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Memorial Service for Mr. New York, Lew Rudin

September 25, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

September's event schedule has morphed from a whirlwind of glitzy benefits and opening nights into a series of somber fund-raisers and memorial services. This past Sunday saw an inspiring, extremely well-attended service to remember real estate magnate Lewis Rudin, who was known as “Mr. New York” for his devotion to this city and his tireless advocacy and philanthropic work. Rudin died of cancer last week, adding one of the city's biggest boosters to the already staggering loss of lives it has suffered this month.

Thousands of people, both well-known and unknown, lined up for three blocks, waiting patiently to remember and honor someone who had a lasting effect on New York. Because of his plans that saved the city from financial ruin in the 1970's, his founding of the New York Marathon and his work keeping the U.S. Open in New York--and countless smaller gestures of kindness--he was revered by a range of mourners: everyone from his golf caddy to former Governor Mario Cuomo. The over-capacity crowd filled the Central Synagogue (just two weeks after its rededication, following repairs to damage from a fire four years ago) and its basement level, with additional seating across the street.

Speakers included President Bill Clinton, Senators Chuck Schumer and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mayor Rudy Giuliani (who got a standing ovation) and Governor George Pataki, who gave one of the most eloquent and emotional remembrances. Sidney Poitier, one of Rudin's golf buddies, told amusing stories with sincere words of fondness for his late friend. Former Mayor David Dinkins memorialized Rudin as his “brother,” and Rudin's children and grandchildren gave loving tributes with music and poems.

Bobby Short concluded the ceremony playing songs of tribute to the New York Rudin loved and fought for, even in his last days. After the September 11 attacks, Rudin called elected officials to make sure they were taking care of New Yorkers in this time of need. While the crowd mourned one of the city's biggest advocates, the spirit at the event was dominated by a sense of renewal and rebuilding for our “town"--as Rudin called the Big Apple. As mourners left the service, they received small gold apples pins--the same ones Lew Rudin used to give to everyone he met.

--Susan Silver

Posted 09.25.01

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