Monday, June 24, 2013

Koch Tombstone Mix-Up

Ed Koch at Christening of U.S. Lake Champlain
The Times recently ran a short one half column length piece entitled “Incorrect Date of Koch’s Birth On Tombstone,” (NYT, 6/17/13).  Apparently Ed Koch’s tombstone had his wrong date of birth. The Times was following up on a story which WNBC-TV originally broke. “I inverted 1924 to l942 and I’m going to fix it,” Tommy F. Flynn of Flynn Funeral & Cremation told the Times. “It was a simple human error.” George Orwell employed a similar technique—in his case on purpose—in the creation of l984, inverting the year of its creation l948 for the title of his dystopian novel. As currently listed on the tombstone Koch would have lived to be 71. Of course his true date of birth l924 means Koch lived to the ripe old age of 88, as reported in the Times’ original obit, “Edward I. Koch, a Mayor as Brash, Shrewd and Colorful as the City He Led, Dies at  88,” NYT, 2/1/13. What is interesting is why Koch whose parents were Jewish chose an Irish funeral concern, Flynn Funeral & Cremation Memorial Centers to do the work? If nothing else it was an ecumenical choice for a mayor who presided over a constituency that was the epitome of the melting pot. But let’s say he had entrusted the making of his tombstone to the Riverside, a Jewish funeral parlor, would it really have made a difference? “ Still the Times commented “Koch spent years meticulously preparing for his death,” and quoted Mr. Flynn as saying “he worked with Mr. Koch for eight months designing the granite tombstone.” In an article in Tablet, “Ed Koch’s Catholic Send-off,” (5/21/13) Jonathan Cohen describes how in spite of his pride in being Jewish, Koch was drawn to the Catholic Church. “Ed was Jewish to the core, but he had a special affinity for Catholics,” Diane Coffey, Koch’s former chief of staff, is quoted as saying in the piece. A maverick to the end,  this may throw some light on why he didn’t entrust his image to a landsman.

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