Roy, back in the 60s and 70s

Contributed By Beth Bernick

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During the late 1960s and early 1970s Roy was my constant companion, my dear friend and, for a time, my husband. The outpouring of grief and love expressed in the many notes about Roy that have been left here is not surprising. Roy was as good a person as I have ever known.

Beyond his genuine sweetness, loyalty, generosity of spirit, and daunting work ethic, Roy was a truly principled individual. He was fascinated by the intricacies and ideological minutia of political groups, but never took the easy route of allowing party politics to do the thinking for him. His opinions were his own. And when he decided an issue was important he acted on it. During the Vietnam War years Roy applied for and received conscientious objector status. But freeing himself from the potential horror of wartime military service didn’t end the issue for Roy. Instead, once a week for two years Roy rose at 5:00am so that he could travel down to Whitehall St., New York’s selective service headquarters, to try to find ways for those waiting on line to get out of service. I remember he was particularly upset that they were inducting junkies who weren’t able to protect themselves from the Selective Service madness. Roy did what he could to help.

He also had the wonderful ability to use his sharp, slightly subversive, sense of humor to undercut self-righteousness and pomposity. His father, Max Rosenzweig, helped to nurture Roy’s sly funny bone - introducing him to the Marx Brothers and Bob and Ray at an early age. Perhaps these were also early inspirations for Roy’s love of the offbeat - not the temporary, self-defining off-beatness of adolescents or the cutsie off-beatness of gift stores, but the genuine, quirky uniqueness of American subcultures and individuals who have somehow landed on the stove top instead of in the cultural mixing pot.

Roy’s concern for those facing systemic problems that blocked them from attaining some semblance of the good life was also come by honestly. One summer during college he worked in a shoe factory in Brooklyn. Many days after work he would tell me stories about the social and financial obstacles faced by the workers. Personal stories, real stories - not textbook generalities. He knew full well how lucky he was that in September he got to go back to being a student and how relatively oppressive it would be to see nothing but more factory work in one’s future. Roy noticed and cared.

Roy and I rarely saw each other since we both moved on from Cambridge in 1978. When we did see each other it was invariably somewhat awkward and sad but I would have given anything to have been able to talk with him briefly one last time. Unfortunately, I did not even know Roy was sick until I came across the death notice in the NY Times. I am so horribly sad that his life was so unfairly cut short but get some solace from knowing he led a full life surrounded by people who loved him dearly.