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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Remembering & Honoring My Brother, Larry Bogdanow

Larry Bogdanow, 1949 - 2011
Thought for the day: Life is short. Wake Up And Dream now!

February 24th would have been my brother, Larry Bogdanow's 65th birthday. I still have trouble believing that he is gone. He was so healthy. He practiced Tai Chi, rode his bike from Soho to Chelsea Piers & swam 45 minutes to an hour almost every day of his life. He ate organic food, some of which he raised in his garden in Upstate New York. We all thought he had beat the odds after having a "benign" brain tumor removed 16 years ago. All his follow ups were clean. He had 16 healthy happy years living his dreams.  He watched his beautiful daughter grow into an amazing young woman. accompanied his Oscar winning documentary film maker wife to the Oscar ceremonies, film festivals & on vacations to exotic places, worked for good causes & designed amazing buildings & restaurants.

When he began to have some memory problems last spring his new physician thought it was just stress. His life long friend, Dr. Martin Blaser, (Professor; Frederick H. King Professor of Internal Medicine; Chair & F.H.KIng Professor-Int Med Departments of Medicine (Admin Support) and Microbiology (Microbiology ) was more concerned & urged Larry to get an MRI. Hours after the scan, Dr. Blaser was frantically searching for Larry to have him come back to the hospital. Larry now had stage 4 brain cancer, the same kind that took Ted Kennedy from our world. The prognosis was not good, but we all thought that Larry would somehow fight this battle & be with us for a while longer.  Surgery was followed by intensive chemo & radiation. After surgery, Larry seemed to be better. With the doctor's consent he went to his beloved country home & on Saturday morning even worked in his garden. Later that afternoon, he had a seizure. He was med-evacuated back to NYC. His condition never returned to the post operative state. Within weeks he slipped into a coma & never recovered.

So February 24th will be a tough day for me & writing about him is one of the few things I can do to  mourn & commemorate the life of my brother. Over the summer, I was in NYC almost daily visiting with him, playing music for him, singing to him, sharing my progress on my book. I was fortunate enough to attend & bring Larry books to the hospital from the Book Expo. I shared my excitement when I met Jane Fonda &"heard" Roger Ebert "speak" about his new book with the help of his wife & a computer.  He was hopeful that he would get better & go home. After he passed away, I became even more determined to finish my book. I vowed to find a nonprofit organization to help fight brain cancer to be included in my group of Dream Nonprofits supported by the book.

Voices Against Brain Cancer became the cause in the book that most represented my dream to help other families avoid the experience we went through with my brother. They give a voice to families & survivors. They support research to find a cure to this awful disease which took three other people I knew well. Dr. Irwin Freedberg, former head of Dermatology at NYU, is someone I describe in the book as a "Dream Parenting" role model. He & his wife, Irene Freedberg, was the Associate Director of Social Work at Bellevue Hospital. She was also the former director of Project Liberty, program that provides free crisis counseling services to persons, families and groups most affected by the September 11 World Trade Center disaster. & one of the people who designed the Mental Health program following 9/11. Both Dr. Freedberg & Irene Freedberg were taken too soon by brain cancer.

A close childhood friend of mine & Larry's, Amelia Samet Kornfeld, also passed away last February from brain cancer.  Her dreams are also represented in the book with Camp Young Judaea TX as the beneficiary. It is a camp that Larry, Amelia & I attended for years. Together we sang & believed the words, "You & I Will Change the World." It is where I learned to believe in the power of dreams to change the world.

When I spoke with a new acquaintance about the book, Larry & connections to causes he would have supported kept coming up. There is Green Demolitions. Larry was a green architect long before anyone was using recycled materials. He has had a solar generator & solar powered electric fence around his garden in Chatham.

Then there is the Lucero Center which is training Spanish speaking psychologists. Larry studied Spanish with a group of friends who volunteered to travel to Guatemala & build a community center which Larry designed over twenty years ago.

He would have loved the idea of Music From a Bottle which collects bottles at restaurants & rock concerts to support music programs in under-privledged schools. Larry helped teach me to play the guitar. Everyone who knew Larry had CD's of music that he would put together. He sent them to friends when they were going through tough times & gave them as gifts for no reason. He simply loved to introduce friends to new musicians & arrangements.

Even the Blind Judo Foundation & Elimination of Prejudice remind me of Larry. When he & my older brother, Bill, were young boys, neither of them were into athletics.  When my mother found out that they were being bullied & did not know how to defend themselves, she enrolled them in Judo classes.  I can still count to ten in Japanese because of those lessons.

 New York Says Thank You Foundation

Finally, Larry & NYC were strongly intertwined. NY Says Thank You is another charity that he would staunchly support as a way to rebuild after tragedies. Larry was an accomplished architect his work can still be viewed on his business website He was however unpretentious. Although he designed Wild Blue, which was at the top of the World Trade Center, he never mentioned it. I went there once when the music was too loud at a Latin Dance at Windows on the World. Weeks later I mentioned having been there & thinking it looked like one of his designs, he told us it was. On 9/11 one of his associates finished an early morning meeting at Windows On the World, where Larry's firm was doing some work. When the elevator stopped running & the authorities were telling people to stay put, Larry's employee called to say he would be late for the next appointment. Larry, who had spoken with his wife who saw the plane hit the building, told him to get out of the building. He saved his employee's life. Larry's life was dedicated to building comfortable spaces for people to get together & trying to promote a peaceful world.

As you can see, completing the book & promoting these causes has been intertwined with my wish to keep my brother's dreams alive as well as my own. It has been a labor of love. I miss him & know he would be proud of how this book can help so many causes that he believed in as well. (To read more about any of the charities mentioned in this post, click on their name & read the entire preview.) Half of the profits from each of these books goes to nonprofit of your choice.

If you knew Larry & would like to share a story, please do. If his life & story resonates with you please share as well.