1986 ran the Greek Island boutique at Amster Yard on East 49th Street, part of his lifelong love for all things Greek. Adios, Yiorgo.
FROM THE FAMILY
On January 8, 2009, at 8:20 p.m. New York time, George Soter died peacefully at his home after a year-long battle with lung cancer. Although bedridden for a month, his humor and cheerful smile were with him throughout, as he played the good host to well-wishers who had come to see him and say goodbye. A little over a week before he died, he joined friends and family in a rendition of the song with which he used to sing his children to sleep, "I Get No Kick from Champagne.''
Although he felt fairly well at the beginning of the week, on Thursday, January 8, he became non-communicative, except to refuse food and water, which the nurse identified as a sign of the beginning of the end. "He's tired of this great experiment," she said, referring to his life. Tom and Peter, two of his three sons, were with him when he died. Nick and Dora, his eldest son and his daughter-in-law, were flying in from San Francisco at the time of his death, arriving at 9:30 p.m.
Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers over the last few months. George loved your letters, visits, phone calls, and conversation, and even insisted on having a sign-in book so he could have a record of those who had called. He was peaceful and content while moving on, did not seem to suffer, and enjoyed many good moments with family and friends all the way to the end. There are plans for a memorial service and party (George always loved a party) on Sunday, March 8, at George's apartment (further information will be posted on this site). He took great pride in showing off his "last hurrah" (as he called his masterful redesign of a small basement space), and it was among his final wishes that people see it, have a good time, and celebrate his life rather than mourn his passing. While we cannot help but note his absence, we can certainly remember him with humor, joy, and much love.
Indeed, all who knew him will never forget him, as evidenced by the many lovely reminiscences below. For an epitaph, we quote the Greek poem, "Ithaka," by Constantine Cavafy, George's favorite poet. The final lines are especially apt, as they accurately describe this remarkable man's view of life: "Don't hurry the journey at all. Better if it goes on for years/so you're old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you've gained on the way,/not expecting Ithaka to make you rich./ Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you wouldn't have set out. She hasn't anything else to give./ And if you find her poor, Ithaka won't have fooled you. Wise as you'll have become, and so experienced, you'll have Understood by then what an Ithaka means."
But there is also a quote that is equally appropriate, Marlene Dietrich's famous, brief comment at the conclusion of Touch of Evil: "What does it matter what you say about people? He was some kind of man."
MEMORIES OF GEORGE
Pianist, Sunday Night Improv
What a wonderful man he was!!!
I thought George was about the coolest dad a guy could have, and the way he was there for his son at every one of his improv shows, and the easygoing, respectful nature the two of you shared, was a bit of a role model for my own being a dad. I liked and respected George immensely.
Ad Director, Habitat
George was a good man and it was my pleasure and honor to have made his acquaintance. He lived a full life.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
I am very sorry to hear of the passing of George. He was a kind, gentle, inspired and giving man with wit and intelligence. I will remember his devotion to his family and his smiling face at every Sunday Night Improv show (whether he felt it or not). He always had a kind word of encouragement for me, and that meant a lot. Your care of him at the end of his life was a real labor of love. It was a testament to how he raised you. I remember the last time I saw him, at home in his bed with his family in the next room enjoying a meal. It was as the old cliché from The Lion King says, the circle of life completing itself. As Tom Carozza says, he was a father to us all, or the father we would have picked for ourselves if we could.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
I was very saddened to hear that George had passed last evening. He was such a bright light in this world. Inquisitive, engaged and so very supportive. It was a pleasure to do the Jam and to have him toss out fantastic suggestions and then give his notes and thoughts after each show. And sharing a bite or a drink with him afterward was even more fun. He loved a good laugh like he loved a good scotch. A true gentleman to his fingertips. My wife Jennifer and I were honored to get to visit him one last time on Christmas Eve. We were there to share champagne and oysters at his bedside. We also shared jokes and stories when he wasn't busy shamelessly flirting with Jen. (I wouldn't have had it any other way) We both want to thank the family for offering us the privilege to see him. You made us feel so welcome. While I'm glad he's out of pain I'm much more saddened that he is out of pleasure. My experience of George was that he enjoyed so many of life's delicacies and delights. He had an artist's eye, a poet's soul and a fabulous sense of humor. Doing the Jam will never be the same without his presence.
Improviser, Chicago City Limits
Paul and I are so sorry to hear about your dad's passing. He was a lovely, funny, handsome, appreciative gentleman, and we will remember him with great warmth. We know how difficult a time this is, and hope that you will find comfort in the circle of your family, your friends, and your memories.
Carl Kissin,Improviser, N.Y. Improv Squad
Your Dad may be gone, but when I speak loudly, he can still hear me. [A reference to his inability to hear anyone at a bedside visit except for Carl, who had to interpret for others with less sonorous voices.] Hope that isn't too inappropriate -- I thought it might give you a laugh on this sad day. Your Dad was a wonderful man and I will miss him.
George attended a comedy show called Sunday Night Improv -- produced by his son Tom -- every week for nearly a decade. That he was so devoted to his son's passion made him in my eyes a great father. As an occasional participant in the show, I often think I was there just to make George laugh. He was like a comedy muse, reveling in the wit of others and supplying a hearty supply of his own. How can you not love a man like that? I know I did.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
Every moment I spent with your father was a pleasure, including our final visit. He will be sorely missed.
I can't tell you how shitty the news of George's passing isto me. I know there is and can never be another man like George. He was one hell of a guy! Super generous,talented,gifted, kind,loving....I could just go on and on...AND I know everyone would agree with me...There will never be such a wonderful guy as your dad--hands down. George was the glue that put us all together...whether it was his endlesly funny entertaining stories to his funny antics (lighting the newspaper on fire at the kitchen table or throwing the spaghetti at the wall) to his adverting agency creativity writing and presenting skills to make products sing to his endless gregarious nature tohis talent fpor making all feel comfortable at family functions to standing up for me as best man at my first wedding to...I aint shitting you I could go on and on...It just blows me away how much he meant to me and others..He took me in years ago and treated me as a 4th son...The 2nd day I was in NYC and he helped comfort me from my robbery in Riverside park across from 404 by just telling me it would be ok...he just had this way...the George Soterriffic way, that let you know..you are welcome here...break bread, drink, eat...it will all be good..endless enthusiasm, possitivity and creative wackiness...not to mention shear brilliance and book smarts...movies he knew actors he remembered---and his eye...
Artistic eye...unreal talent for decorating and collecting beautiful artifacts and plants..boy, I know, I watered those plants,20it took a good hour to get them all,.....what a guy,an uncle, adad,..a freind......I'm sooo, soo sad..but very glad that you've chosen to celebrate his life in a party and not in a wake or a funeral...I don't think that was George...The way he would want us to remember him...He simply was the most possitive kind man I ever met...I'm so sorry to see him go. George Soteriffic! One Stylish guy! Fella! Right Effie? What a good,boy...fella...I'm sorry....really. If I can come over and share stories with you it would be great...Let me know what's a good time...good night...He's in a better place, I'm sure---Here's a Scotch on the rocks to George!! my favorite...everyones fave..I love you all....sorry...didn't mean to blather on...
Words...What are words when describing a man and his life? Do words make a man? or are they worth any more than the paper they are written on? Words, in the hands of the right man, The Write Man,George Soter,made all the difference. George's words spoke to you. Georges acrtions spoke even louder.He was a man of all means.Words and actions. Words cannot describe this man we all know as Yorgos Soteropolis. The saint George of Dragon slayers..,..Indeed Georges words were mightier than the sword. His actions spoke volumes on how to live our lives to the fullest extent. George not only imagined a better world he set out in his actions to help change it. He was a man ahead of the bell curve,a man who was the bell curve..he set the example on how we live life to the fullest.
Don't ever feel sorry for Georges dying.He celebrated Zoe,..the word Life,in Greek..He embodied it. He embraced it. He lead the way. The center,The Nucleus,the One who was inclussive to all around him. His genorosity extended to all he met. He exuded possitive energy to all. George was my Uncle, not to claim, but to learn from. He was for all. An equal opportunity friend,pal, feelos,guy...Uncle...My uncle..My Theos Yorgos...unofficial title...but literal title...He was known as George to all..He was bigger than life.to me he was So Terriffic...Soteriffic! ll There will never be another like him. We were all very fortunate to has been surrounded by Georges inspiration,kindness, knowledge of all things,laffter, humour..We are all a part of him. George goes on and on even in his name, Geor...ge orgeorgeorge...never ending infinite name...never really leaves us..George is cosmic,,..in the Cosmos! He spreadshis genorosity to the universe.His words live on in us all. Atoast to my super uncle,slayer of life!Right on,Write on,George!!He was a man beyond words..in other words..."Out Of This world!"..I am inspired by George everyday as a rare example of how to live life...A role model..mentor, hero..I love you all...Live it the way George did...A Party every day! love Tom Hart,first cousin,Effies side,Billys son,Billy brother to Effie.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
Your father was a wonderful man, and it was my pleasure to know him.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
Your father was such a bright, positive person who always lit up the room – I honestly can't remember seeing him when he didn't have a smile on his face. I feel lucky to have basked a little bit in his sunny presence over the years.
He was one man I wish I knew young. Photos of him standing next to Effie on the streets of New York as a successful and brilliant ad man always intensified that wish. I looked forward to the times that he visited San Francisco so that I could drink scotch with him. I was lucky enough to share a few over the years along with some stories. Once you brought him to my parents house in Redwood City with the swimming pool and the view of the peninsula. He was delighted with such a place to entertain family. He requested coffee and my father who was no connoisseur produced a cup of hot water and Sanka. I remember his reaction and I recoiled with shame. I am sure he died peacefully, a man of the world and proud to have had three beautiful sons. Sad to see him go.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
I'm on a train to Edinburgh after a night flight to London - your dad has been much on my mind these past days, and I regret so much not being there to celebrate his life with others who loved him. So I wrote a poem to him, and I hope you don't mind my sharing it with you.
"On Hearing of the Death of George"
No, I thought, that's not right - death's not for you
for others, perhaps - casualties of war or famine, disease or accident
murder victims, the old, the newspaper headlines blaring up at us from sidewalk kiosks
the other day a worker was crushed by a crane
I tried to imagine his family, getting the news
of the singular and bizarre accident
no comfort there
I tried to imagine you
there, and then not there
but I couldn't make it stick
denial they say is the first step
you wind through the dark maze of your emotions, until you're finally ready to greet acceptance
like an old friend
oh, to hell with acceptance
death just isn't for you, and there's an end to it
I had gone through others - friends, family, dearly beloved all - my father's own death, for one
and yet, here my first thought was:
no, not for you
death seems to be for some people - sad, yes, but a natural passing
but not for you
you were not young, or well, but some people just aren't the dying kind
you turned the eating of chicken soup into a ritual, adding the lemon just so
your pleasure in showing us this trick was pure, like a child's joy on seeing a new red bicycle
if anything, the years had increased your capacity for delight
I imagine death sniffing around you as you stroll up Broadway,
hoping to deposit his evil stink,
then, discouraged, slinking away,his tail between his legs
realizing that you just weren't his type
the thought made me smile
Writer, Entertainment Weekly
The last time I saw George was a month or so ago in Roosevelt Hospital. From his bed, he graciously introduced me, Tom Soter, and Tom's cousin, Anemona Hartocollis, to a nurse by saying, "They're all writers." It made me think--hardly for the first time--that my becoming a writer was in large part due to George's influence. It was he who introduced Tom and me to the delights of Edgar Rice Burroughs when we were 5th graders, setting in motion a love of telling tales and working with words that still endures. In fact, for many more years than I could have imagined, I was able to make a (rather good) living as a professional writer. For that gift I say: Thank you, George.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
I just loved seeing his face in the audience whenever I did the Jam with you. It always made me feel so good to know that, if anything in life, I had a fan in George Soter. And I loved how his requests for me on "Can You Sing This?"...as if he was challenging me with songs he wanted to see me sing. Reggae Ethel Merman! Punk Rock Barbara Streisand! He was so great. And you could just tell how smokin' proud he was of you by his beaming face and presence. I was so happy to know him, happy to be in a show with someone like him out there rooting for all of us.
Val and Hugh de Quetteville
We were so sad to hear from Carol that George had died and we send our deep sympathy to you and all the family. George was - is - memorable for a remarkable and rare combination of qualities - charm, conviviality and wit, all rooted in a very strong character, a great perception and sympathy for the feelings and chracter of others and always that marvellous glow of warmth and affection. No wonder that we, like all his friends, feel lucky to have known him and that our memories of happy times stretching over more than 40 years - George dancing in Greece, visiting in New York, long lunches in Paris and in the garden here - are as fresh and golden as ever. But, if we were to need reminding, the photographs and tributes on your website bring him most vividly to life.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
Your Dad was always a great addition to any Jam, whether we played for one or 100. I don't know if I've ever seen a greater example of a father supporting his son in my life. He was always there, and could always been counted on making a great suggestion. Making him laugh was always a pleasure of mine (one I did not get to enjoy nearly as much as I would have liked, but that says a hell of a lot more about me than it does your father.) I know that the next time I do the Jam, your Dad will be there in spirit, fueling the suggestions of all the audience members.
Robert and Ann Cromey
Nick and Dora's landlords
We met George a number of times when he and Effie visited Nick and Dora, Eva and Zoe in San Francisco. We remember is warmth, friendliness and quiet dignity. His ready smile and warm manner let us feel his interest in us.
Joan Morse Gordon
Back in 1962? we Morses and the Soters shared a ship's voyage to Greece. What fun we had.
The Soter home was always my second, if not first, home while growing up. My memories are long and full of all the senses - of meals, cards, hide & seek, Greek Island, late night meals, conversation, pudding, and on and on...
George & Effie were the most generous & forgiving people I known. Generous in so many ways, especially in making everyone feel welcome. Forgiving in so many ways, especially in making everyone feel welcome. Yes, one and same and importantly, combined with a quality of wit and humor.
Many of us landed on the doorstep, the wooden kitchen table, and rooms of 404 Riverside Drive at various times of our lives. Some of us just needing a moment, a night or days rest passing through New York or a meal. And some of us passed through, at one of those times of our lives, when one needed a safe, warm and non-judgemental place to reset the emotional and physical clock. And, yes, the food was always good as Effie was famous for her many dishes.
Bastienne and I had the fortune of having a wedding party at 404 RSD. Everyone should be lucky to begin their marriage surrounded by the ambience of the Soter living rooms with abundant green leaves, floating turtles, plates giving you the history of the world, sofas with embroidered pillows, and of course, the marble card table with long memories of sets and runs.
There is so much more, the mind wavers. As a child growing up and fortunate enough to come of age in the midst of the family of Effie & George, I simply wanted to thank them for helping us all live in ways that well....have made us all better.
I will always remember George as an Angel in my life. Thank you! I pray that you are healthy and at peace now.
I still see George sitting around my pool reading some hugely cerebral book, talking politics and trying to decide what is an appropriate cocktail time! I loved and love you - George...I will see you again!
Blessings and peace to you, George. I always remember how gracious you were.
I will always remember George laughing while eating carpusi in the Mani.
We sat on his room balcony soaking in the sun - as he so loved to do - looking out over the Mediterranean. He would share quips and details of places we could go in our daily adventures over the many days we would spend together travelling with his son Nick, and his family in a van. How he enjoyed sharing his country, culture and food with us during our visit to Greece in September of 07. George made sure that we ate, breathed and danced like Greeks. "Calimera" we would exclaim as we passed people on the street. But be sure to keep up with him. He moved quickly! We had to go back to a museum alone, my husband Carlos and I, because George moved too quickly for us. He was an amazing man who gave us a true love of his country whether sitting with his cousins on their private porch eating grapes off the home vine, eating mezedes (appetizers) and drinking shots of ouzo, or sitting in a coffee shop in some remote town. Although many times we didn’t understand a word of the conversation, we felt very much a part of everything we did. George would make sure of it! I feel so fortunate to have been able to share that time with him. He will forever be in my heart. You will be sorely missed George!
I walked into George's store one day three years ago, and was immediately struck by the elegant, learned, engaging man who greeted me and who then took me on a "tour" of the various objects in the place: jewelry, fabrics, paintings, figurines. George brought things to life — those objects were surely alive with his love of art and travel. I was so inspired that I wrote a short piece on George and the shop for Columbia magazine. George and I then became lunch buddies — he was fond of Henry's on Broadway and 105th. We talked about books, movies, articles, politics. The man really knew something about how to live — a great gift that he so selflessly, so gracefully shared. Thank you, George!
Having known George since I was six years old I must say he was a fantastic influence on me, introducing me to living large in the New York celebrity scene, living small locally by connecting to ones simpler roots and combining art and commerce into a stylistic whole. I deeply appreciate his teachings, even if perhaps he didn't know he was doing any teaching. Safe journeys and keep the style high!
Good grief, George was simply larger-than-life. He had a great laugh, and that big smile; he was so smart, so handsome, so articulate; his expressive hands would gently hold a pair of worry beads or unhook a piece of silver that was casually - but perfectly - draped over the corner of a piece of furniture, and he’d turn it over, explaining its history, it purpose. He loved that apartment – the Garden Room WAS George. He loved his work, his books, Greece, Amster Yard - he loved to throw a party. And he really, really loved his boys. It was my great good fortune to grow up with Peter, and as Philippe has already said, George & Effie made a home that was a refuge for us, a motley crew of kids. They talked to us like we mattered, they accepted who we were, and they found some thread of worthiness in us all. Gracious, loving, kind, warm – watching George helped teach me how to really live life.
Dear George epitomized what we have always called the "Soter Spirit," with that bright twinkle in his eye! Please know how very much we admired him.
Pianist, Sunday Night Improv
Back when it was warm, in the past couple of years, I took a walk up to Grant's tomb. Heading back, I saw your father at a bus stop, and we waited together, and conversed. The conversation went from my quest to accurately depict the McCarthy era in Such Good Friends to inaccuracies he 'd identified in the early-'60s-set series Mad Men. It struck me then, and it strikes me now, upon learning he's no longer with us, your father was a treasure-trove, a witness to a fascinating era in America, who remembered details, the fine points that make up the ethos of the time. It wasn't the only time we rode that bus together. There were other reminiscence-filled conversations while careening down Riverside. I don't think you're aware how much I learned from him, how much I enjoyed him, how much I'll miss him.
You, Tom, made me aware that, for a span of time,, I was his favorite pianist. Putting these thoughts together, it was an honor and a thrill for me to be appreciated by a fellow who'd lived through so many of the years my music attempts to depict. Since he recalled the niceties so fully, it meant that the little things I do – choice of chords, how they're voiced, etc. – that nobody else notices, he noticed. There's something hollow about sending sounds out into a house where the audience is deaf to certain intricacies. Of course, there are so many of us who'll miss him for so many reasons, but I wanted you to know ways your father is missed that are peculiar to me.
Author, Children's Letters to God
Though I'd had word from Peter of George's impending death, it was nevertheless shocking to hear of its arrival. For George, as everyone whose path he crossed is well aware, gave off the dazzling essence of life in everything he did or said or thought or imagined. In a word, a look, a flick of his cigarette ashes. Greek Island, of course, was drenched in his soul, his Eden. Naomi and I still cherish items from there, particularly an ancient, lopsided Greek coin framed in gold on a chain that never fails to elicit oh's and ah's from whoever sees it, a perfect cue for us to describe the place in Amster Yard. All of the family apartments, too, bespoke George's artistic bent - a decorator in mufti. I was always amazed at his incredible artistic sense as a young army fellow in Europe, evidenced by his purchase of a drawing by Paul Klee; it's impossible among the many people I know, to name another so sensitive to glorious artifacts.
George was singular as well in the duality of his attitude toward his writing; on the one hand, he was a marvelous stylist - his words on paper exuded wit and intelligence and joy in living; one fully expected him to produce not merely exquisite advertising, but novels and essays for the New Yorker as well. Yet it seems that the written word came so easily to him, he valued his talent less than did others. (I fancy myself a writer, being extensively published, but have never considered that I could even hold George's pencil in comparison.
It's arguable that being a merchant, czar of his own bazaar, was his true love aside from Effie and his sons. The buying trips to Greece, stiocking the store, charming customers - that was his theatre. Ask Joe LaRosa to tell you about the time George bemoaned the fact that Joe's thick-soled shoes were gauche, and so took him shoe shopping to improve his footwear image; it's hilarious. One of George's gifts to me was introducing me to Joe. Another, of course, was his informal seminars on everything Greek. Aristotle couldn't have been prouder of his heritage. I love Greek Easter with the egg in the bread. Did he take you to Jimmy's Greek - the restaurant at the foot of Manhattan, where you entered through the kitchen, and on the way past the stove, pointed to the foods you wanted for lunch? Confession: I'd never heard of feta til George, nor taramasalat or floyera or a host of other dishes that are now a staple of my George diet.
At George's 80th birthday party on the roof I related the tale of the stolen spoon at the last World's Fair in which George was my interlocutor to the offended staff of the Spanish pavilion from whom I attempted to purloin the item. We laughed about that for years after. He was surely a fabulous father to have had, lucky you! He was for me a great colleague, charming friend, wise advisor. He had class. And oh, he was fun! My thoughts are with all of you, and I offer thanks that he touched my life and enriched it with his own.
I learned about George passing away peacefully and smiling to the very end. He was one of the most generous people I have known, spreading happiness around him, what in the old times people called a blessed man. You've been lucky to have had George for a father and also Anemona as cousin and neighbor to offer shelter and warmth in the last months of his life. We had dinner with George, Peter and Amelia at the Barbanell's house in February last year, and had a great time together. George was making sure everyone was enjoying the evening. A happy souvenir.
Amelia Linden Soter
George never suffered fools, but if he liked you he was your biggest advocate. Every Sunday night he would trek the long flight of stairs to Tom's show. Every event we had at our store, he was there-rain or snow-even if he was the only one. He would encourage all of his friends to go as well and support anyone he thought worthy. A man of many talents. A Metro sexual or Renaissance Man with unparalleled visual style and panache. Thank you George for accepting me into your family with such open arms. Thank you for loving your children and grandchildren such. You will be missed.
Mi querido George, padre de un hijo del cual soy orgulloso de ser cuñado - Nick. Gracias por comparir su vida, su familia y su pais conmigo y con mi familia. Descanse en paz!
Author, Somebody: The Reckless Life and Remarkable Career of Marlon Brando
Well, I knew George when he was young--not very young, but a young father with a fine career, a great apartment, a beautiful wife and children. My daughter Lili was Peter's first girl friend, and she still remembers the lyrical days in the sandboxes of Riverside Park, when Effie and her cronies watched the kids at play, and when there were parties at the Soter apartment with a thousand things to admire on the walls and in the conversation. I remember that in the hall was a bookshelf with the works of Proust, a great chronicler of society. If George had been so inclined, he would have been a novelist de nos jours, because no one had a keener eye, or a more tolerant nature. I am blessed for having known him, and am delighted to see his intellectual tradition carried on in the bookstore of which he was so proud. Ave Atque Vale
Pammie Congdon Walker
I was a lucky girl to be loved by Peter and his family. As my friends have noted, the Soter House was welcoming and wonderful to all us kids who were close with the Soter Brothers. Wow, I have so many amazing memories of such special and meaningful moments of my youth spent at 404 RSD. I was embraced by Effie and George. And I embraced them back--they were easy to love. I felt especially close to Effie. She was so kind and loving to me in her quiet but distinct way. I loved and looked forward to helping her clear and clean up in the kitchen after a magnificent feast--be it around the kitchen table or in the most beautiful dining room in the city. To this day, i consider her a genuine and major influence on me. Her dark beauty, her particular style, and her strong character were more than worthy of my utmost admiration. And I remember noticing how much George loved her. You could see it and feel it. Even as a teenager, i was struck by their relationship. George adored his wife and his sons, and he was warm and loving to all who shared this love. George and my dad, who were friendly and i think admired each other, passed away within a couple of weeks time. They were both charismatic, creative intellectual men who appreciated "outside-the-box" thoughts and ways. I know my dad would send his love and prayers to the Soter Family, as do I, my mom (Connie) and sister (Lizzie). Our family loved your family. With Peace, Love, and Beautiful Memories...
Member, Alzheimers Support Group
I wish to extend my sincere sympathy to the Soter family. George was a great source of comfort and will be much missed by our support group. His glowing smile will always remain in my heart with much love.
I have know George for almost 45 years and have stayed many times at 404 RSD. My earliest memory is when my brother Doniphan and I stayed there during the NYC black out of 1965. For us it was all just great fun. I must have eaten a half dozen servings of Effie's great rice pudding over those few days.
What was really most remarkable about George was his unbridled enthusiasm about so many things. He always had something new and interesting to show me, be it a book, a flexible vase with slots for 12 flowers, an article by his niece, or even just an interesting anecdote. His enthusiasm never stopped even when he was quite ill. Just a couple of weeks ago I watching him sing "I get no kick from Champagne" in a duet with Tommy while barely able to move in his bed. His enthusiasm for life was tremendous.
Whenever I used the kids bathroom at the Soter house at 404 I was always intrigued by the small framed poster above the toilet. It featured a couple being born and happily going through the 10 decades of their life together while visually aging in the process until they were stooped over with canes. Now I see that as George and Effie, passing through so many decades together. I can't believe the story is finally over. now it is our turn to lead the parade.
404 Riverside Drive
Death Notice at George's Long-Time Home
GEORGE SOTER 1924 – 2009
We mourn the death of our good friend who lived at 404 from 1966 to 2003 with his wife, Effie, and three sons, Nick, Peter and Tom. George was a devoted citizen of 404, whose green thumb kept our tree gardens flourishing for many years. His other accomplishments were many and may be found at www.tomsoter.com
Theodore and Iro Theodoridis
In our lives we had many friends, some – a few – left a deep imprint with their generosity, their wit, their "joie de vivre." George was one of these. He made us love New York, his friends, his family. We thank him & love him all the more.
I remember the times when I was a guest at their wonderful apartment, with your mother and father being such gracious hosts. Your father was such a warm-hearted, lovable man, interesting, with a twinkle in his eye. The last time I saw him in his "bazaar" I knew he was already ill, but it didn't show – we had a good talk. It isnow my and his generation's time to go – I am losing friends all the time. Well, that's how it is...
Meg Sweeney Lawless
Improvisor, Sunday Night Improv
I was sad to learn your father had died; it was sad news, even if expected. He is missed. I will miss having him in the audience at the improv jam and running into him at readings. The world is a little less smart and a little less funny; the rest of us will have to step up our game now.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
His bright imagination and support will be missed.
Art director, Habitat
I wanted to let you know how important George was to me. I feel privileged to have spent such quality time with him. I was so fortunate to see his vision of the creative process and apply that passion to life itself. He's such a wonderful man.
Improviser, Chicago City Limits
He was a terrific guy.
Many thanks for your mail who make me very sad and at the same time peaceful to know than I left with all of you around and drinking champagne. I not seeing you often from many years but I was really happy to spend some time with George the last time I went to NY. And I always have in my mind like I tell Him at this time my life at River side drive who was for me warm nice and a lot of help in a pretty hard moment of my youth. I never will forget... I am with you with all my heart and with Effie ... Sorry for my English still bad.
Improviser, Sunday Night Improv
Although I did not know your father well, I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing. He seemed to me to possess some kind of magical spark. I will always remember his gentle nature and that jolly, uplifting glint in his eye that always made me smile.
We became acquainted at the Alzheimer's Group and, tho' it was only for a few years, he came across as a special man with a great love for his family. I knew he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
I was 17 when I met Georgie in his shop, Greek Island. He had a twinkle in his eye when I asked him where was that cute guy that worked here, " Oh, you mean my son, Nick." I spent many nights at the Soters, eating fabulous Effie meals while George kept us all in hysterics. Especially Tommy. Sometimes listening to Tom Lehrer and sometimes just the banter between George and the ubiquitous interesting guest. We would later raid the fridge for the ever-present munchie quenching, Effie Rice Pudding. When I needed a place to live, the Soters always opened their home to me without question. When I was hungry for some good food and great conversation, I could always find it at 404. As Phillippe says, the Soters were so generous and so gracious.George always kept me guessing. His mind could turn some dull statement I would make into a funny line. His ads were always so provocative and made you think and say, "Wow, how did he come up with that?"Two weeks ago Pammie Congdon said, "Tell George that the last time I saw him was in a Speedo at the beach!" That was three years ago. Pretty happening dude wearing a Speedo in his 80's. He had, what they call, panache. Georgie-we all adore you and will never forget you. You were one of the best.. I love you...
Carmen, Michael, and Adam Davis
May His peace be with you and your whole family at this time . Thank you for letting us know him even if it was short He was a gift:} God Bless
"why do we celebrate a birth and mourn a funeral? because we are not the ones involved" -mark twain
this quote has rang clear in my heart for so many years. to be comfortable with death. to understand it. and what is life but a great preparation for death? i have been close with the soter family my entire life. from day one literally, i cant remember a time that i was not treated as one of their own. growing up as one of the kids and grandkids running around i remember feeling visually humbled everytime i set foot in 404 rsd. there was so much to look at and to think about. so many colors. and one distinct winter day i recall sitting on the window seat (also the heater) and staring out into the jersey shore feeling like a i was a part of a george suerat painting. and george, laughing from the nearby room, reading something hilarious. and it felt at once calming and familiar....
i was in mali with eva in the middle of the sahara desert when we got the news. we travelled 1000 kilometers by land to reach timbuktu and then we went even farther than that. into the desert of the unknown. our faceless feelings against the slow sand of time. of course i knew he was sick but i was still surprised to find out. with the mark twain quote always in my heart i shed not tears for george, but tears in understanding that death is a little more cozy now.....george. i will remember you always. you are a neverending depth of soul. a reclamation of laughter and a humble father. thank you so i ask you.... anyone can die, who will truly live?
George Soter was unfailingly courteous and polite, yet bracingly direct. It was really a noble quality, when you get down to it. I rarely saw him angry, and that is because I was a friend, an acquaintance, a guest. The one time I remember him getting mad was when my friends and I, teenagers at the time, playing around in his capacious livingroom so beautifully decked with art, broke a sculpture valued in the tens of thousands of dollars. A flash of real anger, and we quickly cleared out. It was over quickly, the storm passed, and the sun of George came out again. A great and gracious host, a man who gave 100% when it came to conviviality, the love of discourse, good food and good companions. I always noticed the plaque in the living room, which said something like "simple pleasures are the last refuge of the complex." Those pleasures were abundant at the Soter house. I will remember them and they continue to warm my own life.
Joan and Tom Geismar
It was a shock to learn, belatedly to be sure, that George had died. The world is now a sadder place. Certainly, we are sadder. We know few, if any, who could match his warmth, charm, creativity, and ebullience, nor are there many as dear. He is missed, but he has left us all with lovely memories. Our hearts go out to Nick, Tom, and Peter and their families, but what a wonderful legacy they have.
To say that we will miss your Dad is, of course, trivial in light of the rewarding gifts he passed along to whomever was lucky enough to know him. I am so glad that I had some time with George on my last trip to NYC in November. We will carry a treasure of memories reflecting his wisdom, insight, inspiration, humor and good fun. These last; his spirit does not depart. Thoughts and memories of George, and of all the family, and of my NYC days, have been much on my mind. We miss him so, yet every memory is a celebration of the amazing soul and spirit that forever he is.
Improvisor, Sunday Night Improv
I was so sorry to hear about the passing of your father. Of course you know he held a special place in my heart because of his freedom with encouragement. It is always good to hear that someone enjoys what you do and that it came from someone as genuinely as it did your dad, was always appreciated. I will think of him every time I do the movie reviewer game.
Reaching back and thinking about George, I never see him in my mind's eye as a solitary figure. There are always people around, but by far the strongest image I have is of your family, the five of you together, growing up, and those extraordinarily strong bonds of family that you all share. Looking at Facebook, I came to your site, Tom, and dove right in. Those pictures and stories grabbed me in a very profound way. I was of course doing this at work (doesn't everyone?) and before I knew it an hour had gone by. It was the best hour of my day, all those memories of George and growing up, the park, baseball, all of it. Your father was an extraordinary man, full of energy, very clever, a great wit, and fun. I will always remember him with a smile on his facce, surrounded by his friends and family.
George Soter was kind, generous and a lot of fun to be around. He took special interest in his sons' friends - something that I didn't understand until I had children of my own. He lived life large, had incredible energy and created, with his wife Effie a real home that made the neighborhood and growing up in NYC really special. He was totally supportive of my friendship with his youngest son Peter, un-phased by our ongoing shenanigans. I will never forget how he and Effie provided so much positive support for me, a kid that was kind of lost and looking for direction. 404 was the center of the universe. Their couch was more comfortable than a bed to me and I don’t think my experience was unique. It doesn’t get much better than driving around Greece in a min-van with the whole Soter clan - something I got to experience because they invited me there one summer - probably one of the nicest things ever done for me by anyone. As an adventure, I have not been able to improve on it to this day. Nick, Tom and Peter had more influence on me than probably anyone else I have ever known - each in different ways - and it was easy to see where it came from. I am sad I didn't get to spend more time with the Soters having left NYC a long time ago but am comforted by stories of George and his dedication to the regular activities of his sons. It was a wonder to see the post-404 apartment on Riverside Dr. the last time I briefly came to NY, and how George had recreated 404 on a smaller scale - and he even had a little room that he offered for me to stay in (like he used to back at 404). He handed me one of his signature Amstel Light beers and we went through some photos he had when I was still around the neighborhood. He asked about my Dad who he called my "adolescent father" (he still is) and we had a good laugh at that. I’m thankful for having one last time of Soter magic with Peter and George. I hold a lifetime of great memories thanks to George, Effie, Nick, Tom, Peter and the extended Soter family.
We feel enormous sympathy for Nick, Tommy, Peter and all the grandchildren and their mothers. George was such a wonderful father and grandfather to them, but also he meant a great deal to so many other people, and we certainly feel we have lost a much-loved family member. The Soter apartment was always Family Central. Here are some thoughts and memories:
Age. To say that George was like a favorite uncle would suggest that he was of an older generation. We never felt this, and I don’t think he did either. Of course he had seen more movies, read more books and certainly read more pages of the New York Times; he had lived in different places, spent time in different countries, raised a family, done lots of interesting work, and lived a full life. But he didn’t act to us like a parent or a teacher. He was a contemporary, indignant about Bush, optimistic about Obama, up to the minute with the new movies. So he was a friend, just a friend whose age and experience had stocked his mind with plenty of interesting material, much of it thoughtful, and much of it funny. Still, when you get into your eighties, you are liable to be the oldest person in the room; or the oldest person on the roof if it’s you birthday party. When he moved into 468 Riverside Drive, with a help from Judy (J.J.) in the real estate search, he said he had a five-year lease. I asked him what would happen after five years. He replied cheerfully, “Oh, I’ll be dead by then.” Well, he didn’t get that quite right, but close. He said he would go with no regrets, feeling he had lived a fine life, raised a wonderful family with a beloved wife, enjoyed many friendships, had great experiences, and in general had been a happy person. Anyway, favorite uncle, favorite brother, favorite friend and more, he was part of our lives for well over three decades. We will miss him enormously.
The Apartments. When the family helped him move from 468 to the apartment in Anemona’s house on 141st Street, he was very eager that J.J. and I should come and see the place. Well, it was what the British would call a “lower ground floor flat”: no spacious lobby, of course no doorman, no view over the trees to the Hudson River and the sunset; it was down stone steps towards barred windows, thorns grabbing at winter hats, and through two locked doors. But you could see why George was proud – it had become his own. There were the paintings, the books, all sorts of personal items on walls and surfaces, and there must have been a hundred small photographs on a wall next to the kitchen. Family and friends and their histories were all there. In many ways the apartment, like the others, was a history of George, his life, his memories; it was his art gallery, his library, a great big scrapbook, a 3-D autobiography.
Of course, the Riverside Drive apartments were amazing, great places for lively parties or family dinners, and for card games that never seemed to have a moment of silence. Maybe the interim apartment at 404 was too small for parties, but it was all Soter. As Dora said, it was as though the big apartment had been miniaturized but was still somehow the same place. 468 Riverside Drive was physically more like the big family apartment at 404, with all those windows facing west, but without the back bedrooms used by the boys and their friends when they were younger. I have photographs of 468 because there was possible interest from a magazine and a newspaper, but for the other places we only have mental images, mental pictures of a distinct style of interior design that no professional could duplicate. Parts of 404 were recorded in a magazine spread celebrating an exuberant Greek Easter party, as well as being the backgrounds for many of the shots in the Greek Islands store catalogues. Tony Ynocencio took the photographs. Rosemary, J.J. and Maggie had starring roles in the annual catalogues, cheerfully and elegantly posing in the store’s clothes, sometimes along with the Soter boys, who were also cheerful, though perhaps not quite as elegant. And there was a surprising moment of instant recognition when the movie You’ve Got Mail had a scene in a room that was supposed to be in the home of the character played by Jean Stapleton. Nice to think how many people have had this glimpse of the Soter style, and will continue to see that scene as the films of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan live on at Blockbuster, Netflix , HBO etc. etc.
Books. So George never wrote a book. Like Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Conrad, he mastered the words and the rhythms of another language, and he used them beautifully and wittily in ad copy, in letters, later in e-mails, and of course in conversation. Perhaps he lived too much in the moment to commit himself to spending the time needed for writing a whole book. However, he briefly considered a book on Chelsea, a guide, a history, an appreciation. He and I spent a Sunday morning criss crossing the streets taking reference photographs. He had become interested in the area when Peter had the Verso Bookstore there. But the idea was dropped when the bookstore closed, perhaps killed by the big Barnes & Noble that opened on 6th.Ave. and 21st.St., a store that itself closed last year.
When I showed George an early version of Dudley, my children’s book about our Jack Russell Terrier, he immediately embraced it and started doing bold layout proposals and writing text suggestions. I ended up using some of his words: “He was smaller than your sneakers, yes YOUR sneakers” and “Other dogs looked down on him, and big other dogs REALLY looked down on him.” Contributions acknowledged with thanks at the end of the book. Perhaps George could have found the time for doing children’s books, maybe lots of children’s books. Or something episodic like Gerald Durrell’s Corfu books, My Family and Other Animals and Birds, Beasts and Relatives. Or maybe George could have written something like the books of David Sedaris, who was also from of a Greek family. Of course Tommy wrote books, and I have a dim memory of Nick writing poetry when he was at Bard. And Peter has been surrounded by books all his professional life. His Morningside Bookstore communicated with friends and customers via George’s splendid monthly Booknotes, which managed to be friendly, informative, entertaining and scholarly all at the same time – pretty much like their author.
Stories. I think George would have been happy to be described as a “raconteur.” The word is more adult than “story-teller,” more urbane. But he didn’t tell stories because he wanted the limelight, wanted to be the center of attention. If they were funny or interesting, and they always were, he wanted to share them with others, wanted people to enjoy them. The stories were part of conversation, connecting with friends. The anecdotes will not die, but no one else will tell them so well, with so much relish.
Random Memories. There was a fish tank at 404, and for a while it was home to an ugly but fascinating turtle. He or she looked like something out of a science fiction horror movie, and it had a scrawny neck that telescoped in and out. Little fishes that swam within range were liable to be snatched and swallowed. Fascinating... We admired the many leafy plants that basked in the great western daylight that flooded into the apartments from New Jersey and beyond. J.J. once asked him how he maintained them in such good condition. “Simple,” George said, “when a plant doesn't look good any more, I just replace it.”... Although the Amster Yard location for the Greek Island store was the one we remember, there was a brief period when the store was located in a smaller space on Eat 60th Street, just a few doors from Serendipity between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Classy little place, but not the same atmosphere. We remember a fine party at the Yard, but don’t remember the occasion. Perhaps it was Marc Pompuzac’s birthday? I keep finding myself calling the place Amstel Yard, like the Dutch beer. Not very Greek, but at least European.
When George and Effie came for a weekend in Woodstock, George threw tennis balls out on the lawn for eager little Dudley to retrieve. In the middle of the night George got up to use the bathroom, and the next day he told us that before he had finished, Dudley had seen him, found a ball, and was hopefully inviting a game by nosing the ball up against his ankles... George liked the bus. I guess the subway was not part of New York City life that suited him. And his preference for the bus came long before his age would have made subway stairs difficult. He could sit on the bus, look at Riverside Park and the city streets, read the paper, take his time. More civilized. Take a taxi if time was short... And there he was with Effie every Sunday evening at Tommy’s improv comedy shows. And this wasn’t just to support his son and the other performers. He was having a good time, always part of the evening, throwing out imaginative suggestions when the audience was invited to participate, offering mischievous movie titles and song themes, then enjoying the often delightful scenes he set in motion, appreciating the quick and crazy wit of the men and women on the stage.
As we know, when Effie was fully into her tragic illness, she would sometimes repeat the same things annoyingly. George confessed that once in a while he would get exasperated and snap at her. Immediately he would feel terribly guilty, and then a moment later feel relieved to realize that the incident was already forgotten... Though in chemo therapy and probably in pain, George attended my surprise birthday party last year. He was happily chatting with the attractive teenage Yale student sitting next to him. No apparent generation difference, and she happened to be partly Greek and was studying the language. Also George told a couple of entertaining stories to the entire room... When our son James, home for Christmas and New Year, came with us to visit George in the last couple of weeks of his life, James was struck by the way the familiar personality was living in this very different body. James, for the first time in his life, was literally seeing a man on his deathbed. George looked up and immediately urged him not to look so serious and solemn – “lighten up, James.”
Judy, a.k.a. “J.J.” My wife had already entered the Soter orbit before she met me; she has known the family longer than she has known me. Introduced to them via Rosemary Howard via Leo Kelmenson, she was a willing recruit to model for the annual Greek Island catalogues. We still have some of these, and they project the relaxed but handsome character of the store. The two young models once took a vacation in Greece, and spent plenty of time in the company of the Soters, who were also there that summer. The girls had some vague notion of meeting charismatic jet-setting Greek ship-owners, but instead were happy to visit with the Soters, and compete for the attention of the good-looking Nick Soter, even though he was only 15. George is no longer here to tell the saga of the stolen Athens hotel ash trays, but most of you have heard the story. Since J.J. had no family within 2,000 miles, the Soters became her New York family. A good choice.
Are there any words to describe uncle George (barba Giorgo)? Are there any words to describe a life 'full of life'? Are there any words to describe the feelings for him and from him? Are there any words to say good-bye or wellcome him to a new life? No, such words do not exist. However, the memories, the feelings, his 'life', his example, his smile, everything related to uncle George is ALIVE - inside us - for ever. Although we were not his 'blood' relatives we share the same 'blood', the same 'heart', the same feelings. We always felt that we are one 'family', HIS FAMILY.
When I fisrt came to New York, a limousine was waiting for me at the airport because you wanted me to feel special - you took me to so different places and restaurants to show me the New York various faces. You also had lobster, specially prepared for me, during this first Christmas in NY. I have a small secret to confess - I hate lobster!! but you were so kind that I never had the opportunity to tell you!! Thanks George but I did not need the limousine, the lobster or the restaurants - the only thing I needed and I usually had it 'in tons' was your SMILE, your OPTIMISM, and your LOVE to show the way - to guide me. I always remember and keep these three elements of your character in my character trying to absord your life and change my life accordingly. I am not going to say good bye as you are still here in Athens by my side, preparing a joke and arranging to eat out in a greek 'taverna'. Istead of good bye I would only like to say 'thank you; for being in my life - THANK YOU FOR BEING IN OUR LIVES.
Where do I begin? What can I say that hasn't already been said about George. There are so many wonderful memories that I will cherish.Being honored when asked to christen Peter....being part of Greek Island Lmt. ( as a branch) on Cape Cod......My first trip to Greece with george as our guide along with his charm, his wit, his love, and an energy that was so exhilirating. In 10 days we covered so much ground..Ruins, museums, relatives, mykonos, meeting Vienoula, santorini,crete... I think I slept for a week on our return home before the opening of Greek Island on the Cape...George leaves a big void in my life, but, too strong a force to ever forget. I have such an urge to call him right now.
"Some people come into our lives and quietly go..
Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never the same"
Georges' memory will be everlasting.
Your father was an inspiration to us all. He had immense charm and charisma that carried over to us all. Poetic license would be carried away of some lost soul and sandman, but your father seemed to know where the empathy led. Sometimes, we cry over some lost milk or some wonderful poetry. I cried again for the beauty of his soul. His soul is now lost. Where do we go from here? We can't go anywhere, really, without the love he gave us. And when we do find love, we will find it again with the who man cried for us, the love of George Soter.
I was saddened to hear of your father's death. I have the fondest memories of him from my younger days – indefatiggable good cheer, incisive humor, radiant hospitality, enlightening conversation...the list goes on and on! (Not coincidentally, one of my closest friends here in DC is a Greek-American with remarkably similar qualities.)
Good bye Georgie, I miss you already. People like you should never die. I'll be seeing you.
I had the great fortune of meeting your father on several occasions, the first time for professional reasons and after that in more personal settings. Each time I appreciated his culture, warmth, humor and interest in others.
George may well turn out to have been my last "new friend." Having a lifetime of others to judge him by, I can paraphrase one of his favorite lyrics and say "He was the tops."
I have just learned of your Dad's passing, and I am very, very sad, indeed. It is a great loss. I will always remember your parents for their kindnesses and wonderful high spirits - I was introduced to them in 1966 by Tom Wellington, with whom I was working at the time - That summer my parents were making their first trip to Greece - to visit Athens and the Island of Skopelos, where my maternal grandfather was born and raised. You all were going to be in Athens at the same time. Your parents arranged to meet my parents there and to spent a day at the beach together - We have the old 8mm films of that day. George and Effie also introduced my parents to Costa Damascos, your Dad's uncle. My mother had inherited some property on Skopelos and we needed the help of a Greek lawyer to settle her claim; and Costa was that lawyer. We all, in my family, became such good friends with Costa - He had the same intense love of life and nature that your Dad had - it had to be in the genes! Both were great story tellers and interesting companions.
Over the years, we were guests at your home on Riverside Drive and you came to visit my parents on Long Island - For years, one of my great pleasures was to visit Greek Island, Ltd. on East 49th Street - what a beautiful place that was! - You all have been dealing with the great health problems of your parents this past year and more - This has not been easy - You have done well! - I know that your parents have always been so proud of you and of your family unit - Justifiably so - Soters! I always shall remember your Dad's bright smiling face.
Alta Ann Parkins
George at Last
Attempts at writing down thoughts after calling George’s apartment and talking with Dora on 9 January 2008—
On 17 February 2009 I started again. If I do not send this now, I’ll always be wondering why I have it instead of you.
then and still, a wonderful approving presence, relaxed precision
Profusion, Order in Profusion, Literary, Literate poems within the beauty, lavish lush kind of excess that could never be too much unless…endless. He was the catalogue and history of all those things…george meeting his grandfather…[he talked about it when I last visited and didn’t find a way to get the sound of my voice into his hearing; I carried various things in from the other room and he told me stories about them.] The profusion was inclusive [in the homes and in the parties] …of course the parties, more profusion – joy of friends. His complete pleasure in family, his making art and life back and forth out of the people and the artifacts all out of each other till the last moment. The kaleidoscope of the shops parties apartments rooms your “ordinary” homes. His parenting – the rich extent of his life. Of course I am crying [because of the word parenting] but the sense of George’s full expanse, full reach, rich offerings just continue to create joy and having the great 2008 New Year photos of all of you is a blessing.
Nick, Dora, Eva & Zoe; Tom; and Peter, Amelia, Xanthe & Helena and Anemona—
Thinking about George makes me smile, his approving spirit puts me in a good mood. Appreciation was a wide ranging art of his and just being aware of a few of his interests could have been an entire education. In all that dazzling profusion, in the apartments, the shops, th e display held everything I had ever wanted to look at or study or buy in Greece, and even though no inch was empty there was never confusion. The treasures were placed under exact, nearly-invisible rules of order so that it was easy to be comfortable in all that richness. And of course those artifacts are part of a background set that holds other profusions of books and words and story telling and dancing and music, photographs, architecture, history, travel, movies, card games and gatherings of all sorts with family and friends, your heritage— FAMILY.
When I called to try to arrange with George a time when I could at last get up to see his new apartment and found Eva answering the phone, I was calmed, even cheered by her way of telling me that George was in the hospital; she seemed to know I was floundering with that20information alone, that I needed to know more but was still hunting around for what to say next, when she said that he was not doing very well. She was so present in our brief conversation that I thought about how good she is with other people; she was direct and honest and intuitive in the very few words that we said and it seemed to me then that it was an attitude that could have started with George but after the last visits to the last beautiful apartment, I could realize that it is an attitude intensely present on each side of her immediate family.
I met George and Effie at Greek Island in 1963 just after my first visit to Greece and after having a reaction to it [Greece] bearing some relation to the one George describes in the memoir. For me it was like going back in time to visiting the relatives in the towns and smaller towns of northern Illinois.
You were/are all very moving in your love and care-giving even though I understand that you were doing what you wanted to do, there was something about it so unified and cheering and of course well deserved, or you couldn’t have done it as you did, that it is another memory that makes me smile. You are/were creating, and made by, George’s life well lived. I can’t think of a better one.
17 February, 2009
Dear Nick, Dora, Eva & Zoe;
Peter, Amelia, Xanthe & Helena;
All my attempts to write something down about George since early January got into a stilted, effortful mode. Maybe if I start again and say that from the moment a friend took me to a party at Greek Island, I think it was in 1963 after my first trip to Greece, I was doubly hooked. There it was in New York, a place that somehow managed to concentrate and communicate all the qualities of Greece that I had fallen in love with. And when I read in the January booknotes, George talking about the 1937 (USA) time warp I remembered that in 1963 I thought—this is like visiting the relatives in small Illinois towns north-west of Aurora when I was a child.
Greece gave a quintessential welcome. And there it was again at Greek Island Ltd. and there it was again when, shortly after I married Allan in 1974 and George and Effie had come here to dinner on a blistering summer evening, they first invited us into to your home.
Feeling welcomed comes back whenever I think about George and all of you—some of you were born welcoming! And I have the same pleasure remembering the feeling that pervaded George’s apartment at Anemona’s this December and January. Byzantine eikones icons could be painted about George and all of you in that loving exchange. It seemed exactly right. Thanks for letting us all be there, too. I can’t think of any kind of remembrance for George better than giving a small contribution toward something you love, which was his priority. Love and sympathy on this day of celebration
23 April 2009
All day I was planning to write you, waiting till home was free of the sometimes cleaning housekeeper and without the handyman and the super working on the heating/air conditioning units, without having to write a schedule for the next Feldenkrais workshops, or waiting until I got home from taking a Feldenkrais class. But those things lasted all day and now it is no longer Agios Georgios, but never mind. I can still tell you that the work and thought all of you put into George's memorable party was for me the most wonderful part of the party, along with George. When I thought afterward about all the attention each of you devoted to every portion of the day--to arranging for the mounting of those gorgeous photographic interiors and Tom's "movie" of perfect timings and juxtapositions, to the menu, to a way to arrange everything so that visiting his wonderful space and last hurrah - with scrapbooks - returned us to the feeling of welcome that pervaded George and the spaces around him. You were all incredibly generous and welcoming in making room for friends at the close of George's life. And at this moment in May, reading over the last sentence I see more clearly than ever before how people get into beliefs of afterlives because when there is such a constant, emphatic, intense involvement in life, such as his, something continues on for the rest of us--a kind of relic of love and imagination and memory.
This is also for Chris who who brought another eloquent, heartfelt, indelible portrait of George to add to the one of five years ago - Nick's beautiful letter, read on the night of George's 80th birthday-celebrated, because you had all come to Allan's
memorial gathering the day before, which was for me a very touching, supportive, cheering gesture. These telling pictures of George now stand alongside the painful, loving anguished poetry of the likeness that Peter almost tore from amongst his feelings in February at the Bookshop and next to Tom's thoughtful, generous-of-time-interviews and those moving moving images put together with a timing that was perfect--that improved and was improved by the dancing. And what really brought you all emphatically into my mind this evening was that walking home and turning from Irving Place to Gramercy Park I came upon a drum and two bagpipers playing the attendees into the National Arts Club for a wedding and then in the park another wedding party was assembled for photos and something about the light and the festivity reminded me of the rooftop with bazooki music instead of bagpipes to turn twilight to night in 2004 and I wanted to rush home and send this note to you all even though there are only four names here.
Love, Alta Ann
Genie Capowski Girault
I never met a more devoted, loving and generous man.
I have so many fond memories of your parents at the improv shows. Your dad had a great sense of humor...especially since he laughed so much when I was on stage! After the shows, he would always make it a point to converse with us. What a witty and smart guy. I am sure you know how blessed you are to have terrific parents.