"Remembering Arnie Fink"
[The following e-mail exchange of remembrances about classmate Arnie Fink (who died on March 28, 2005) took place among Jon Murphy, Jerry Moyar, and Bart Reitz over the period June 29 through August 16, 2005. It was occasioned by a brief comment made by Jerry about Arnie in the course of reacting to some commentary on religion by Jon.]
Moyar to Murphy: I have been a bit cautious about posting such personal ‘confessions' ever since I received advice from our late classmate, Arnie Fink, a couple of years ago. Arnie predicted our page would "have to struggle with the question of how much space to give classmates' personal religious quests, as we all near our 70s." He asked, "Can our own quest edify others?" I believe your brief statement will.
Murphy to Moyar: Let me speak of Arnie Fink. I read your quote of his message to you. Like Arnie, I had some considerable question as to the validity of a "religion page" when Bart brought it up, and at the time mentioned your name. I didn't get involved, as at the time I was more interested in the mechanics of the web site than the content (having been involved in trying to fix the old one, which was unfixable given the software - trust me, I tried).
I knew Arnie freshman year, he was in my entry at Pyne. Arnie wasn't the stereotypical Princetonian, an "ethnic" from a Buffalo high school with a good NY urban speech pattern. Arnie came in as an outsider, and without changing a thing became an insider. Some of us changed to fit in, some didn't choose to fit in, but Arnie smiled and made himself a fit without changing. I don't think I can put it in words, the grace of that man.
A man of infinite faith. A man of commitment. A Rabbi in the true sense of teacher. A Rabbi who could have formed an alliance with a Jesuit to make an "odd couple" like the "God Squad" pair that are occasionally on TV - the Rabbi and the Priest. There is no way I can say too much good about Arnie . . .. His wife, Barbara, was supportive (I've emailed her, but I don't think she read his email after he was gone - she is a fine lady).
To me Arnie was the epitome of our classmates. Some have made great material success, Arnie chose to be a Rabbi. Charlie Brown lived and died as a secondary school teacher, admittedly in Hawaii (and at Pounahau, as is Bob Torrey). What is man, and what is a man? It matters not where the ethics come from, it only matters that they are there.
Reitz to Murphy and Moyar: . . . . I have been waiting for some message from Arnie but it hasn't come. When it does it may be something like: "keep your head down" or "watch the ball" or "read Job again and shut up." Your friend in the faith, Bart
Murphy to Reitz and Moyar: I have to speak of my last conversation with Arnie. It was at the PU/(Harvard/Yale game, whichever it was this past fall)[and] the class cocktail party in the new Physics building next to the Stadium, annually hosted at the same location by Murray and Mona Peyton. Arnie (and his Barbara, and my Monique) talked a bit. I brought up the "post-polio" that I knew he'd been involved with as a subject - we shared that disease at the same time and at the same level. He said the study hadn't followed up with him.
Then I excused myself, to go out on the porch and have a cigarette - making the acknowledgment that I shouldn't as I had a circulation problem that had caused three femoral artery bypasses (which Arnie knew about, he was a loyal classmate who stayed in touch). Arnie accepted my foolishness (which I still do), but then when I came back into the room he pulled me aside. "Murph, it is worse than what you think - I quit a couple of years ago for the circulation - but I have lung cancer". My jaw dropped, I'd been complaining. Arnie was up beat, and his wife Barbara with him, about a new experimental treatment. I was happy to hear that. Arnie was dead some months later . . . . ...
Arnie was the ultimate priest, or rabbi. His concern was for his people, and his people were anyone he was speaking to. I have no idea of Arnie's religious beliefs (in detail) - I only know that he held them well enough to dedicate his life to helping people - and not just as an evangelist of his faith. . . .
A practical man. And a good speechmaker, he and Kit Sherrill shared the pulpit for the memorial at our 45th - and each spoke well. But if I were to put words in Arnie's mouth they would be these. "Do good because you understand that you are good, and if you don't understand that then think about it and decide it is so. Then do good. Be kind, but don't let the bastards get away with anything. Learn from your God, not mine, but understand that our Gods are the same. Trust in God, but keep your powder dry". . ..
Arnie Fink was a friend to me, a friend to the class, and a mentor to his congregation in Baltimore. Arnie could have done other things but he chose to help people. People of his congregation and people not of his faith. A man whose concerns were for others, although he wasn't perfect. I raise my glass to a good man, and to his memory. Slainte and L'chiam . Our friend and classmate.