Roy

Contributed By Anonymous

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My name is Jean-Christophe Agnew, and I knew Roy for some thirty five years. If that sounds a bit like the introduction for someone in recovery from something, that’s pretty much how I feel at the moment. And you too, I’m sure. All of us poised at one step or another of recovery from our loss. And because of the way Roy lived his life and took care of his friends, it is very much our loss. Sad as I am to be here – sad beyond words really -- I am relieved and comforted to be here with all of you.

Roy was many, many things, but he was, above all, his friends. There are others here today whose friendship with Roy goes back to high school, even junior high. But feeling trumps fact here, because one of the marvelous things about Roy was his gift for making you feel as if you had hung out with him in junior high. Thanks to Roy’s abiding allegiance and affection for us all – his remembrance of our birthdays, for example, his care to update us on our friends – we all belonged to the imagined community of Roy Rosenzweig: Let’s call it Royville.

So it is a comfort to me to see Royville assembled here this afternoon. No longer imagined, no longer virtual, but here, present. Once again, our friend and comrade, our confidant and collaborator has managed to bring us together. Though if were he here himself, you know that he would have a list of better things we might be doing with our time. Frankly, what we’re saying and doing today would have been unendurable for Roy, like a collective hug that went on and on, beyond reason. But what we’re feeling today -- certainly what I’m feeling -- is beyond reason. The love we felt for him, the love we took from him.

The last time I remember such a gathering was more than 25 years ago, at Roy’s and Deborah’s August wedding in Middletown, Connecticut, where I distinctly remember thinking to myself: A wedding. What a wonderful pretext, what a great excuse for all of us to call to order the first official meeting -- the charter meeting -- of the Roy-and-Deborah fan club. For that is what that gathering was at that moment of happiness there on that sunlit lawn on that summer afternoon, and that is what it still is, here in this room, at this moment of our grief and loss.

But was it not always been thus? From the legendary stickball games in Bayside to pick-up hoops in Cambridge, from dinners at 82 Kirkland Street to picnics in Craryville, from those godawful chocolate donuts and cans of Tab at the Urban Center at Harvard to the gallons of coffee at the History and New Media Center at George Mason, Roy drew us together in one way or another, turning the various pretexts for gathering into real texts: textbooks, monographs, anthologies, slide tapes, cd roms and finally the on-line loop of digital knowledge which so perfectly replicates (at least for me) the circles of friendship and knowledge that Roy himself generated over the years. Six degrees of Roy.

Early on, there was MARHO, the Mid-Atlantic Radical Historians Organization, the small nucleus of editorial collectives that started the Radical History Review more than three decades ago. Roy and I would often joke about the now long forgotten MARHO regional associates, a loose network of corresponding members –many of them isolated (by their own account) at various Midwestern and Southern colleges and universities. Wanting desperately to talk to someone, anyone, about, say, the impact of Daniel De Leon or the significance of the British General Strike of 1926. Had it not been for Roy’s empathy and his efforts over many years – all those letters and phone calls -- this committee of correspondence among left historians would have disappeared. No one else in MARHO was willing to take that job. And so it fell to Roy, or rather Roy rose to it.

Which is why the Thanks, Roy website seems so right, so apt an appreciation. All the Regional Associates of Roy’s life returning the favor, reminding us of the impact, the significance of this man in our lives. The impressions. The anecdotes. The remembered dialogue. Reading over these recollections, I see my best friend re-emerge, coalesce before my eyes like some pointilliste portrait.

No, wait. Pointilliste portrait? No, no, no….what I really see is that signature green or red ink underline scrawled beneath the word “pointilliste” with a polite question mark to the right. What is Roy telling me? Have I got the wrong technology? Should I substitute “dot matrix,” or maybe “pixelated”? Or is he suggesting that my figure of speech is itself a distraction, a way of aestheticizing and avoiding my own sorrow at writing about Roy -- without Roy? I’d ask him but I suspect that by this point in these remarks, Roy would have left this room looking for the coffee machine. Or better yet, fallen asleep.

Roy and I spent more than 25 years of our lives writing one thing or another together, from introductions to obituaries. But the longest assignment of all was the column we cobbled together three-times-a-year on history and historians: the Abusable Past. It wasn’t exactly Morrison and Commager, more like Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers of history. Looking under the hood of the profession was not so difficult given how many historians Roy knew and how much time he logged at conventions. So many conventions. Once, just for fun, we did a back-of-the envelope calculation of the time Roy had spent at conventions. It added up to a year. A full year out of his life. Now how he felt about that I don’t really know. And perhaps he didn’t either. But how many of us here in Royville would give a year out of our lives just to see him at the next AHA – in his red shirt and jeans – waiting at the registration desk to go out for coffee?

Thank you, Roy, for everything.