As this is written, the humor columnist Art Buchwald is defying the odds in a Washington Hospice.
He went in on Feb. 7th, with the doctors telling him that he had perhaps two or three weeks to live because of the kidney failure and vascular disease that has already cost him one leg to amputation. Despite this, he made the affirmative decision to reject kidney dialysis that would possibly prolong his life. “We have choices,” he said, “and this is mine. I want to enjoy the time I have left. ”
Now, nearly two months later, he remains strong and alert, full of irrepressible humor and, to his delight, a mystery to modern medicine.
I went to visit him the other day, and it prompted me to send this letter to the Washington Post, which published it on April one on its editorial page. It was a story worth telling, especially while Art was around to read it.
To the Editor:
Typically, Art Buchwald is converting his stay in a Washington hospice into a celebration of life, receiving awards and a steady stream of friends who come away awed by his optimistic attitude. His heroic performance reminds me of a little-known story of one of his many quiet acts of generosity:
After my father, the late sports columnist Red Smith, died in 1982, his alma mater and mine, Notre Dame, established an annual Red Smith Lecture in Journalism. At the same time, my sister, Kit, and I set out to raise $100,000 to endow a scholarship in our father’s name at ND. Despite many generous gifts, it was slow going until Art pitched in.
He agreed to give the 1988 Lecture, which normally carried a modest honorarium, funded by Coca-Cola USA. Art scoffed at the sum. Instead, he launched what he described as his patented corporate shakedown, demanding his full lecture fee, which was $15,000, a princely sum at the time. Coca-Cola swallowed hard and came through.
Art, who attended the University of Southern California, packed the house for his lecture and reduced the audience to tears of laughter with a talk entitled: “While the Gipper Slept,” part of which he devoted to explaining “Why USC hates Notre Dame,” as a result of the then current string of Irish victories on the football field (those were the days.)
When the applause died down, Art promptly donated his entire fee to the scholarship fund. His generous gift attracted others and today, thanks in part to Art, a deserving Notre Dame junior or senior receives substantial tuition assistance each year from the Red Smith Writing Scholarship.
Art remains what he has always been: a class act.