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Kassoy's Speech at her Father's
Memorial: August 2008
We have come together
here to remember my father, Bernard
When I was in high school, my best
friend accused me of idolizing my
father. Of course I denied it, but I
realized it had a lot of truth in it. At
a time when other teenagers were
rebelling against the conformist ideas
and complacent political positions of
their parents, I didnt have to rebel.
My earliest memories of
my father include being swung up and
down to Hot diggity, dog-diggity, Boom,
what you do to me
and dancing on his
feet. I remember walking on the beach
and at home, the smell of turpentine
their bedroom was their studio, and my
parents slept in the living room. I
remember watching Daddy draw political
cartoons for The Teacher News, the
publication of the Teachers Union.
When I was nine years
old, our parents taught us how to save
money we all cut our spending to save
for a trip to Europe to see the works of
the great European Masters. They dragged
us into all the museums in London,
Paris, Florence and Rome until my sister
and I refused to set foot in another
museum. Then they left us outside. I
think it was a decade before I was
willing to enter an art museum. Then I
retraced our steps to see it all again.
And when the Mona Lisa came to NY and
thousands of people bought advance
tickets and waited for hours on line, I
shrugged my shoulders because Id
already seen it!
My father taught me not to rely on the
mainstream press to inform me what was
going on in the world and introduced me
to I.F. Stones Weekly; the legacy goes
on. I still subscribe to its successor,
the Washington Spectator.
My father and mother have had the most
interesting friends. The level of
discussion, debate, and activity theyve
had puts my generation to shame. When my
husband Mitko first met them, he said to
me, You know, your parents friends are
a lot more interesting than your friends,
(no offense to my friends who are
here!), and if you knew my friends,
youd know that that is saying a lot
indeed. Wherever my parents went, and
they went all over the country and the
world, they had the extraordinary
ability to connect with people and make
new friends, to give their love, as is
indicated by the crowd here today.
Things you may not know about Bernard
He was born in the south Bronx, the
youngest of my grandparents five
surviving children. His parents, Hershel
and Toby Kassoy, immigrated to the U.S.
so that their children could have an
education, and they followed him to the
As a child, he slept on two chairs
pushed together and spoke only Yiddish
until he started kindergarten.
He was doing Pilates with Pilates,
when Pilates was his exercise counselor
in camp! He continued to exercise every
day until he became physically unable.
He discovered that he was an artist at
the age of 15, and he later attended
City College and Cooper Union
simultaneously, both full-time.
His first job was with the WPA.
His photographs of the 1936 May Day
parade are in the archives at the Fenimore Museum in Cooperstown and in
the permanent collection of the New York
Public Library. About 150 of his
cartoons of social protest are in the
Theodore Kheel Labor Archives at Cornell
Somewhere in the archives of the NYC
Police Department is a record of the
arrest of Michelangelo Buonarroti for
participating in the first sit-down
strike in the U.S.
My father started his teaching career
in Morris High School and then DeWitt
Clinton HS where I now teach, at the
age of 21 and was stopped by other
faculty asking for his hall pass.
He was a member of the top-secret
joint Canadian/American First Special
Service force the Devils Brigade
during WWII. Will someone please tell
Americans that its not secret anymore?
No one seems to have heard of the First
Special Service Force here, but the
guard at the Canadian border got out of
his booth and saluted as my father
After the war ended, Bernie saw Honey
going up the stairs at a Teachers Union
meeting, and he called to her. He said
that when she turned around and came
back down the stairs, he knew she was
the one. They were married five months
later. And my mother says they had
sixty-two wonderful years together.