Tuesday, April 1, 2008

I think that Paul Bonart was without any question the single most intelligent person I have ever met. What was so particularly remarkable about him was that, unlike many intelligent people--men particularly--he had a genuine humility about him. Mind you, he had strong opinions that he was never afraid to voice, and it was difficult to win him around to a way of thinking that was not his. But he always respected an intelligent and arrived-at point of view in another person, even as he disagreed with you.

The other indelible thing about Paul was his great and abiding kindness and warmth as a human being. I believe that no-one has ever put it more succinctly than Jean Jacques Rousseau who wrote: "What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?" Indeed, this quote describes Paul in a nut-shell, and that kindness shown out of him like a beacon.

I had the singular privilege to know Paul from the time I was a little boy. He and Bertha were my Parent's great friends, their history being linked all the way back to political days in pre-Nazi Germany. I remember the Bonarts visiting us when I was five, or maybe six, and I vividly remember how they came from Rochester to Sacramento when my Father died in 1956. Indeed, I can hardly remember a time when Bertha and Paul were not part of our lives, even if just in letters.

I valued them not only as friends of the family, but as inspiring role models (along with my own Parents, and our dear friends Thelma and Irving Wiener) for what a successful relationship between two deeply committed human beings should look like. The way that these couples supported and believed in one-another and the way they interacted as separate but equal entities was truly revelatory. And when Paul and Margaret married, after the deaths of their beloved spouses, their relationship entered that same constellation.

When Paul and Margaret moved to Huntington Beach I was selfishly sorry, realizing that I might never see them again. We continued our contact with phone calls and letters, and particularly after my beloved Mother died in 2001, Paul was my very last link to the world of my Parents.

I was especially proud of him for writing the book that everyone else found too painful to write--the unvarnished history of the ISK, and of the events that led up to the Hitler debacle. Unlike others in this movement whose memories became curiously selective when recalling history, Paul was unafraid to speak the truth. And speak it he did, with precision and clarity and courage.

For years, whenever Bertha and Paul and my Mother would get together the conversation would invariably turn to their shared history; and what always amazed me was how reluctant they had been to tell lies, EVEN TO SAVE THEIR OWN LIVES. The moral stature that this implied staggered me, and made me feel as tho they were giant beings from another age of the world. And I believe they were.

And now Paul is gone, the last of the last. But he leaves a huge legacy of friendship and kindness and honor that few people could have amassed, even over a life-span of twice 97 years. And although we will never hear his kind and unmistakable "Hello" again, or receive a silly forwarded email, or a cogent & concisely worded assessment of the current political situation, he will continue to shine brightly for those of us who had the very singular privilege to know and love him.

Franklin John Kakies--March 2008

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