154 Boonton Avenue Kinnelon, NJ 07405 | (973) 838-3636 |
195 Ramapo Valley Road, Oakland, NJ 07436 (by appointment)



The photo you see is not the usual one that is on the first page of my newsletter.  It is a copy of a portrait that hangs on the wall just outside my office.  Almost everyone asks whether the portrait is of me.  It’s not.  My father was the subject, when he was about three years old.  There is, of course, a story behind the portrait - - both literally and figuratively.
I think I was in law school when I first noticed the portrait on the living room wall of my parents’ apartment.  Dad explained that, among his many photos was a black and white one of himself as a child.  He came across an advertisement from a company that said it could prepare a portrait on canvas, in color, from a photo negative.  So, he had it done.  It’s really very beautiful when you see it in person, and the frame is elegant.  I always admired and loved it and knew it would eventually be mine.  After my father died, and my mother moved to senior living, we cleared out the apartment, and I took the paortrait home with me.  That’s the figurative story behind the portrait.  When I  took the painting off the wall, I found two things tucked into the back of the frame.  I had not known about either of them.  One was the original negative, carefully protected in a glassine envelope.  The other was the brochure from the company that had produced the portrait from the negative.  The first page of the brochure had a picture of a distinguished gentleman, showing what they could do from a photograph.  A chill went up and down my spine. 
When I was a junior in high school, I had to write a term paper on an “unusual subject.”  I discussed possibilities with my father.  He suggested I write about the role of the mutual insurance company in the insurance industry.  He was in the insurance business and had been president of the New Jersey chapter of the Mutual Insurance Agents’ Association of New Jersey.  He used to take me to meetings, where I met interesting people.  The subject turned out to be really fascinating.  As I was doing my research, my father said he had arranged for me to interview Robert W. Moree, the senior vice-president of one of the companies he represented.  Mr. Moree's office was in Rochester, New York, so we took a family trip.  He gave me a ton of information that enabled me to complete my term paper and get an A. 
The chill I felt was because the man whose picture I was looking at was R. W. Moree, Senior Vice-President of Merchants Mutual Insurance Company.  Although I had met him only that one time, and I thought of him from time to time, my father and I never talked about him after my interview.  Suddenly, it dawned on me that I had not asked my father enough questions about a lot of things.  He never told me about the brochure.  If I had inquired more about how the painting came to be, perhaps I would have learned more.  That got me thinking about other things.  When we finished clearing the apartment, I acquired other objects and documents that belonged to my father - - and my grandfather who died long before I was born.  There are undoubtedly stories behind everything.  Some things I pieced together for myself,.  I made up explanations for others.  Nothing would have been as enlightening as getting information directly from my father.
I now realize the opportunities we have to learn from talking to our parents and other elders - - about their lives, their experiences, their beliefs.  Those of us who are older should talk to our children and grandchildren to make them aware of what life was like in the “olden days,” as my grandchildren call them. We can learn about history from books and movies, but that gives us only someone else's perspective.  Nothing can take the place of learning directly from the source.  And when the elder person is the raconteur, he or she gets a chance to relive life through reminiscence. Recently, we have been asking my mother about events of long ago.  Although she sometimes has difficulty remembering that she saw me yesterday, she never tires of telling stories about her childhood and early adult years.
Make an effort in February to engage someone, older or younger, in conversation about the past.  One of you will relive life, and the other will learn.

PLEASE NOTE:  As of January 1, 2017, I have changed my office hours to Monday-Thursday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  We are closed on Fridays and court holidays.

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