Norman

Posted by Ellen

Norman hit the bigtime back in October of this past year, at the 40th anniversary gala of the Pension Rights Center, when he was honored as a Retirement Security Superhero. You just never know where life will take you: one day, you're catching a ride to Woodstock with your high school biology teacher, and next thing you know, you're a retirement security superhero.

Norman was selected for the award, according to Dan, the very nice man who introduced him at the gala, because he has the superpower of accomplishing work while he sleeps. That's not what Dan said in public, which is a good thing since it's not true, but it really is what he said to us after the event, when nobody was around.  What he said out loud was that Norman has devoted and is still devoting millions and bajillions of hours to Pension Rights Center projects, writing and testifying and helping to change the rules so that fewer Americans will get screwed out of their pensions and retirement savings.

Why does he do all this, on top of working his day job as a bearded professor? What motivates a person to become a retirement security superhero?

At the gala, Norman explained the roots of his "career path." Forty or so years ago, back when he was in law school, he was offered a summer job in Beckley, West Virginia, working with retired coal miners whose pension claims had been turned down. He asked his father if he should take the job.

"Definitely," his father said. "It sounds like a lot of fun."

There are people all over America now who know Norman as the guy who helped them get their pension. A lot of other people work with him as he does this stuff, especially the Karens–pretty much all the staffers at the Pension Rights Center are named Karen, and they too put in millions upon millions of hours struggling to fix our retirement system.

Norman would agree with his dad that it's fun work. Also, the Pension Rights Center party was a lot of fun, especially the part where we got to hear a superhero identify us to the world as "the owner of the spousal survivor annuity of my defined benefit plan." Aw, the way these superheroes talk.

See also.

Posted by Ellen

That's the Quiet Man with Norman, at the window of Delia Foley's tavern in Baltimore. He's quiet all right, albeit a little shrunken, not exactly John Wayne–sized. Still and all, anybody who's that solid and bronze has got to have a good, strong shoulder to lean on.

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There was a fair hereabouts on Sunday, called Odunde, and among the attractions were horsie rides for the kiddies, right here on Kater Street.

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Here in a Zodiac, scooting across Milford Sound, a fjord on New Zealand's remote southwest coast, on a cold wet summer day this past December, is Helen Ruskin Stein Behr with her three sons. Not pictured is her daughter, who visited Milford Sound a few days earlier.

The impetus for the journey to New Zealand was the awesome wedding of one of the granddaughters, Gillian, who emigrated to New Zealand seven years ago with her parents, Richard and Arleigh, and her sister Avi.

Today is Helen's birthday, as she turns eighty-something-and-who's-counting, to our great joy. Wishing her many happy returns of the day.

Posted by Ellen

Icelandic sculptor Steinunn Thorarinsdottir  populated this garden just south of the Art Institute with aluminum and cast iron people.

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Just before our wedding in December 1975, a very young Norman sat for a picture on the back of the couch behind (from right to left) his mother, Helen, Helen's sister, Arlene, and Helen and Arlene's mother, Harriet.

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Of the various dogs who've come to live with us over the years, only one–this one–was named Professor Brophy. We called her Professor for short. Professor was a dumpy-looking brown dog from the pound with big jaws and an unfortunate personality, to put it mildly; she snarled at people when they tried to come in the house and then snapped at their heels when they tried to leave.

You may ask why we invited such a beast into the family. Well, obviously, Professor was smart enough not to treat us as rudely as she treated outsiders. Maybe she did what she did because she cared for us and felt she had to protect us from dangerous intruders. Or maybe she really despised us right along with everybody else but realized she'd better suck up to us.

Whatever was going on in that professorial little dog brain, it kept us hopeful for a while. And mixed in with the trying times were some very, very nice days with Professor–such as this perfect summer afternoon up above treeline on Mount Washington. That's Professor Stein following along behind as Professor Brophy breaks trail; a good time was had by both.

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Somehow, Norman believes he can remember sitting in that chair and putting that balloon to his mouth, while Iris Quigley posed for the camera. The photo was probably taken in 1954, maybe 1955, in Iris's house, which was down the street from Norman's house in East Meadow, Long Island, New York. Great furniture, great dance moves, and we can hope those little baby teeth weren't too sharp.

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There's an uninteresting explanation for Norman's attire on Commissioning Day in Annapolis, but . . . . But nothing, really.

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This first grade class in East Meadow, on Long Island, New York, had 32 students in 1957, which was probably a typical class size. Schools just couldn't be built fast enough in the 1950s to hold all us baby boomers coming of (school) age in thousands of new GI subdivisions springing up around cities all over America.

The boy standing second from left, wearing a turtleneck, is Norman.