Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Lewis Katz: A Mensch in Ways I Never Knew

PA Gov. Tom Corbett comforts Ed Rendell
Lewis Katz
"Altogether too rarely in life, someone lives and just exudes, pouring out of every pore in their skin, such good will and energy and joy that they create this magnetic field that draws all the rest of us in. And while we're in it, we walk a little more erect and we feel a little more energy and we feel elevated because we're in this magnetic field."

That's what Bill Clinton said today at a memorial service for a man who had had yards of press in the Philadelphia Inquirer before his death -- and yet I had no inkling who he really was.
How is it that when it's too late we learn the true measure of a person?
Lewis Katz had been described as a wealthy philanthropist who had made his money in billboards and parking garages. Little more was said about him, even as he succeeded in taking full control of the paper last week after a contentious auction with other owners.

His memorial service today was extraordinary. Perhaps the most moving I have ever witnessed as one person after the other stood up to tell of his humble generosity, his determination to do something for others every single day, his impish humor and sense of fun, and his ability to draw in so many people who considered him a "friend" -- from the waiters he would tip $100 bills or take annually on gambling weekends in the Bahamas, to the likes of Bill Clinton, Ed Rendell, Ron Corbett, Ed Snider, Bill Cosby,  Cory Booker, and Doris Kearns Goodwin -- all of whom spoke teary-eyed about him yesterday.
I cried listening to their stories, and laughed too, as they talked about his antics,  such as the time he made a bet that he could tell Pres. Carter a dirty joke at a reception. After he bent down and whispered