2007-02-09 / Community

A Man Named Arthur

How many times do we lose someone in our life to only realize how special they were once it's too late? Maybe they made you laugh when you were sad or gave you good advice when you were in need. It has happened to me too many times to count. I am writing this piece to make this community aware of a man named Arthur, who is no longer with us.

If you are familiar with the area of Beach 114 Street to Beach 116 Street, then you are also familiar with Arthur. I'm sure he had a last name, but I don't know what it was. I understand that he had no biological family either. However, Arthur has a different kind of family. A family of Rockaway residents, store owners and employees for many, many businesses. He knew total strangers by their first name.

I never realized exactly how special Arthur was until one very cold and extremely windy day in December. I was late to work, freezing, and trying to walk against the wind towards the boardwalk. Along came Arthur, who asked me for some spare change. I suddenly realized that I forgot to put money into the meter, which was all the way on the other end of the block, I asked Arthur to put fifty centers into the meter and then I gave him an additional eighty cents for himself. A few minutes later, Arthur walked to me job to tell me that the meter was broken and that he was sorry for losing the fifty cents in the meter. Of course he did not need to apologize for anything. As a matter of fact, if it was me I would not have even braved the cold weather and wind to say that the meter was broken. Not only did Arthur come to give me this information, but he then asked, "I'm gonna go to 116 Street to see who else I could help." That single statement alone helped me to understand Arthur. Arthur only wanted to help people and did so every day that I saw him for the past four and a half years working in this area. Every day, while I was at lunch or on my way to work, I would see Arthur helping others to do simple things. I've seen him get singles for stores in exchange for twenty dollar bills. They must have known that he would come back. He worked helping Robert, who owned the hardware story on Beach 115 Street. He would help people in and out of the stores, etc. All Arthur would ask for in exchange was some spare change. On the days that I could help him out I would and on the days I couldn't then he would understand, smile and say, "I'll see you next time." I knew that I would see him the next day and the day after that. Arthur was always on Beach 116 Street, rain or shine.

When I learned that Arthur died tragically last week I felt horrible. Has anyone told him how nice he was, or how special of a person he was? When was the last time someone asked him how he was and what his plan was for the day? Has anyone bought him a great Christmas gift?

I felt compelled to write this small piece to help remember a big man. I am not trying to have a statue of Arthur erected in Rockaway, nor am I trying to glamorize his life. I'm sure that he became mad, sad and desperate like the rest of us. But Arthur carried himself with a smile all of the time and helped each one of us, despite his circumstances.

I would like to learn a lesson in all of this by appreciating people in my life and telling them while they are alive. I'm going to try to recognize the special qualities in someone, even when others might feel that that person is not an "asset to the community."

Rockaway Park has lost an asset to this community. I hope that Arthur is remembered by those of us whose hearts he touched, not only in the chronicles of this newspaper. So long Arthur, now go and help some people in Heaven. Thank you.
KAREN JOHNSON
Assistant Director of Social Services
Promenade Rehabilitation and Health Care Center

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