Trayst mein folk, es darft die trayst
Consolation, our people need consolation
Unzer lied is ful mit troier
Our song is filled with sadness
I sing a song of tribute to Sam Kellerman who left us much too young at age 29 in October of 2004. In our last E-Mail exchanges on 28 and 30 September, the first contact in several years, we discussed Shawn Green and the Jewish experience in baseball. Sam thanked me for sharing common ground in sports history and sent warm regards to my children: his Kinderland companions.
Sam’s dad, the prominent psychoanalyst and author, Dr. Henry Kellerman and I met at Camp Kinderland, then situated in Hopewell Junction, New York in 1952. We continued our comradery at mittelshul (middle school) events where, trained in Yiddish and gifted in oratory, we both performed publicly to entertain our Yiddish-speaking parents and their chevra (friends). In this venue, Henry was a true superstar: the darling of doting parents and bageisterd (enthusiastic) listeners. I was merely competent. We remained friends, though not always in touch, over the years. We pursued different careers, married, raised families, and shepped nachas (derived enormous pleasure) from our children. Henry and his lovely wife Linda, a fine artist, produced four talented, feisty, and handsome sons led by current media star, Max, followed in chronological order by the equally talented Sam, Harry, and Jack. My wife Eileen also gifted me with three wonderful children: Hilary, Paula , and Robert. All seven Kellerman-Dorinson children attended the same summer camp that originally brought die drei doyrehs (the three generations) of our families (including our parents) together.
That’s how we reconnected on the heilike erd (holy ground) of Camp Kinderland, now nestled in the Berkshires. There among the rolling hills of western Massachusetts, we watched our children gamboling on die grine felder (green fields). Gedeynkst? Remember the poignant song of the Brothers Four (how appropriate)?
Once there were green fields, kissed by the sun
Once there were valleys, where rivers used to run
Once there were blue skies, with white clouds high above.
Once they were part of, an everlasting love….
Lovingly, I see them now: radiant in that 1980s summer sun. The second Kellerman son, Sam, blonde and blue-eyed, bubbles with energy and excels in all facets of camp life: athletics, music, dance, drama, and mischief. As he matured, Sam maintained that childlike innocence and infectious enthusiasm that characterized his lust for life. At Stuyvesant High School, among the best and the brightest of New York’s gifted students, Sam sparkled. Subsequently, in the Ivy League, Sam’s star continued to shine at Columbia University. A mentsh (the highest praise bestowed in our tribe), he was gentle, compassionate, kind, and immensely talented. A true Renaissance man, he excelled in drama: as writer, director, and performer. Recently, he carved out another niche in the field of sports writing. His website, although only of recent construction, brims with stunning insights and sparkling prose. What a bright future beckoned for our beloved Sam: only to be destroyed by a washed up pugilist—a brute beast pretending to be human. Centuries past, the tragic poet Aeschylus offered some balm for those who suffer such calamity when he wrote: “And even in our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our despair, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.” Alas, God took a holiday last week in LA.
Here in New York, Sam had a warm supportive family: loving parents and, like the Maccabees of Howard Fast, three glorious brothers. We join them in bereavement. We are stunned by this sudden, stupid, indeed incomprehensible act of murder most foul. We cry havoc and seek relief. Hopefully, the family Kellerman: Henry, Linda, Max and his new bride Erin, Harry, and Jack will take a measure of comfort, however small at this terrible moment, from their many friends who, stunned by this horrific act, offer their heart-felt condolence. Let the bright shining memories of life with Sam sustain the Kellermans through this darkest hour. With Stephen Spender think of Sam as among
The names of those who in their lives fought for life,
Who wore at their hearts the fire’s center.
Born of the sun they traveled a short while towards the sun,
And left the vivid air signed with their honour.
As an American Civil War song affirms: “We shall meet but we shall miss him. There will be one vacant chair.”
An outstanding athlete, Sam invites the lamentation of poet A. E. Housman “To an Athlete Dying Young.”
The time you won your town the race
We chaired you through the market place
Man and boy stood cheering by,
And home we brought you shoulder-high.
Today, the road all runners come,
Shoulder high, we bring you home
And set you at your threshold down,
Townsman of a stiller town.
Smart lad, to slip betimes away
From fields where glory does not stay,
And early through the laurel grows
It withers quicker than the rose…
Sam’s song ended prematurely but his melody, firmly fixed in “the
mystic chords of memory,” endures forever.
In profound sadness,
Joe (Yusl) Dorinson