Quite simply, Ed Koch loved New York. Born in the Bronx, Koch once worked as a hat check boy in a Newark dance hall, served as an infantryman in the Army, and earned two Stars in combat for his military service. He developed a life in politics, eventually becoming Mayor of New York, a role which, as history shows, suited him well (though it wasn’t without controversy).
Koch would serve three terms as Mayor, during a time that wasn’t for the faint of heart, and he literally saved a city on the verge of bankruptcy. NYC in the 70’s was a metropolis crumbling, but Koch saw its potential, and he told everybody to get back up, get back to work–and New Yorkers did. He was sarcastic, and blunt, and very often, a quotable character. A New Yorker through and through.
A lover of film, Koch was known to see two to three movies every weekend, preferring to see films in public theaters, despite his access to private screenings. In 2009, Koch even participated in the web video show Mayor at the Movies, providing weekly movie reviews. And–I think it bears repeating–Ed Koch loved New York. Speaking to the AP in 2008, the former mayor confirmed he had managed to purchase a burial plot at the Trinity Church Cemetery. An area which, geography wise, is located on one of the higher points on Manhattan, and the only cemetery accepting new burials. Remarked Koch, “I don’t want to leave Manhattan, even when I’m gone. This is my home. The thought of having to go to New Jersey was so distressing to me.”
Proud of his Jewish Heritage, Koch gave careful consideration to the inscription he wanted on his headstone. And in addition to the Shma (the familiar Jewish Prayer), he wanted the words spoken by Daniel Pearl right before he was killed by militants: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.”
“Well, that’s me, too” he told the Journal in 2012. “I think that statement is as important as the most holy of all statements in Jewish ritual, I think that every Saturday, we ought to say, ‘My father’s a Jew, my mother was a Jew, and I’m a Jew,’ with great pride.”
Perhaps it is fitting Koch passed away on the anniversary of the death of Daniel Pearl–the very same day Pearl uttered the words now inscribed on his headstone. He’ll always be in New York now, but New Yorkers will miss him just the same.
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