Eight and a half million lives pass through NYC’s streets every day, swelled by millions more commuters and visitors. The souls of so many millions, carrying so many joys and heartbreaks mix with the minds of a billion opinions, stories, hopes and fears. When one of these lives leave this world, we continue without pause on our paths, but the Levy family and our loved friends have stopped this time to reflect on a spectacular life well lived and recently lost.
Bennett Levy, Mark’s father, was born 90 years ago in the Bronx. He lived through the Great Depression, was employed in the garment industry during its heyday, and vividly remembered the blackouts of World War II. He worked as a machinist making valves during the war effort, which he sent off to the Manhattan Project!
After marrying the sole love of his life, Harriet, in 1948, the two of them moved to a new Mitchell-Lama Co-op building in Manhattan twenty years later and became the quintessential Upper West Siders. Walks in Central Park and the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx; Nights at the opera and New York Philharmonic orchestra at Lincoln Center; dozens of Broadway shows throughout the years; he was actively engaged in his lifestyle even as he entered his 90th year of life.
He loved New York City and the buzz of the people walking through its streets. He was very dedicated to organization on a local level (a co-founder of Bronx Reform Democrats) and a national level (he marched with Martin Luther King Jr. down Broadway!). When the city went dark during the blackout of 1969, he and my father got dressed up in their Boy Scout uniforms and directed traffic on the Grand Concourse.
For the millions of people who passed him on the streets or the hundreds who held a rapt conversation with him, they probably won’t notice one less person, plucked from our dynamic city. But for the Levy family and our dear friends the empty space at the head of the dinner table will be missed. After all, the heated conversation that emanated from my grandfather touched on every topic from the war in Afghanistan to whether or not dogs dream in color.
However, the extraordinarily active life that he lived has indirectly touched thousands of lives and will continue to, as all of his thoughts, opinions and experiences have been passed down to his daughter, son and grandchildren. Because we have channeled his spirit on to every curious soul who takes our tours. And, if years from now the Levys bring on a new generation of guides, they will share the same spirit, passed down from their great-grandfather, Bennett Levy.
By Jonah Levy