Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Passed Away Resulting from Cancer: Poh Nikbar July

Paul Newman

Winning 37 awards—including an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role—and being nominated for an additional 47, it is surprising that I’ve only seen three of Paul Newman’s films: Cool Hand Luke, The Color of Money, and Road to Perdition. His role in Cool Hand Luke was marvelous, earning him recognition for playing one of the best movie characters ever.

On the other hand I have consumed lots of his salad dressing. When I first saw his mug on the plastic container for balsamic vinaigrette I figured he was a long lost relative of Uncle Ben and Aunt Jemima. Newman cofounded the Newman’s Own line of products in 1982, with all post-tax proceeds donated to charity, totaling over $300 million. As if that philanthropy wasn’t enough, he also cofounded The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in 1988, in Ashford, Connecticut.

The camp provides a unique experience to thousands of seriously-ill children, free of charge. When I was a cancer patient at age 16, I was gravely opposed to participating with other Cancer People in any way, including a similar camp experience offered to me. But after going on Birthright Israel (and next year I hope to go on a rock-climbing trip for cancer survivors provided by First Descents), I now see how fantastic The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp can be for young, ill people.

Father Dom of The Whole in the Wall Gang Camp holding memoir "Twice"
I have a friend, 3Ball, who I met through blogging—a fellow Cancer Person. He visited The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp last week to see a lifetime friend of his who volunteers at the camp, Father Dom. 3Ball gave Father Dom my book. Father Dom enjoyed my book, telling 3Ball something along the lines of, “I could not put it down until page 118.”
I am confident that Paul Newman would have felt similarly about my book. But in June 2008 it was reported that Newman had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and he passed away a few months later at age 83.

In Cool Hand Luke, Newman said, “Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.” He was referring to poker, but maybe he was also hinting at holding onto fewer possessions and giving more. Despite his passing, Newman’s Own and The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp continue on.
Paul Newman passed away from cancer


Anonymous said...

Newman was the man! He spent a lot of time at Hole in the Wall hanging with the kids. He was really shy and humble, which is surprising considering his profession. Some kids gave him a plaque to thank him for his work, and he was visibly embarrassed to have to get up in front of everyone to accept it. I always said I'd return to volunteer there some day. Maybe the Benjy will come with?


Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Good story, Quarter-Pounder. I didn't know that about him. "Return" there? I don't think I've heard that story, either.

But you know me--I don't turn down social invitations, even if it involves cross-state travel and working for free. Let's do it.

Jennifer said...

You must go to First Descents! They are great! I just went to kayaking camp in Montana and I live in North Carolina...adult camp in Montana for Free! Of course you go! Anyway, I had a bastard of a brain tumor and have no balls...being female and everything.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...


Life rule #4: never turn down free stuff. I'm totally going to do First Descents. I hope you enjoyed kayaking, and I hope the usage of the past tense for "brain tumor" was intentional.