Why is it that just when things seem to be going well, your uninvited friend, boredom, shows up? I think this is 99% of the cause for the rise of Donald Trump. We’ve had something like seven straight years of GDP growth. And yet the growth has been mostly “meh.” This might also explain how the 5th Jason Bourne movie can gross $61 million in its first weekend. The latest version of an aging franchise is more exciting than life in America right now. In our personal lives the same holds true. You reach a certain point in your career and things start to get easier. People start asking you questions and looking to you for advice. Could this really be happening, you say to yourself? Some people get off on that, I’m sure. Me, I start to wonder if something is wrong! The good thing is that something interesting always seems to emerge after times like these. You need to keep your eyes and ears open for what’s around the corner. I mean, who saw the internet or the iPod coming?
When I was just starting out in publishing, I had the privilege to have a private meeting with legendary William Morrow editor (and now author), Will Schwalbe. I recall him being incredibly, smart, compassionate, and an excellent listener. Our paths diverged soon afterwards. Then, a few years ago, I saw Will speak at Book Expo. As he shared stories from his career, the same candor and compassion came through. One story stood out to me. He talked about the best book he had ever had the opportunity to publish. It was hauntingly beautiful a memoir about the Vietnam War written by someone from the communist side. He spoke about the energy and passion he put into getting the text and cover just right. He pulled out all the stops only to see the book fall flat on its face when it came out a few months later. I think he said it sold only 750 copies. Everyone who has worked for even a little while in book publishing has a similar story. Mine goes back to 2000 when I had the opportunity to work on a book called Out of the Depths about a small group of women living under the Iron Curtain who were secretly ordained as Catholic priests by a local bishop so that they could minister to fellow women in the gulag. We got some great press for it, including a 2-page spread in a major newspaper, but the book failed to catch fire. I don’t know what else to say–it’s a fact of life in publishing–sometimes the best books don’t quite make it.
He was born in Passaic General Hospital in Passaic and raised in Wallington. After attending grade school and two years of high school in East Rutherford the family was notified that Ted was going to the wrong school. He was transferred to Lodi High School where he finished his junior and senior years graduating with the Class of 1939.
As a young man still in high school Ted worked on a yacht called the Betty R which was moored along the Passaic River at the Gregory Avenue Bridge in Passaic. The yacht would make day and evening trips along the Passaic River. It became common knowledge to the crew that Ted was not only a good help on board but also had skills in the kitchen as he was taking cooking lessons at East Rutherford High School. When he was just fifteen years old he was asked by a Mr. Charles W. Weston, who was an executive at the Manufacturers Trust Company in New York City, to help finish a yacht called the Gryphon. It was in dry dock in Englewood and Ted would go and help finish the exterior while the people at the boat yard worked on the interior. When the yacht was launched Ted assumed the roles of cabin boy, cook, and mate. They would take weekend excursions up and down the Hudson River from New York City to Poughkeepsie. Memorable cruisers were Helen Hayes and her husband Charles MacArthur, Guy Moneypenny, Groucho Marx, and Carey Grant. During his senior year of high school the yacht wasn’t used and Mr. Weston brought Ted to New York City to help at Manufacturers Trust. He worked at the bank’s main offices at Broad and Wall Street in New York. Ted was taught about being a teller, rack clerk, and the ins and outs of safety deposit boxes. Soon he was assigned to work at the bank’s office at 103 and Broad Street. Because there was no central accounting system each branch’s transactions had to be hand delivered, on a daily basis, to the main offices. It was 1940, and Ted did this for a salary of $15.00/week with his first year’s wages totaling $900.00. Mr. Westin saw great promise in Ted and sent him to the Stonier Graduate School of Banking in New Brunswick, NJ. Ted worked for Manufacturers Trust for two years until the passing of Mr. Westin, his “in” at the bank. Ted applied and was accepted at the Rutherford Bank in Rutherford, NJ where he did similar work for a few years.
Upon receiving a notice from the US Army he asked his boss for a day off and went to the Navy Recruiting Station and enlisted in the US Navy. World War II was ramping up and he figured it would be better to have a bed and a meal than be sitting in a muddy fox hole somewhere. Ted was told to report to the Navy recruiting Station at 9 PM on November 28, 1942. He was sent to Sampson, New York for training and eventually was one of twenty-two out of a group of fifty volunteers to be selected for Navy Dive Training. His dive training was done at Pier 88 in New York where he worked on righting the capsized SS Normandie. His on the job training involved placing special patches over port holes to seal them, torch cutting, welding, driving nails into wood, splicing cables, measuring with his fingers, tunneling into the muck under the ship with fire hoses, and jack hammering, all in the complete darkness of the underwater world of the Hudson River. He also remembers having to complete a dive of 150 feet in the waters of the Hudson River, just north of the George Washington Bridge. As he was being lowered into the depths, the dive master’s voice came over the radio to ask if all was ok – Ted replied “no…there’s no air coming in” the dive master replied “don’t worry…the pump is frozen…it should start up again in a few minutes.” Ted was able to commute back and forth from New York to New Jersey and would do so any time he had leave. He would simply put on his Navy uniform and stand by the Lincoln Tunnel. The officer stationed at the tunnel would ask passing cars if they were headed to Rutherford. He would do the same on his return trip, walking with his thumb up trying to hitch a ride back to Manhattan. He swore the uniform got him a ride every time.
Ted met his future wife, Lillian Kleiner, in eighth grade, but she didn’t like him muchafter he put tacks on her chair. As the years went by they fell in love. While Ted was serving in the Navy his ship hit a coral reef and was to be in dry-dock for three months. Ted was awarded a thirty day leave and called Lillian and told her to go buy a dress. Lillian, after receiving that collect call, didn’t go shopping. When Ted got home he had to explain to his mother that he could no longer send half of his military pay home if he was going to be married. Once this glitch was smoothed over they married at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church in East Rutherford on May 3, 1945. They drove Lillian’s father’s car, a 1937 Dodge, to Niagara Falls, NY. Most people couldn’t afford the gasoline to go that far but Ted had pinched a few fuel rationing cards since one of his jobs was to burn any used fuel cards. On the way home from their honeymoon Ted picked up a hitchhiker who fell asleep on Lillian’s shoulder. Lillian soon made it very clear to Ted that they would pick up no more hitchhikers.
After being honorably discharged in 1945 he returned to his work at the Rutherford Bank. During a Federal Examination of the bank one of the examiners asked Ted if he would like a job as an examiner. He soon accepted the position and reviewed area bank records for just over two years before accepting a position with the Bloomingdale Bank. He soon opened the First National Bank in the Mountain View section of Wayne and then a second Wayne location at Preakness Shopping Center. Ted served as Vice President of First National Bank for 38 years before retiring in 1997. One of Ted’s greatest personal assets was his near photographic memory. As customers would enter the bank he could immediately recall their names, knew their handwriting, and specifically their signatures. He related a story about how he would review the signatures on checks the bank processed that day and noticed a woman had signed a check, the handwriting and first name were correct but the last name didn’t match. Ted proceeded to call this woman and ask her what her maiden name was; sure enough she had signed her maiden name after some twenty years of marriage. She made Ted promise he wouldn’t tell her husband.
Ted was dedicated to the community he lived in and belonged to: Pompton Lakes Kiwanis Club where he served as president in 1956, Butler/Bloomingdale Post 9458 of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wayne Rotary Club where he served as President in 1965, worked as chairman of Rotary’s Foundation for the Handicapped, served on the Chilton Hospital board from 1987 through 1990, served as Past president of the Passaic County Chapter of American Institute of Banking, Past President of the Wayne Chamber of Commerce 1952-1953, was instrumental in helping organize a central post office for Wayne, served on the Bloomingdale Board of Education and the Bloomingdale Town Council, and served as Chairman of the Sister Kenny Foundation.
He and his wife Lillian loved to travel. Ted was able to take two private train trips across the United States, and felt privileged to have been on seventeen cruises with destinations all around the world. He remembers one cruise where one of their stops was in St Petersburg, Russia where Ted’s camera was confiscated by the authorities. On another cruise they had an encounter with Carey Grant. They briefly spoke and Ted brought up the fact that he knew Helen Hayes. Carey lit up and said I have a book about Helen…I will give it to you tomorrow. As Ted and Lillian sat with their friends on the ship Carey Grant walked up and said “here’s the book Ted” and walked away. As their friends stared in awe Lillian piped up that they were just old friends.
Ted was an avid golfer and was proud of acing three holes in his golfing days. He was a member of the North Jersey Country Club in Wayne.
Ted was the loving husband of the late Lillian (Kleiner) Roehrs (1/2015); loved father of the late Barbara Tintera (7/2015) and her husband John Green Tintera of Pompton Lakes; cherished grandfather of John Tintera and his wife Sally, Ashlie Garb and her husband Randy, and Ryan Tintera and his wife Sayyora; much loved great-grandfather of Andrew Tintera, Theodore Tintera, Jack Garb, and Martin Moratusannova; dear brother of the late Julius Roehrs, Helen Buettner, RN, and Elizabeth Hasbrouck.
One of the most interesting facts about the invention of the internet is the level of self-expression that it affords us. “We’re all publishers now” as the pundits say. But I can’t tell you how often I have gotten to the precipice of posting a Tweet and then pulled back when a little voice said, “What if your current boss or a future boss sees that thought.” It happened just now. I was about to start a post about a dumb thing that a religious leader in my faith community did. A lot of my views about religion cut against the grain of many of my coreligionists, so I hesitated and started this blog instead. But this is not the first time that has happened. Part of me longs for a world where there is no judgment. Just today I heard about another young trans-gendered person committing suicide. There is a tiny part of me that wishes I had the courage or the conviction to be a martyr. And then I ask myself, “Is Donald Trump a martyr?” Clearly not. I think most of us wish that he was not so liberated. Here’s a person so privileged and entitled that he apparently can say whatever pops into his mind, the rest of the world be dammed. There is a communitarian aspect to self-censorship that is little prized in this era of unwieldy self-expression. But restraint is a virtue too.
Fire in the Ashes by Jonathan Kozol (audio version / read by Keythe Farley). It made me cry and want to do something about poverty in America.
The Magus by John Fowles. Blew my mind and made me want to re-read Shakespeare.
Backbone by David H. Wagner. A self-help book for men that’s not cheesey. A must read!
The Phoenix Generation by Kingsley L. Dennis. Gives me hope that these tough times we’re going through have a deeper purpose.
Leadership Landscapes by James P. Keen. A business book that I actually read from cover to cover and that I have referred to again and again.
Understanding Human Design by Karen Curry. She makes a really complex subject, well, understandable.
Complexity by M. Mitchell Waldrop. Taught me how the universe actually works. Practical applications are everywhere. The science of hope and the hope of science.
& Sons by David Gilbert. A well-told novel with some very nice turns of phrase.
Books I’m still working on because I don’t want them to end:
The Gene Keys by Richard Rudd
Revolution in The Head by Ian MacDonald
In the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
The Law of Light by Lars Muhl
Mindfulness by Ellen Langer