Sid and DuBois

Shared by Paul Socolar on 10th February 2019

Remembering my dad on what would be his 95th birthday, one story I haven't shared widely just came to light a few years ago when we were starting work on paring down my parents' book collection. My daughters were going through the bookshelves and were very excited to discover that two books they were interested in had inscriptions inside the front cover: Black Reconstruction in America and The Souls of Black Folk were both signed by W.E.B DuBois. We immediately asked my dad how that had come about.

He said that when he was at the University of Chicago, he had helped arrange a speaking engagement for DuBois at the university and he got the assignment/honor of getting to pick up DuBois at Chicago's Union Station to bring him to the talk. He got the inscription during this visit. Later we found a series of letters (two of them shown here) between my dad and DuBois that made clear that my dad was a key organizer for this event in the winter of 1950 - actually 69 years ago yesterday. Just one example of the kind of nitty-gritty organizational work that my dad continued to do till just a few years ago.

I remember clearly that my parents' copy of Black Reconstruction in America was a book of special importance to me; I carried it around for quite a while when I was in high school. But somehow it didn't stick with me that I was holding a copy signed by DuBois himself. I had a very good American history course where we were encouraged to argue about different interpretations of historical events, and DuBois's view of the Reconstruction period as revolution and restoration, now widely accepted, was still not much part of the mainstream narrative on the period. So the book supplied me with some strength and ammunition to make some outside-of-the-box comments in my class for several weeks as we were studying the decades after the civil war. DuBois's brilliant scholarship was not so widely recognized in the early 70s as it is today, but thanks to my parents, I was exposed to his work in high school.

Sid and Einstein

Shared by Paul Socolar on 18th November 2018

As a physicist, Sid was an admirer of Einstein's work, and not surprisingly Sid's library included many books on relativity theory. But he was also an admirer of Einstein's work as a humanitarian and activist. And he was proud of two letters from Einstein himself - responses to his own letters - that he kept in his file. Some of his correspondence with Einstein is also in the Einstein Archives Online.

The longer letter, from 1952, shown here, was responding to Sid's letter sent on behalf of the Faculty-Graduate Committee for Peace at the University of Chicago. In it, Einstein expressed his "complete agreement" with a statement Sid had co-authored critiquing the rearming of Germany during the Cold War -- and agreed to be a signer of the statement. Einstein added a long postscript about the geopolitical situation in which he expressed fear of a US "preventive war" against Russia.

Sid was hopeful enough about engaging Einstein in supporting disarmament causes that he once enlisted his dad to drive up with him from Baltimore to Einstein's home in Princeton, NJ,  to try to have a few minutes with him. They had heard that other people had gone there and had managed to meet with Einstein. But that trip was unsuccessful - he and his dad spent the several hours on Einstein's porch and ultimately went home.

A pioneer dealing with celiac disease

Shared by Paul Socolar on 18th November 2018

Anyone who "broke bread" with my parents was likely to have learned that Sid could not eat gluten. He figured that out in the mid-1960s when the average American had no clue as to what gluten is.

In fact, when in his early 40s, Sid suddenly started losing weight and having intestinal distress, his doctors didn't have a clue about his diagnosis. In desperation, he spent hours reading journals in the Columbia medical library and finally diagnosed himself as having celiac disease or gluten enteropathy. When he switched himself to a strict gluten-free diet, his symptoms immediately cleared up and his good health was restored. 

I found a folder with some of those journal articles in his file today and was surprised to learn that a gluten-free diet for celiac disease was not even proposed and recommended until the 1950s.

Going gluten-free in the 1960s was no easy trick. Ordering in restaurants could be a tense affair; not all servers would listen and engage with the problem seriously and carefully. Sometimes the misunderstandings would be comical...  like "You said you couldn't eat bread or bread crumbs so I brought you a roll instead." At home, we developed systems like a breadcrumb-free margarine container for my dad and walnut tortes for birthday celebrations. When my parents started traveling abroad in their retirement years, part of the preparation was to print a little card with instructions for explaining the situation to servers in other languages. Things didn't get better for a long time ... I think the entire 20th century was still the dark ages for understanding gluten intolerance.

But over the past 2 decades, things have changed dramatically and my dad was able to enjoy gluten-free versions of foods like apple pie that he'd had to give up decades earlier. He was grateful for that and for the impact of advocacy by groups like the Celiac Society. And he paved a path for those of us with food intolerances to advocate for ourselves.

Teaching continues

Shared by Debbie Socolar on 18th November 2018

In accord with his wishes, Sid Socolar's body was donated to science -- donated to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Our father would want more people to realize that -- even if you cannot be an organ donor -- your body, after you die, can still help people by teaching, giving incomparable instruction in anatomy to our vital next generation of medical students. 

Sid was pleased to donate to Albert Einstein College of Medicine in particular, because he was a longtime admirer of Albert Einstein, the scientist and humanitarian. (See "Sid and Einstein," above.)

Here is the website for all the medical school anatomical donation programs in New York:

And here is a very thoughtful piece addressing myths and sources of hesitation that some people may have from a religious heritage: One small excerpt:  "While organ donation may save lives directly, whole body donation is necessary to develop lifesaving medical expertise and skills over time." (Note that later the body can be cremated, with the ashes returned to the family, as we have arranged.) Also see this moving remembrance of a medical student's experience:

We are so pleased that, even in death, Sid's commitment to science, education, and the health of the public could continue to have an impact.

What a daddy!

Shared by Paul Socolar on 4th November 2018

It's hard to capture and convey all the wonderful influences my dad had on me throughout my life. I learned from him to be kind, gentle and playful, to tell jokes - his specialty was puns - and to think about social justice. He encouraged my interests in science, math, history, politics, and education. He tolerated and supported my love of sports as a child: he took me to countless games until I was old enough not to need an adult escort; he taught me how to use a slide rule to calculate batting averages when other kids were learning their addition tables. 

He also challenged me to do something meaningful with my life. He and my mom both equally conveyed to me a deep concern about race and gender injustice. In the late 1960s, I had the good fortune of having a dad in my life who supported the women's movement in his words and deeds. Skipping ahead a few decades, I was fortunate to have both my parents' whole-hearted support for my often all-consuming work to build and run the Philadelphia Public School Notebook. 

Maybe his biggest positive influence on my thinking was his lifelong determination to try to build our collective understanding of what all of us need to do in order to create a more just world. Even in his last years and in failing health, he was open to rethinking things and always trying to pose those probing questions. In a recent email to friends and relatives about his health status, he closed by asking for their thoughts on what we should be doing to turn the tide in this country. I think those of you who knew him already understand how lucky I feel to have had him as a dad.

So many great caregivers!

Shared by Debbie Socolar on 4th November 2018

We are enormously grateful that our father had the help of many wonderful caregivers over the past three years as his health declined and disabilities increased, especially in the wake of serious falls in late 2015 and 2016.  

Especially important since May 2017 have been his remarkably skilled and caring live-in home care aides, Sherri and Marcia (as well as the kind occasional help from our mother's aides and our parents' long-time helper, Teisha). As our father's needs for help grew increasingly complex, their attentive and thoughtful support was valuable beyond measure to the whole family. 

Also at home he benefited greatly from many sessions with skillful and creative occupational, physical, and speech/ swallowing therapists (several of whom have worked with our mom as well). Other very important supports at home have been the volunteers who help people "aging in place" in Morningside Heights, through the work of LiLY (Lifeforce in Later Years) and its "Morningside Village" programs. 

Sid greatly appreciated the geriatric primary care and supports at the Mount Sinai Coffey Center, and a growing array of innovative continuity-of-care initiatives and palliative care programs, including an admission in Mount Sinai's "hospital at home" program.

We are very thankful for the attentive care he received at St. Luke's Hospital last month, including the thoughtful palliative care consulting team -- and especially for all the dedicated caregivers at the Dawn Greene Hospice (run by Calvary Hospital), who kept him comfortable in his last week. 

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