Friday, July 24
Manny Gordon has passed away at 97.
I was Manny's best friend. Of course, I guess it was a 500,000-person tie: Manny treated everyone he met as a new best friend. He wasn't like a politician who remembers your name, your wife's and where your kids go to school. Manny was genuinely fascinated by everyone he ever met. Maybe because of that, people were drawn to him. He honestly had a magnetic personality. Will Rogers said he never met a man he didn't like. He gets credit for the quote. I credit Manny Gordon for the attitude.
I guess there's a chance some of you reading this never heard of Manny Gordon, never got to know him. I don't have the skills to put words together in a way that would let you know the treat you missed.
I met Manny for the first time when I came to WNEP in 1983. Let's see, using all my fingers and toes to do the math, that still means Manny was 71 when I first knew him. I was told he was a retired district forester for the State Bureau of Forestry, once responsible for overseeing more that a million acres of land in five counties in northeastern Pennsylvania.
He was such an educator and ambassador for conservation (he was "eco-friendly" before any of us even knew what "ecology" meant) that he quickly became the go-to guy for local newspapers, radio and TV on a variety of outdoors topics. Most foresters are publicity-shy. Not Manny Gordon. He had a message he was dying to spread, a message about caring for our natural resources, and he wanted to shout if from the rooftops! So it was a simple thing for him to continue appearing on local TV after his retirement. His catchphrase, "Enjoy, ENJOY" was applied to, at various times, "the greatest show on earth" (the state's fall colors) and "Pennsylvania's outdoor wonders" and all manner of nature topics.
I can't think of anything that could bring a smile to your face quicker than walking down the street with him and having people, beaming, come to up say "Enjoy, ENJOY" and pump his hand. He was the most approachable "star" I've ever known.
He was so popular and so well known that he started appearing on WNEP telethons and in parades and on various other programs. Elden Hale once offered Manny a job, which was promptly turned down. Elden tells me that Manny later kidded him that all he turned down was money: that he wound up working for WNEP anyway!
I didn't ask Elden, but I'm sure he'd say Manny's "job" at WNEP was Goodwill Ambassador Without Portfolio. Elden wrote me a note today saying that with his passing Manny, " . . . left a large warm footprint."
It's hard to feel bad for a man who led so long and productive life, who touched so many people, who spread so much joy, who had so many friends. But if you're sad, as I am, maybe it's because his megawatt smile is missing from our lives.
For now. But we still have memories of our friend, don't we?
Thanks, Manny. Put in a good word for me in heaven: if anyone's going there, you are! Enjoy, ENJOY the experience!