One dollar at a time
January 25, 2013 11:10 AM   Subscribe

NYT: Larry Selman died Sunday morning of heart failure. He was 70. Larry was the feature of the Academy Award nominated "The Collector of Bedford Street" (wikipedia).

"The 'collector' in the title refers to Mr. Selman’s prodigious work as a neighborhood fund-raiser. From 1970 until his death he collected more than $300,000 by some estimates — from people he approached in the Village, one at a time, requesting donations of $1 and $2 each. He collected money for St. Vincent’s Hospital, the families of Sept. 11 victims, Muscular Dystrophy research, AIDS research, Kiwanis International projects and animal rescue groups, among others."

Further in the New York Daily News and the Jewish Daily Forward.

Neighbors are looking for a new home for Penny, Larry's 14-year-old beagle and Australian shepherd mix.
posted by Wordshore (4 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:18 AM on January 25, 2013

posted by jim in austin at 11:39 AM on January 25, 2013

When we met our family friend Russell, he was probably in his 40s or early 50s. He lived in a small apartment with his mom, quite elderly herself; I don't think either of them drove. Russell always had the kind of blissed-out expression -- smiling no matter what, his head tilted up, looking slightly past your right ear -- that made you wonder if he had some vision issues as well as cognitive ones. He never did catch those last few whiskers by his nose.

I was in high school at the time; I skipped church. But every time someone else came home on Sunday, they would relay Russell's greeting. "Hello, [Mom]; hello, [Dad]. It's very nice to see you. Where is [Madamina] today?" he'd say, his syllables measured in a nearly robotic tone. "Couldn't be bothered to get up and come to church this morning?"

Every. single. time. "Couldn't be bothered" became a family in-joke.

Somehow it never bothered me. He'd only met me a few times, briefly, and he always, always asked where I was and how I was doing. It kind of comforted me.

Eventually, his mom died. I never did find out what kind of support system he had in place. I shouldn't have worried, though. Russell is way more active, in way more organizations, than I've ever been. We'd see him at rallies for Democratic candidates, holding up signs, or at the Farmers Market staffing a table with nomination papers. He'd hand out stickers for PFLAG or thank someone for taking a Sierra Club pamphlet.

And then there are his frequent letters to the editor. Like his greeting, they follow a particular formula, beginning with the phrase "I am outraged..." But put his concise, carefully worded comments next to the flaming piles of poo from gleefully anonymous crackpots, and they more than stand their own.

Russell gets straight to the point. I ran into him a few years back and he asked how my husband was doing. I hedged a bit, saying, "Well, we actually got divorced. But he's doing well; he just lives around the corner, and we see each other fairly often."

"That's nice," said Russell, his expression unchanged. "So is he dating anybody else?"

That's Russell. He knows himself; he knows what he can do with and for others; he gets to the point. He reminds me how easy it should be for someone in my place to do more... but he never judges. Once he notes that I "couldn't be bothered," he simply moves on and asks me something else.

And then he slips back into the crowd until I see him again.

Thank you to Russell, and thank you to Larry.

posted by Madamina at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2013 [3 favorites]

posted by GrammarMoses at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2013

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