The most telling memory of my father-in-law isn’t even my own; it preceded our introduction by over six years. It was September 11, 2001, and at the age of 81, covered in soot and ash, he walked over eight miles from the World Trade Center to his doctor’s office on the Upper East Side. When his sons, who had frantically been trying to get a hold of him all day, asked what he’d been thinking, after they finally tracked him down, he said, simply: “I didn’t want to be late for my appointment.”
My own favorite memories of him are less dramatic, but no less indicative of his priorities and character. I met him for the first time for dinner at the Arte Café on the Upper West Side, a few blocks from his apartment, where Drew and his brother grew up. I was struck by his thick New York accent and surprised by his wry sense of humor. I’d heard how stoic and analytical he was, but when I commented later about how charming I found him, Drew said, “Oh, yeah, he can definitely turn it on when he wants.”
At 89, he was the most dapper man at Drew’s and my wedding. And at 91 and 95, respectively, he, along with Drew’s brother, traveled to the maternity ward and were the first people, besides hospital staff, to meet our babies. He was happiest in the company of his family, and I know watching his sons have families of their own was among his biggest joys.
A lifelong Manhattanite, a proud graduate of NYU, and a CPA who loved his job, he rode the subway to his office and back every day until his 90s, and he continued working, in his own home, until his final days, paperwork, a pen, and a calculator always at hand.
My father-in-law, Herbert S. Condell, passed away in the wee hours of the morning today. His two sons were by his side. In his final week, which he spent at home with his family listening to his favorite music, he was able to enjoy a last get-together with his sons, their wives, and all four of his grandchildren, including 3-month-old Joanie — the first and last time all of nine of us would be together.
At one point, while the three older kids were playing loudly in another room and Joanie was cooing and the adults were talking, Drew leaned over and asked his father if it was too much commotion for him. “No,” he said, a smile on his face, “I love it.”
Herb will be laid to rest tomorrow next to his beloved late wife, Joan. He was the toughest (but least assuming) man I’ve ever known, and he will be greatly missed.