One of the hardest things about writing a blog for and about old people is that by definition readers, acquaintances and friends sometimes die. Ten days ago, on 8 November, my friend Mort Reichek died in Florida after a two-week illness. He had just turned 87.
Mort called his blog Octogenarian – which is what he had recently become when he began blogging in February 2005. I don't recall how we met, but it was near that time and in addition to reading one another's blogs, we exchanged a lot of email about getting old, current events, blogging, New York City and whatever else came to mind.
Mort was one of the people who taught me early on how important and close online friendships can be.
In October 2009, Mort's wife Sibyl reported on Octogenarian that Mort had been severely injured in an auto accident:
”It will take months of rehab,” she wrote, “before he's back writing on his beloved blog. I wanted to thank everyone for all of their wonderful comments over the years. They have meant the world to him and you have brought much joy to his later years. My family and I look forward to the day when he can return to working on his blog again.”
I didn't hear from Mort for a long, long time. Then, in September, he emailed with an archived story from his blog for The Elder Storytelling Place saying it was a way of getting his feet wet before returning to write for his blog.
In October, he sent another story from his archive and I believed there would soon be some new stories for Octogenarian. It was not to be.
I am so sad.
When I launched The Elder Storytelling Place, Mort was among the earliest people to send stories. You can read his first one here. He also contributed magnificently to "The Oldest Old Project” in 2008.
Before both of those, he was featured in a 2006 New York Times story titled Elderbloggers Stake Their Claim that included this great photograph of Mort by Barbara P. Fernandez.
Mort told the Times reporter:
"I'm 81 years old and this blog has opened up a whole new world to me. And I'm not doing this because I'm a lonely old man. I don't lack for social interaction. I find it a fascinating hobby, and a fruitful one."
It certainly was – not only for Mort but for his many blog fans and friends. He had a wonderful way with words – as he should have; he had spent a lifetime making his living as a writer. Here is the notice of Mort's death from The New York Times last Saturday - I always wish I knew this kind of stuff before people die:
“Morton A. Reichek, a senior editor and senior writer for Business Week magazine, died November 8, 2011. He lived in Boynton Beach, Florida and was 87 years old.
“During his retirement, Reichek became one of the most prolific and well read elderbloggers, writing about politics, his childhood, Israel and his war experiences. His blog, Octogenarian, was highlighted in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and AARP magazine.
“A journalist with very wide interests, Reichek wrote about topics ranging from business to military affairs to Yiddish literature. He was with Business Week both in Washington, DC and New York for 31 years, retiring in 1988. Prior to joining the magazine in 1952, he was a press officer and editor for the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
“During two periods of absence from Business Week, he was a Washington correspondent for the Newhouse newspaper chain, an associate editor of Forbes magazine and director of editorial services for Gulf & Western Industries, Inc.
“Reichek contributed articles to The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, The New Leader, and the Columbia Journalism Review. He was a former member of the National Press Club, the National Book Critics Circle and the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He is also listed in the Who's Who in America.
“He was born in the East Harlem section of Manhattan and raised in The Bronx near Yankee Stadium. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School and earned a B.S. in journalism from New York University using the GI Bill. During WWII he served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Signal Corps and was based for more than two years in the China-Burma-India theater of operations.
“He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Sybil, a daughter and a son, and three grandsons. Another daughter, predeceased him.”
My heart goes out to Mort's family and also to many of you. I know his blog was important to a lot of TGB readers and that he's been missed during his long absence.
When she feels up to it, sometime soon, Mort's daughter will write something at Octogenarian for us about her father. I'll let you know on this blog when that happens. And here is a list of all his stories published at The Elder Storytelling Place. Reading them now and then is an excellent way to keep him in our hearts and minds.
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jim Kittelberger: Wilted Garden