Monday, July 20, 2009

Another perfect New York weekend

A sailboat at sunset on the Hudson at 79th Street. 8:30 PM. Photo: JH.
July 20, 2009. Another perfect weekend in New York, sunny and very warm with no humidity. The weatherman says that’s gonna change starting today with the humidity moving in.

Uncle Walter. I remember him from “You Are There.” Sunday nights at, I think, 6:30. Black and white, live TV. The execution of Nathan Hale (“I regret I have but one life to give for my country”) during the American Revolution. Walter Cronkite ended with “That’s the way it was, and you were there.” A whole generation of youngsters got their first real history prep from “You Are There.” Recalling it when I heard the news of his death, I only regret we don’t have it anymore. (We sure could use it.)

Walter Cronkite on the cover of Life, November 1980. Photographed by Jill Krementz.
I can still hear him say those words “And you were there,” as I can still hear his voice in my mind’s ear. I know his voice so well I could give him the script and hear him speaking it. He grew up in radio. Like Ronald Reagan. Like Jack Paar. Like Huntley and Brinkley, and Edward R. Murrow.

Their voices were their signatures and to them we gave all kinds of attributes and personalities. Walter Cronkite’s voice was Trust. He delivered his information with integrity and aplomb. We believed him. He knew this and returned the favor. That ended in the media business when he left CBS. And from the looks of the landscape it will not be back. Although, never say never.

Jill Krementz, our ubiquitous photojournalist has produced a photo memoir of the Walter Cronkite she knew and photographed over the years. Jill often gets to know her subjects on a level away from the lens. Her photographs of them practically evoke a voice when you look at them. They definitely will when you look at the pictures of our beloved departed Walter Cronkite.

The Bailout Boomers.
The news last night was that CIT had reached a tentative deal with PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Company) and other top CIT holders for a $3 billion rescue bailout. Earlier talks of a government bailout didn’t materialize. CIT had already received $2.3 billion in bailout funds late last year.

CIT is a large corporation that is a lender to smaller businesses – retailers and their suppliers, for example. They serve the garment and retail industry as a factor – a guarantor of funds until retailers pay – to about, according to the New York Times, 2000 manufacturers and suppliers across the country. Their total lending runs into the billions.

Many people across America depend on CIT to keep their businesses going. CIT’s failure will negatively affect thousands, maybe millions of other individuals. This is the nature of the situation we’ve got ourselves into financially. CIT is also in the student loan business. Over the past two decades, student loans have skyrocketed so that it isn’t unusual for a student graduated from college or post-grad is left with as much as $100,000 in student debt. Many of us know of some twenty-something who has this over his or her head starting out in the life.

Jeff and Liz Peek.
And what does all this have to do with social life in New York? Liz and Jeff Peek. Mr. Peek is Chairman and CEO of CIT, a title he has held since 2005. The Peeks are very active in social and cultural life here in New York. And when I say active, I mean they more than write a check. No doubt through Jeff Peek’s business connections they have found scores of avenues to assist the various charities they support.

Their focused interest is in educational and cultural issues to assist the young in learning and improving the quality of their own lives. The School of American Ballet, for example, has been recipient of their energies and largesse for quite some time now. The School of American Ballet, as you might have read here before, is a superior educational institution in the United States.

If CIT were to go bankrupt, IF Jeff Peek were to lose his job (last night’s reports have him securely in place), this would surely have an effect on a number of philanthropic/cultural institutions as well as the lives of countless numbers of people. Perhaps, even under the worst of circumstances, the Peeks would continue to fund and work for those organizations that interest them; I don’t know anything about their personal fortune.

I bring this up not as a defense of CIT, the government and its policies, or the individuals, Jeff and Liz Peek. To me they exemplify how the community is dependent on people like them. Philanthropy is what keeps the focus on quality of life for the citizens of New York and the world. It makes the difference not only for a lot of individuals but for the society itself.

Its corporate connection has been crucial and is now life-threatening to a lot of organizations. The other night I was talking to a very active committeewomen for a number of charities about the state of things.

She told me the big name charities were holding their own. The smaller ones were having a harder time because they were losing their corporate support right and left. Corporate support always has brought in more volunteers from the CEO’s wife on down. The Liz and Jeff Peeks of the world. The attrition in the philanthropic ranks on the corporate side could easily end a lot of that volunteerism also.

Philanthropies have had long run of good times in the past decade or two. As a result, many organizations have expanded their sphere of interest and assistance and then built upon that expansion. That means their basic expenses have also inflated. Corporate withdrawal will mean deflation. The challenge will be greater as will be the need. The Jeff and Liz Peeks of the world are imperative.

Sabrina and Carl Forsythe.
Carl Sanford Forsythe 3rd, Esquire.

Carl died a week ago yesterday after a brief illness from a brain tumor.

I saw him and his wife Sabrina frequently at events and parties here in New York. Our conversations were always brief as is the nature of conversation at public events. He was memorable for being a friendly fellow. In the beginning he looked to me like the sort of guy who attended the ballet and the opera because his wife liked it. Over the years, observing their attendance at so many galas and openings, however, I came to think that Carl enjoyed it too.

It was only after his death that I really learned any details about the man. He was an attorney, philanthropic by nature, and accomplished athlete. He lived his entire life in Greenwich, born to Virginia Dae Cluff Forsythe and Carl Stanford Forsythe Jr.

Carl, known to his friends as Mouse, graduated from Greenwich Country Day and Phillips Academy at Andover. After Yale, he went to both Columbia Business School and Columbia Law School, graduating with an LLB and MBA, and afterwards ran a successful law firm as the lead partner.

He was a club man in the white shoe sense. His was a world where relationships both social and business were fortified by the cameraderie they kept. Carl belonged to Greenwich Country Club his entire life; the Belle Haven Club too, and the Racquet and Tennis Club of New York City. He also belonged to the Yale Club of New York, the Columbia University Club of New York, and the Harpoon and Horseneck Clubs in Greenwich. He was also a member of the Bath and Tennis Club and The Beach Club in Palm Beach.

He served on the boards of numerous organizations including the Bruce Museum, the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Yale Alumni Association. He also served on boards at both Greenwich Country Club and the Belle Haven. Carl was the president of the Northeast Greenwich Association for many years. He was a devoted member of the Board of The Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich for the past seven years and was elected Secretary of the Board in 2006.

He loved racquet sports, including squash and paddle tennis. He was a nationally ranked tennis player and won the Club Championships at Greenwich Country Club and the Belle Haven Club for more years than any other man. He was also an avid skier and loved to swim.

He was a man of a certain age (I think early sixties) who was slender although it never would have occurred to me that it was because he was so athletic. He was not a jock in bearing. It is clear, however, that Carl was one of those individuals graced with enjoying a lot of things in his life. It was, you can see, in many ways, a charmed life, a life out of the America (and obviously its elite) that Walter Cronkite spoke to and gathered trust from. Carl Forsythe seemed like one of those guys to me. A good guy.

Family. Carl was a very generous man and gave much to organizations such as the Bruce Museum, the Historical Society of the Town of Greenwich, and the New York Botanical Garden. His numerous civic and professional accomplishments are eclipsed only by his achievements as a father, faithful friend and man of great integrity. He was loved by all who knew him.

Carl is survived by his wife Sabrina, daughter Lindsay Forsythe and her husband Jason Good, daughter Robin Forsythe and her husband Adam Toht, step-daughters Courtney and Nicole Fischer, and two grandsons, Silas Forsythe Good and Elias Toht.

A memorial service will be held on Thursday, July 23, at Christ Church at two o'clock in the afternoon. In lieu of flowers, City Squash, Post Office Box 619 Fordham Station, Bronx, New York 10458 will gratefully receive donations in Carl's memory.

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