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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Memorial for Howard Fussiner

There were tears, certainly, at this afternoon's memorial service for Howard Fussiner, who passed away at 83 on Tuesday. It was particularly moving when Howard's son Ben recalled his father's sadness that his two-year-old granddaughter Maya might not remember him.

But for all the tears and glistening eyes, there was far more joy and laughter.

It was standing room only at the Whitney Arts Center as Howard's sons Ben and Saul (Maya's father), his wife Barbara, his daughter-in-law Carolyn Kuzmeski and his brother- and sister-in-law Michael and Adrianne Bank paid tribute in words to a man they loved and admired. There were anecdotes that often prompted warm laughter and elegiac poetry that Howard loved, including "At David's Grave," written by poet Denise Levertov when Howard's son David died at 23 months, and Howard's own "The Drug Store," about his father.

Howard's love of classical music and the pop music of the 1930's was celebrated with the playing of some of his favorite recordings and brief performances by guitarist Geoff Bonenberger, cellist Barbara Mallow and—playing five short compositions written by Howard—his piano teacher Sally Joughin.

I found myself, during the service, looking at one of his paintings, displayed against a side wall. It was a Maine landscape, touched by a graceful light, rocks sunk in the muck of the water's edge, lush trees anchored in the solid earth.

He was, he had told me three weeks ago when I visited his studio as part of City-Wide Open Studios, attracted as an artist to "the most elemental kind of landscape." And even though his health had been failing for several years, there were numerous lovely paintings in the studio dated 2005 and 2006. The landscapes exemplified his joy in being amid the natural beauty around him. And his genre paintings of celebrations and parades reflected his sociability and love of people. That love was returned in today's outpouring of affection.

According to his son Ben, if friends wish to make a donation in Howard's name, they might follow Howard's example by giving to "arts organizations" and/or "lefty political organizations."

7 Comments:

Anonymous Saul Fussiner said...

This is really well done, and captures the feeling of the day quite vividly.

12:31 AM

 
Anonymous john felstiner said...

Thanks so much for these sensitive words--I'm glad to have them but sad to miss the event (living in California). My wife Mary and I met Barbara and Howard through Denise Levertov, and since that moment in 1987, they were our very dear New Haven family. Howard never failed to find new meaning and joy in things. Music and books, along with art and politics. There's a gaping hole now where he stood.

John Felstiner

2:14 AM

 
Blogger Elisabeth said...

I too am sorry to have missed Howard's memorial. I feel so lucky that I was able to spend time with him in August. Part of the purpose of my trip to the East Coast was to buy a couple of his paintings. Going into his studio has always been like going into a candy store for me. The only difference this time was that I was actually getting to leave with something. He later wrote me a postcard thanking me for giving them a good home. I am honored to have them. Howard will be dearly missed.

Elisabeth K. van Houten

12:00 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I did not know about Howard's death until December when Pam Pace told me. She would be the only one. Howard was the only one who would stay close to me after all the years of artists on the island, et al. He was a humble not modest man but he was that too, in his aspirations. He was more an admirer and a celebrator than an initiator in creation. When the bull and the eagle have gone thundering through forest in all directions--the donkey makes the way passable.I liked since a teen-ager (I am now almost 53) what I was not afraid of in his humor and shyness as well as uncompromising humaneness. I remember and liked his mother dear. We sat together on the picnic table out side the kitchen door of the farmhouse and ate cheese blitzes. I think it was one good reason why I have as a Mainiac wanted to become a Jew. They express the full open human character as well, and I love that. We are all fallacies of an unaging mortality. The artist gives it form for a time before its immortality comes to claim him. Such was Howard too! I have already started prepared to honor his memory even if I can't believe Howard's gone.
omunhvilag

8:42 PM

 
Blogger G.W. Schwendner said...

yes i am sorry i missed this too and i wanted barbara to know that john loftus passed last thursday his memorial will be oct 6 4-6 at houghten house in geneva, ny
www.johnloftus20008.blogspot.com

8:24 AM

 
Blogger sgmpalm said...

Howard was my art teacher at Southern back in the mid 80's. One of our assignments was to paint a self-portrait. He was delighted with mine and I was honored when he asked me if he can keep it. He also invited the entire class to visit his painting studio on the upper floor of his home in New Haven. And I still remember the maid arriving to clean the house while we were there. The last that I saw of him was at Temple Medical Center. He didn't look well and I feared at that time it was the last I would see of him.
I'll always remember him fondly. He had such a pleasant disposition and a passion for life.

Stephen Palmer, East Haven CT

12:16 AM

 
Blogger dfhart said...

I am just finding this sad news, now. Having moved away from New Haven in 1986, I had lost touch with Howard and many of our mutual friends. I remember Howard with great fondness, admiration and humor, through participation in many arts and community events. (I actually did get to see one of his later shows at the Slifka Center, I think, on a rare visit to New Haven, and left a note for him at the desk, but do not know whether he ever got it, as I did not hear back from him. I wonder whether Barbara is still living at the house on the corner of Everit Street? In peace, and with great fondness, Deborah Forest Hart (or, as he would have known me, Deborah Wallace Cordon, and Deborah Meinrath)

11:08 AM

 

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