Chance meeting leads to a September song


They cut a fine figure and make a handsome pair – like a couple from a classic play or movie. Patricia is a painter with a studio in the Hope Artiste Village and is a distinguished member of the Providence Art Club. Jim has been a Realtor around Rhode Island but is currently a Florida resident. They met at a party on a New Year’s Eve, and my wife recalls every detail of their encounter.

On New Year’s, Jim reminded Patricia that he had always admired her, since Hope High. The wedding took place shortly thereafter in Las Vegas. He has a platinum or white-gold ponytail that totally matches and suits her latest look. They care for one another with devotion and dedication. It’s a great thing to see them at any affair! Like a ducal or even royal couple, they confer elegance on every occasion.

Well, Jim grew up in the Jewish Orphanage on the site of the Miriam Hospital. More or less. His brothers were there, but he was first sent to a series of foster homes. Their mother was suffering from tuberculosis, from which she died. Their father had gone off to seek his fortune on the West Coast. Their wider family, in Poland, was wiped out completely by the Germans and their collaborators. Profoundly homeless, Jim craved a place he might call his own, which explains, perhaps, how he came to be interested in real estate, in property.

There were plenty of orphans in the world of his boyhood and a great abundance of childhood deaths, but Jim is a survivor and was a loyal brother. His siblings fought in World War II in American uniforms, and one brother, Ben, stayed on in Paris long enough to paint the Weiss saga. Jacob died shortly after victory, liberation, whatever term you might choose. Yes, briefly, on the West Coast, they met their father, but Jim and his brother Charlie stayed in California until the Orphanage brought them back, to Camp JORI and to foster families, and to the Summit Avenue facility. Jim was the youngest, most isolated, and final resident. He represents, to me, the solitude of the orphans of our shared generation.

Jim also is an artist, in more ways than one. He makes images but also collects the work of others and, through his marriage to Patricia, he participates in the wider and more open world of artist colonies and concerns.

Rhode Island, of course, was a place of real significance throughout the Duration. We know that submarines lay threateningly like strange sharks underneath Narragansett Bay and rivers because of the Kaiser Shipyard and also, of course, due to the Seabees at Quonset Point as well as the naval base in Newport. Those subs seemed to have been lurking since World War I, the one that was supposed to end military conflict and launch a world of poetry and peace. But Jim and Pat’s generation experienced the war within the intimacy of their imprinted early years. Jim can barely remember his mother’s face. Perhaps when he met Patricia he sensed that he could rely on her judgment, her integrity, as well as her beauty. He remembers her as a high-school girl, tall, stately and lovely. He had loved her at Hope and held out a dream that became a reality, like the lyrics to a lovely ballad. 

Jim has not found solace in religion, but Judaism is a faith not based upon belief in magical miracles but in glimpses of gentleness and care in the midst of the ordinary. There is something Jewish about Pat and Jim, and I toast them and their alliance with friendship, respect, affection and the very highest and most grateful regard!

I had a superb luncheon last month at the University Club with Patricia, and she narrated the details of their rendezvous, their shared destiny, and their seasons since their almost Biblical seven-year life together, first in East Greenwich and now at the Wayland Manor. “It’s almost as though it was our magnetic fate to meet again and help and protect each other and look out for each other’s welfare.” Not sure that’s a direct quote, it’s just the jist of what she said, but the words were wise and warm. She knew all the fine points of his past as well as his present.

Their coiffures may be current in color and style, but their faces tell the tale better than my sentences. She retains the very fine features and intelligent expression of her high-school years of social poise and thoughtful responsiveness. He seems to seek the same secure, bountiful and friendly qualities he has been searching for loyally and lavishly among his alliances, and he has found them supremely here in Divine Providence! 

MIKE FINK,, teaches at RISD.