I was a first-time mom looking for part-time work in November of 1997 when I took a job as a typist at Courier Life, where I tapped away at a Smith-Corona during school hours every week day.
I was expected to type the press releases that came into the office, along with the four columnists that sent in their copy by mail — Stanley Gershbein, Carmine Santa Maria, Sol Polish, and Lou Powsner.
Out of the four, Lou Powsner always wrote his in long-hand on unlined paper. There were times when I would see his column and think, “Oh no, not the hand-written struggle again.” It would, over the years, be a standing line between us.
“Lou, exactly what did you mean in this line? I couldn’t decipher it. Could you please type it out for me next week?”
He would agree, but next week would come and the column would be, as before, handwritten.
As in everything else in life, the more you do it, the easier it becomes, and, in time, I was able to unravel his handwriting with ease.
For the next 16 years I got to know Lou as a friend and mentor — I discovered that his family and mine had a strong connection, as both were from Coney Island, living within a block or two of each other. He was a classmate of my Aunt Mary, knew my Uncle Phil the mechanic, and shared many of the same friends.
For the last couple of years, he would send his column to daughter Bonnie Snow and she would, with the patience of a saint, type it up and e-mail it in.
His columns came in less and less frequently in the past year, and after several weeks without one, I would call him up and check in on him. He would always answer his phone, “Lou Powsner here.”
No matter what was going on in his life, Lou never failed to ask how my family was nor inquire how my daughter Bri was doing — always remembering her as the little girl he would see when he visited us at the office. When I began writing my own column, he never failed in his encouragement and would often call to discuss a recent column that piqued his interest, especially if it was about our favorite topic, Mayor Bloomberg.
When I spoke to Lou several weeks ago, little did I know that it would be the last time I would ask him, “So Lou are you sending in any columns?”
Thinking back on it, his voice was a bit frailer than usual, but there was no hint that it would be our last conversation. He said he would try writing one and then closed with his usual, “Keep on writing, and give my regards to all in the office.”
This past Sunday, the voice of “Speak Out” was silenced when Lou passed away in his sleep at the age of 93.
I will miss those handwritten columns, I will miss his encouragement, but most of all I will miss those walks down memory lane that he was always so generous to share with me.
Not for Nuthin’, but rest in peace Lou Powsner.
Follow me on Twitter @JDelBuono.