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by alongtheserivers
Feb 28, 2011 | 6144 views | 5 5 comments | 39 39 recommendations | email to a friend | print | permalink

Some time ago I had the great priviledge of meeting a (then) 109 year old woman, Evelyn Kozak. She is now 111, one of the oldest people in the country, surely (and presumably) the oldest Jewish person.

Of special interest to me is the fact that Ms. Kozak is a highly literate, extremely intelligent woman, still in full command of her fine mind. And most specifically interesting to me is the fact that she was a writer---and a most unusual one at that.

Evelyn Kozak, in addition to being wife and mother, was what actually amounted to a community scribe: many years ago, in a small New Jersey town, finding a good writer was not an easy matter, and there were people and occasions that demanded written documents.

Writing letters and documents for the less literate in her town was was an act of neighborly kindness Evelyn graciously performed, time and again. When we met, all these many years later, I was amazed by her stories related to what she had done: the turn of events that resulted from the matters she wrote about. Families reunited, scores settled, romances kindled and rekindled.

She also displayed an authentic ingenuous charm when asked by some friends of mine, along to interview her, about the dilemma of signing other's names to her writings---no dilemma at all, as far as she was concerned. She might as well have been sharing a recipe or minding a toddler...there was no effrontery involved, nothing done that was "so important" it couldn't easily be shared. 

I gained so much by visiting with her---discussion of the writings of Abraham Lincoln, one of her favorite writers as well as historical figures. A brilliant commentary on her favorite novel, The Longest Walk by George Meegan.

Finally, knowing Evelyn Kozak, reminds me of the poem: When You Are Old.  Full of tenderness and echoes of loss, it is one of my favorites. Enjoy...


When You Are Old 



When you are old and gray and full of sleep,

And nodding by the fire, take down this book,

And slowly read, and dream of the soft look

Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;


How many loved your moments of glad grace,

And loved your beauty with love false or true,

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,

And loved the sorrows of your changing face;


And bending down beside the glowing bars,

Murmur, a little sadly, how love fled

And paced upon the mountain overhead

And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.




                      --William Butler Yeats


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Jay Carson
March 11, 2011
Great piece. reminds us nobody owns words. terrific poem.
March 04, 2011
See this story we ran about Evelyn in The Jewish Chronicle:
Evelyn Kozak

March 01, 2011
This post is incredible, as is the great picture of you and Evelyn.

How interesting that she was not possessive of her writing and seemed to view it as a kind of communal exercise. How unlike our individualistic, and self-oriented, view about writing--and so much else--today.

I would like to interview her for The New Jersey Jewish Standard when I come to Pittsburgh. Do you think she would go for it?
February 28, 2011
She is living history. Having the ability to be able to transfer those thoughts of probably tne new immigrants, who had no education, to their loved ones here and overseas, was a gift.

And just to meet her had to be a special treat for you.

bridget robinson
February 28, 2011
This is a neat piece about a remarkable lady. Evelyn sounds like living history!