by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Lake Worth, Fla.
August 31, 2006
THE TWO FRIENDS YOU LOST
LAKE WORTH, Fla. -- Leave the country for a few days on business, and while you are gone get word that two friends, two heroes, two champions of the underdog have died. It is the kind of news that jerks your head back like a right uppercut.
If you are in my county of Palm Beach, Fla., or just part of the larger world of caring people, the void left by Valerie Aspinwall and Ira Goldman leaves a "whoosh" of expired energy from an overheated world of woe.
I can't remember if these friends ever met each other, and if so it was only a brief crossroad en route to their own clubs, organizations, volunteerism, and consummate giving. Yet they were soul mates from a generation where "giving back to the community" never had to be preached or explained it just happened because it was the right thing to do.
Valerie, from Palm Beach Gardens, was often mentioned in the same sentence as her late husband Everett, who died a decade ago. A former ABC-TV Washington bureau chief, Val and Ev both worked for ABC and other news organizations and eventually bought Palm Beach talk radio station WPBR-AM.
Her own family tragedies led her into a parallel world as the "grand dame" of all things researching cures for leukemia and lymphoma. She headed international, and national as a well as local chapters to raise funds to defeat these diseases. Along the way she forged friendships with a diverse group ranging from former all star baseball catcher Gary Carter, to conservative talk host Rush Limbaugh, her political opposite.
Ira Goldman, of Lake Worth, Fla., was a guy from the East Bronx in New York who served as a U.S. Marine through some of the toughest days of World War II, and with his wife Marilyn, who survives him, at his side, they built a successful business fabricating and customizing ambulances and emergency vehicles in New York. But Ira's passion was the kids of Kiwanis International. As a Lt. Governor for that service organization in New York, and later as a Kiwanis board member in Greenacres, Fla., Ira strung together nearly 60 years of perfect attendance, and 60 years of perfect service. Even into his 80s and rocked by three years of health problems after a relatively healthy and vigorous eight decades, he was out with his fellow Kiwanians selling hotdogs and pizza to raise money for Greenacres or Liberty Park Elementary Schools; collecting funds in plastic buckets on the corner in "highway holdups," and planning ice cream and pizza parties for "students of the month." Valerie's venue of service sometimes leaned more towards performing arts, culture, scientific research, women's rights, political activism, public speaking, funding worthy projects and causes, and being the catalytic spark plug of myriad national and local projects. Tireless would be an understatement. Ira with a steel vise handshake, Leatherneck stride and posture, and perpetual smile, was "Mr. Hands On," whether in a Pepsi wagon outside Wal-Mart, or selling Florida citrus as a fundraiser for kids at a winter festival in a local park. His last two decades as a Floridian only built upon his reputation, selflessness, and knowledge as a grass roots organizer honed in New York. In the old street lingo, both Valerie and Ira "went fast." Death caught them, wrapped them up, grabbed them off to heaven like a slick kidnapper, rather than a lingering, stalking pickpocket. Some day, some quantitative tech type will figure out the ripples and patterns of life which demonstrate how Val and Ira touched all of us. For now, let them just be a beacon we ourselves might try to reach, even though we likely never will.