Remembering Mike Solomon
Remarks at Memorial Service
Congregation Beth El
Richard M. Freeman
February 8, 2005
We were young together all those years ago at Amherst: Mike (whom we called “Sollie”), and Bob (whom we called “Bush), and John Newman in the downstairs room by the back door; and Ed, John Franklin and Bill (whom we called “Harry High School”) and me in the upstairs room overlooking Professor Marx’s house; and the two Danny’s and Steve and Andre and Kent and, for Mike, a wide circle of baseball players, pre-meds, and drinking buddies scattered in rooms and houses around campus—not to mention other acquaintances “over the notch” at Holyoke or down the road at Smith.
Ancient history, I know. Almost half a century ago now. But in my dazed state after Warren Silver’s devastating call last Saturday, I felt a need to talk to as many of our old friends as I could reach, in part to tell them, in part to reconnect with Mike’s spirit by touching again the network of affections that bound us together.
Each of the calls was a version of the other: a shared sense of disbelief and loss. How could Mike—the picture of health, the exemplar of a well-balanced life, the guy who had figured it all out and who still so manifestly harbored his youthful zest for life—how could he be the first of us to go? Each friend asked me to say to Ingrid and Martina and Marisa and Ula, and to Mike’s dad, how much they wanted to be here and how much they treasured your husband and father and son, and how deeply they admired the beautifully shaped life of family, friends, work and play that you all created with our old friend here in Maine.
My own feelings are especially intense. Mike and I were friends in college. I enjoyed his exuberance, his sense of fun, and his great warmth, but in truth I think I missed more of Mike than I saw in those days—the depth of purpose that led him to pursue a career in medicine through study in Bologna after the backwash from his youthful playfulness interfered with his application to medical school; the appreciation of private joys that enabled him to build a life so rich in love and friendship; the self-awareness that permitted a kid from Brooklyn and a spouse from Vienna to realize that Central Maine offered possibilities that might prove elusive in the rush of Boston or New York or Washington.
Those deeper qualities that now define Mike only became apparent to me over time, after I settled in Boston and he and Ingrid found their way here, courtesy of the US military. By then we were in our thirties and Mike was evolving into the skilled and compassionate physician, the loving husband and father, the warm and appreciative friend that many in this gathering knew him to be. My special privilege was to see how he became that, to watch as his personal depths found their way to the surface and took shape in his life and work. For me—devoted as I was to work and career well into my fifties—Mike’s life came to seem a “road not taken,” rich in joys and consolations and intimacies that I feared I might miss. After I had the great good fortune in my middle years to meet and marry the love of my life in Elsa, I have often looked to Mike and Ingrid and their family as the model for what I hoped Elsa and I might create.
So I speak today as on old friend on behalf of other old friends who could not be here, and I also speak as a new friend whose admiration for Michael grew and deepened over the years.
He was much too young to die. He had so much love still to give to Ingrid, Martina, Marisa and Ula and to a growing extended family. He had so many good times still to savor with family and friends at the lake or the mountain or here in Bangor. It is agonizingly unfair that he will not have those joys, and it is heartbreaking that his family and friends will be denied the warmth of his love and affection. It is deeply tragic that his father must bear the pain of this day. Knowing how much I will miss him, my spirit aches for those you who were so much closer to him than I.
And yet—I hope it is not presumptuous of me to say this—his cup seemed to me quite full, his life in some ways complete. He saw each of his daughters grow into accomplished, joyous women starting families of their own. He and Ingrid had established a pattern of family life wonderfully satisfying to them both. He had achieved fulfillment as a respected professional and valued friend in this community. He possessed a rounded self without loose ends and unresolved issues. In the sadness of our loss today, I feel a reflective joy that his life gave him space to achieve and experience all this, and that he died a truly happy man. And I feel a reciprocal joy for all of us, and especially for Ingrid and the three daughters, that we had him to teach us about life as well as he did for as long as he did.
Remarks at Memorial Service
Congregation Beth El
John M. Newman
February 8, 2005
It’s not surprising there is absolutely no standing room…Mike and I often enjoyed Woody Allen together, and I think it was Mike who reminded me Woody once wrote, “80% of life is just showing up!”
Mike was one of my first friends at Amherst – so refreshing to be around. We always felt comfortable and relaxed in Mike’s presence, not a frequent experience during the rather pressured freshman year. As others have said, his smile and laugh were infectious. We were 18, and normally didn’t have much trouble on weekends opening a can of beer, or fixing a gin and tonic. He was 17, and to our amazement and without effort, he’d mix together an assortment of ingredients and come up with the most delicious whiskey sours!
Two days ago, John Franklin remembered many of us were concerned and amazed at Mike’s determination to learn Italian and study medicine abroad. Succeed he did, and we’re all the better for it! I visited him in Bologna in the fall of 1963. I learned a lesson which has been a gift lasting a lifetime. Rather than greet me with my hand extended, he gave me this wonderful hug, expressing the depth of friendship and warmth which only Mike could do so naturally. He may have picked some of this up in Italy.
I suspect the roots of his love of life and others were nurtured in Brooklyn. When his parents came to visit Amherst freshman year, some of us weren’t certain whether the gorgeous woman on his father’s arm was his sister or mother! We witnessed Mike’s love for his family during those visits, which has been so well extended and magnified in the family he and Ingrid created. Clearly Mike and his three wonderful daughters had the good judgment of choosing extraordinary parents.
My daughters’ memories of Mike come from childhood when we were welcomed during summer visits. They remember his warmth, and smile; and having such fun with Martina, Marisa, and [at the time] little, Ula. Sara mentioned the warmth, lightness and brightness of the home Mike and Ingrid helped design on Valley Avenue, reminded her of Mike’s light-hearted openness, welcoming smile, and comfort.
Mike, as one of your many Amherst friends, I’m terribly saddened, shocked, and feeling cheated by your very premature death. The irony of your bittersweet luck of the draw in leaving while doing something you loved, has added some temporary relief to the flood of tears. You made such important differences in all our lives, for which we are ever grateful. Rest in peace, dear friend – but please don’t ever wipe that wonderful smile off your face.
From: Ed Packel
March 28, 2005
Just tonight I learned of the death of Mickey Solomon through the new "In Memory" pages of the Class of 1963. Here I want to relate one fond memory of time spent with Mickey and Ingrid in the summer of 1967 when I was traveling in Europe with friends.
Having gotten in touch with them to let them know we were in Italy, my future first wife and I arrived in Bologna and were immediately "forced" to take over the Solomons' master bedroom while they slept on the floor. Well, a good night's sleep after a month of camping is memorable, but not as memorable as the experience that preceded it.
The Solomons wanted us to understand why their town was referred to as "fat Bologna" and they did so in style by treating us to the greatest restaurant meal I have ever had. I cannot remember many specifics, but I do remember the variety of wines and appetizers, the tour of the kitchen conducted by the chef to help us decide what to order, and the three hours of feasting and conversation that followed.
Thanks, Doc Solomon, for your warmth and generosity and for your "light up the room" personality.
March 28, 2005