Mayor Michael Bloomberg quipped during Ed Koch’s funeral today, “He was a Polish Jew, to be buried in an Episcopal cemetery, in a Dominican neighborhood.” How New York is that? Koch, World War II veteran, congressman and three-term mayor of New York, described his city as the “place the future comes to audition.”
New York City broadcast the service live over its official website and it was covered by local television stations. In addition to thoughtful remarks from family, speakers included Mayor Bloomberg, President Bill Clinton and the Israeli Consulate General.
Speakers regaled attendees and those watching by television and Internet stream of a man who loved his family. He was more than a beloved, colorful uncle to nieces and nephews. He was another grandfather.
A nephew remembered Koch telling, if not lecturing, Clinton of the boy’s lofty accomplishments and great future. Koch wasn’t interested in hearing about Clinton’s latest initiatives. He only wanted to boast about his nephew to the former leader of the free world.
A niece recollected how he always had time for his family no matter how busy or pressed. No one or nothing else mattered when Koch spoke to his kin, which included those not of family blood he had chosen to be part of his “tribe.”
Koch, recalled an aide, announced to staff in an attempt to defuse office tension and make amends, “I’m sorry” and added, deadpan, “… but she is still wrong.” A friend recalled the many times New Yorkers greeted him, “We need you back as mayor.” The sharped-tongue mayor would retort, “You threw me out and now you have to be punished,” referring to his losing bid in the Democratic primary for a fourth term.
A speaker remembered Koch half-jokingly tell a Communist official visiting New York, “I can help you defect.” In another case, he asked a visiting Chinese dignitary who had been pushed off a balcony under suspicious circumstances, “Did you get even?”
Death didn’t scare Koch. He often talked about it. The mayor believed God would take care of him. “How am I doing,” Koch would often ask New Yorkers on the street during his tenure as mayor. Bloomberg said referring to himself and trumping Cardinal Dolan, “I talk to God” and knew the Almighty had told Koch he had done very well.
Six New York City police officers carried Koch down the aisle at Temple Emanu-El in a simple wooden casket to the waiting hearse for one last ride through his beloved city. An organ piped out a rousing rendition of “New York, New York” as thousands outside and in attendance applauded a final farewell to America’s mayor.
Paul Jesep is an attorney, policy analyst, and author of “Lost Sense of Self & the Ethics Crisis: Learn to Live and Work Ethically”; “Credit Card Usury and the Christian Failure to Stop It”; and “Crucifying Jesus and Secularizing America – the Republic of Faith without Wisdom.”