Emanuel Levy (April 11, 1918 - August 18, 2013))
August 18, 2013
LEVY, EMANUEL ''MANNY'' April 11, 1918 - Aug. 18, 2013
Editor, Publisher, Father and Grandfather, Brother and Friend. Emanuel (Manny) Levy, 95, died peacefully on August 18 in Ann Arbor. He had struggled with recent health setbacks, but were he writing this obituary he'd say that he'd done all he could, reflected on his life as much as made sense, and that the stalwart editor, publisher, father and grandfather, brother, and friend, simply had reached his end of the line.
While born in the Bronx on April 11, 1918, his family soon after moved to Brooklynand that borough and New York City helped define Manny. They gave him his elemental grit, ethics, compassion, and dedication to service, all regretfully missing in the home in which he was raised. A couple of weeks before Manny died, he mused about taking a last car tour through Brooklyn, though most of his life he worked in lower Manhattan and lived in Bayside, Queens. His surviving brother, Dave, nearly 101 now, was first to leave home, and the two stayed close throughout their long lives.
Manny left his Brooklyn family home in 1941 to join the Army shortly before the start of World War II. He noted that he must have been one of the very few soldiers doing exactly the same thing at the outset and close of the war sailing on a ship headed to the Philippines. He spent most of the war setting up and managing communications posts in Hawaii and throughout Europe with the Army's 303rd Signal Operation Battalion. Earning a reputation among commanders for effective leadership and getting the job done, he considered a military career, but left the Army following the war as a Master Sergeant. He had been approached about officer's training, but declined, preferring his non-commissioned status. If the war in the Pacific hadn't ended when it did, the ship carrying Manny to the Philippines would have delivered him to that front.
From his experiences during World War II arose a font of stories that Manny repeated (and repeated) throughout his lifetime. Those stories both reflected the intensity and intimacy of his war experience, but also his coming of age. The shy young man from a highly dysfunctional household became a leader of men, and understood better his strengths and gifts. He liked to tell of the time he had a conflict with his lieutenant over work schedules for his platoon. They went to the colonel, who somewhat dramatically reminded the lieutenant that the message center Manny had taken over and reorganized had won the praise of HQ in Washington, D.C., and it was the lieutenant who'd gotten the credit. ''So why are you fussing about what schedule the platoon wants to follow?'' the colonel asked. That was the first Manny had heard of the praise from HQ.
He was particularly proud that during the war, he collaborated with several wartime friends to write a musical, Hey, Mister Satan, capturing the spirit of camaraderie among soldiers.
He married Thelma Eisenberg in 1946, who would be his spouse for 56 years until she died in 2001. Manny and Thelma's clash of personal expectations and needs defined the marriage, which satisfied neither. But, in his final years, Manny repeatedly expressed his peace with having fulfilled his obligations to Thelma to provide and support despite their lack of partnership and companionship.
In 1946, he joined the staff of Insurance Advocate, a New York-based trade magazine that focused mainly on the interests of regional brokers and agents. That began six decades of thought leadership and exemplary journalism, including publication of 50 editions of the news and features magazine each year, speeches throughout the nation, editorial columns, 26 books and monographs edited and published, and thousands of phone calls seeking information and counsel. During that time, Manny would go from employee, to editor (1958), to editor and publisher, and, after he sold the publication, to editor until his retirement in 2003. From 2004 to 2009, he was as a columnist for Rough Notes, another industry trade publication.
During his years at Insurance Advocate, Manny also served as a U.S. insurance correspondent for The Economist of London, spent nearly a decade writing insurance segments for the World Book encyclopedia's annual supplement, and participated as adjunct faculty in the College of Insurance's orientation program for incoming insurance commissioners and their staffs.
At a packed luncheon in his honor at the Wall Street Synagogue, one of the speakers praised him as the ''greatest repository of secrets on John Street,'' where the Insurance Advocate had its offices. That recognized Manny's subtle role as confidant and advisor, which grew naturally as a consequence of his voluminous knowledge and dedication to both the industry and the people who made it work. As the first inductee into the Insurance Media Association Hall of Fame for lifetime achievement in 2007, he was praised ''for his guidance and counsel on challenging industry issues, including legislation and litigation,'' and for his career-long demonstration of the highest standard of ethics and accomplishment.
No matter what was happening technologically around him, well into the computer era, he produced thousands of pages of copy on his trusty Remington Standard manual typewriter. Manny's career began in the age of ''hot-type.'' Individual metal letters and symbols were assembled by hand word-by-word from hand-delivered copy created on his clattering typewriter until they filled a wood-block-contained page. Everything had to be carefully proofed on site. By the time his career ended, hot-type was the stuff of museums, and final copy was emailed to the printer. What hadn't changed in all those years? The sine qua non was still the content, and the ability to gather and produce it. Perhaps ahead of his time, or simply being who he was, Manny was sharing well before social media and the Internet. It was his way of learning, cultivating sources, and serving others.
When he was stricken by a pulmonary embolism and collapsed at the Detroit airport in 2007, for the first time ever Manny, at 89, became a hospital patient. Obviously aggravated by his initial health reversal, and the sudden necessity of moving to Ann Arbor, there yet was a silver lining. While he always remained the quintessential New Yorker, he came to really enjoy his years in Ann Arbor. At Lurie Terrace, where Manny lived in Ann Arbor until June of this year, he participated in a weekly writer's group, producing an extensive series of Internet-researched essays on current affairs and culture. Throughout his life, knowledgeable and ever-opinionated, he loved a good debate about politics, the direction the country was headed in, and ethical dilemmas. His metier was words - writing, speaking and punning. Good and bad puns would leap to mind without his giving them a thought, a trait inherited by his two sons.
Manny died in his University Living apartment amidst walls full of the memorabilia of his wartime years, his illustrious career, and his family, especially his grandkids, Alissa and Jake. In his last weeks, looking back on his life, he felt great peace thinking about all he'd done, especially proud of the men his sons had become, their great marriages, and the wonderful futures ahead for Alissa and Jake. Manny had made a special point, after a health setback last year, of recovering in time to attend Alissa and Dan's wedding, and to listen to the 2012 election news Jake played a significant role in the Obama campaign.
Manny is survived by his two sons and daughters-in-law, Alan Levy and Susan Pollans (Ann Arbor) and Warren and Deborah (Doylestown, PA) grandkids Alissa (and Dan) Mickelson (Washington, D.C.) and Jake (St. Paul) and brother and sister-in-law, Dave and Fay (Miami). At his request, there was no traditional funeral service. Although he was non-religious throughout his life, he was unabashedly and proudly Jewish in his orientation, essential values, and core beliefs. Years ago, he was honored by the Anti-Defamation League for his devoted fundraising on behalf of its commitments to equality, justice and freedom. The citation noted that ''he never failed to accept a personal responsibility to his community and its people, and he has taken up this burden of concern with dignity and warmth, with conviction and devotion.''
Manny's family extends its considerable appreciation to the staff of University Living and Arbor Hospice for the kindness, warmth, and gentle care they provided him during his final weeks.
A memorial service and celebration of Manny's life will be held in Ann Arbor on September 22, and later in New York. Donations may be made to the Anti-Defamation League, 605 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10158 (Attn: Development), or the veterans support group, Operation Homefront, 8930 Fourwinds Drive, Suite 340, San Antonio, TX 78239.
Published in AnnArbor.com from August 27 to August 29, 2013