Irwin Corey is 95

“If we don’t change direction soon, we’ll end up where we’re going.” – Professor Irwin Corey
Irwin Corey – I’m related to him! (Well not really, but sorta. Pay attention: the quiz is brutal.)

My maternal grandmother (Gertrude Yates Williams) had a brother, Ernest Yates.
Ernie married Charlotte Berman.
Charlotte’s sister was Frances Berman.
Frances was married to Irwin.
So Irwin is my great aunt’s brother-in-law.

I need to explain that Aunt Charlotte was one of my closest relatives, not biologically but in terms of the effect she had on my life. My mom, who was an only child, really didn’t know the relatives on her father’s side until after her mother died in the 1980s.

Gertrude had three surviving siblings (one died as a child). Deana had no children, Ed had children much later in life. So it was Ernie’s four kids, Raymond, Fran, Donald and Robert, who were my mother’s first cousins, her closest relatives. And until the mid 1950s, when Ernest died, they all lived near Binghamton. So Aunt Charlotte was a pivotal character in my mother’s life, and the lives of my sisters and me, as we (with my father) would go down to their large house in Queens at least a couple times a year. Since my father was ALSO an only child, my sisters and I have no first cousins, and it was Charlotte’s grandchildren who were the closest thing to contemporary cousins, even though they were 2nd cousins once removed (I think).

For reasons that I can no longer remember, I was at Irwin Corey’s house on the Island (that’s Long Island to you) when I was a kid. Irwin and Fran weren’t there. While we thought Charlotte’s house in St. Albans was large, I recall that Irwin’s house was huge, at least to my mind.

We always made a point of watching Professor Irwin Corey, The World’s Foremost Authority, when he appeared on various TV variety shows. I wasn’t sure that it was a shtick; Irwin really DID seem to know an great deal, and would explain things in convoluted ways. I’d run into Irwin at various family functions of the Berman tribe, such as weddings and funerals.

The last two times I saw Irwin was at Charlotte’s 80th and 88th birthday parties, in 1994 and 2002, respectively. He could be funny, but also coarse, vulgar and a bit obtuse. He gave a toast at the 80th birthday party and rambled on about Richard Nixon (not favorably), among other things, and no one could really stop him. When we met for Charlotte’s 88th birthday – Charlotte died few years ago, before reaching her 89th – Irwin started pontificating again, but this time, a couple of the relatives cut him off with a “Thank you, Irwin”; he must have lost a step.

Irwin and Charlotte both were part of that 1930s Socialist tradition and never truly strayed from it.

Here’s some Irwin monologue and a 2008 New York times article. This is a great picture; note especially the hat. Have a listen to Irwin.

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