COVID-19 killed my friend and neighborhood legend Maurice Edwards, I learned today. Historian Judith Berdy noticed his obituary in the New York Times Those We Lost Series.
By David Stone
Maurice Edwards was one of those guys who make being a news writer exciting.
“Who’s the only man who served in World War II, went shopping in Paris with Gertrude Stein, opened on Broadway with Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof, managed the Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, got kissed by Marlene Dietrich and published three books to wide acclaim?”
I wrote that lede for an article in 2018.
My friend was 95, then, and four years a widower. His body was weaker, he shuffled slowly, but his mind was sharper than mine ever will be.
Really, nothing could get Maurice Edwards until COVID-19 did its work.
He invited me for “low coffee” one afternoon because he’d just published Christian Dietrich Grabbe: His Life and His Works. At 95, he took on and completed a project beyond most of our skills at half that age.
His publisher, he complained, wasn’t generating enough sales. And then, a couple weeks later, he emailed his recent translation of Grabbe’s Hannibal. He wanted advice on publishing it elsewhere.
Five years before COVID-19 took Maurice Edwards…
On assignment in 2103, I met Maurice Edwards and his equally fascinating wife Nina Cassian in their Island House apartment.
I later wrote about their late in life romance, but that day, the stories flowed.
They took turns sharing stories, his those of a genuine, world-traveled raconteur, her intimate tales from a poet in exile.
Maurice recalled days just after World War II when he hung out with Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas in Paris. Funny thing was, though, he didn’t say much about Stein’s writing or her art circle.
And then, he gave way, letting Nina tell her dramatic story of escaping communist oppression and finding a way to continue life as a poet.
Read the full story here.
The Roosevelt Island Daily/News thanks Historical Society executive director Judith Berdy for the heads up.