George Eastman (1854-1932), of Eastman Kodak, said it best when he left this world on his own terms without paying an “exit fee.” He left the world without pain, suffering and deprivation, saying in a suicide note, “My work is done.”
Why can’t we all leave on our own terms? If we stay, will our hearts beat better? Our bodies become fleeter? I think not.
Looking back on my life, I realize what a magical existence I’ve had.
I’ve been rich and I’ve been broke, but my greatest accomplishment has been the ability to help support the dozens and dozens of worthwhile charities over the years and to significantly provide for them in future years through the Samowitz Foundation.
As my birthday nears (99 — Wow! Am I trying to compete with Methuselah?), I shouldn’t revel in the cheers that sometimes accompany the jeers I’ve earned along the way.
How does the average Joe endure his exit? Mine is definitely no slam dunk or slow walk in the park with all my advantages. I live in a lovely penthouse on Longboat Key with my dear wife and a skilled team of caretakers, one of whom is always at my side 24/7.
Reaching 99 is definitely not for sissies. You have to avoid the big “C” (cancer), heart attacks, automobile accidents and enemy bullets (World War II) and, of course, have a great doctor, which I, fortunately, have in Dr. Dean Hautamaki.
My admiration is for Colin’s father. Colin is my son-in-law, and his father has been confined to a wheelchair for the past five years due to a swimming accident. He does it without complaining and with grace, helped only by his beautiful wife and the V.A.
Most of all, my contemporaries are gone. One old friend, Buck Ganguzza, called me a 6-foot tiger in a 4-foot cage — whatever that means.
Amusingly, at 99, I am still active in the stock market — this after 60-plus some years of trading. But my strategy has changed. I no longer pick individual stocks because of my age, but instead buy mutual funds and exchange-traded funds only.
Note that I said buy, not trade. Warren Buffet, famed investor, says the best time to sell is never. Your broker may not tell you this but anyone who tells you which way the market will go is either a knave or a fool. I personally prefer ETFs, which have a slight tax advantage over mutual funds.
Anyway, I don’t count the years as another birthday nears. I consider those who enriched my life by just being there.
And I’m trying to keep in mind Andrew Carnegie, who built the New York City Public Library System and said, “He who dies rich dies disgraced.” And the Scotch philosopher whose name I’ve forgotten and said,
“Those who help others will always live in the hearts of his countrymen.”
My dear Kayla, my dear Gia, for when you are old enough to understand this: I am sorry I won’t be around to watch you blossom into fine young ladies.
First, your education is all taken care of for however far you wish to go and whatever you choose to study: Law, medicine, whatever. Schools like Harvard should be open to you. Then you will have enough money to do anything in life you wish, but possibly not enough to do nothing.
So, try to take advantage of your assets. You are both beautiful and athletic. You have loving, devoted parents. I regret not being along for the ride, but at 99 years old, I don’t think I can do it. At least Mimi (your grandmother) will be there for you for lots of years to come.
Marty Samowitz is the oldest living survivor of the battle of Iwo Jima and the founder of Marty’s Shoes. His grandchildren know him as PaPA. He will celebrate his 99th birthday Oct. 28.
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