POETIC TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND RICKY EISENBERG

Earlier in the year one of my oldest and dearest friends passed away. This past Saturday a memorial was held for him in New York City. Here is a report of the event written by another dear friend, Matt Weinstein…

Hundreds filed into the Church of the Redeemer on West 83rd Street for a fitting tribute and memorial to Ricky Eisenberg who died on February 3, 2017 after doing battle with a protracted illness.

The hundreds included friends, old and new, fellow activists and comrades, beloved family members and others who came into contact with Ricky through the years. Dedicated to a better world, one free of war and injustice, Ricky Eisenberg fought his entire life with a passion and a principled, uncompromising determination to forge change for his fellow human beings.

The afternoon was presided over by Rickly’s sister Nora who introducted us to speaker after speaker who regaled the gathering with anecdotes and stories of their relationship with the man. Daughters brought Ricky to life in front of our eyes by recounting his great humor (which we all knew and loved), his caricatures of multitude personalities, his love of music and food (pastrami was most often noted) and more .

We were treated to performances that inspired us. Particularly moving were the several pieces by the great NYC Labor Chorus, including John Lennon’s Imagine. That was especially relevant to this memorial because it envisioned a new world, something that Ricky stood and fought for. A newly-formed group of young girls, the Riverdale Youth Chorus, were also wonderful and they brought down the house with a charming performance of one of Ricky’s favorites: Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel?

Later we heard from the family: both daughters joined with granddaughter Grace to perform a song she had written. Though the program ran on for several hours, we were entranced throughout because Ricky was such an important part of our lives and because he was truly “larger than life” as was said in one of the speeches. This was a moving memorial to a man who had an impact on everyone who knew him. We then celebrated Ricky’s love of good food by repairing to another room for sandwiches, wine and dessert. A great way to finish the day. Ricky—we love you and will not forget you. This we promise.

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And finally a poetic tribute to Ricky written by my dearest friend, Tom Karlson…

Ricky
73 years, a life
too short
two years of war,
every day a battle
the weapons, laughter and courage
Gracie, Jackson, Annie, Julie, Sara, Nora, and Katie
and a battalion of family, friends, and comrades
life lengthened and sweetened by that great thirst
to right all things wrong
with eye and brain and heart and body
to do wht must be done

it is late August 1960
West Harlem CCNY Convent Avenue 133st
meeting of the Marxist Discussion Club
we Don Quixotes are declaring war
war on the ban against communist speakers
STRIKE!
and strike we did
10,000 students on the street
a call for Ban the Ban
a call for Free Speach
Ben Davis and Herbert Aptheker came to speak

this, the beginning
marches, demonstrations, strikes, meets, Mayday

our position no tuition
Hands off Cuba, Cuba Si Yankee No
and when the CIA murdered Lumumba, Congo prime minister
down to the UN we went
chanting who’s the man who’s got to, go Dag Hammarskjold

a bus ride to Washington
to support Cuba
a time for song story and joke
a time where
art politics struggle mate gyrate
a time of incubation
when Cuba, antiwar’ civil rights, 
student’s rights, labor’s rights, women’s rights 
set the stage for a half a century 
of friendship, food, love, and class war

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Here is a photo of Tom reciting the poem at the memorial

Photo by Matt Weinstein

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