Jack Wohl, a longtime resident of Roslyn Heights, would want to be remembered as a poet and humanitarian, said Florence Wohl, his wife of 50 years. She hopes, too, that he will be remembered as a Renaissance man.
Wohl died April 17 at New York Presbyterian Hospital after a long battle with esophageal cancer. He was 74.
A self-taught poet, pianist, painter and computer graphics artist, Wohl came to New York City as an infant with his mother -- Jews fleeing Nazi-occupied Vienna, his wife said.
Though he earned a living as owner of Scan Inc., a medical services business in Roslyn, and later as operations director of a chemical-testing lab, poetry was his lifelong avocation, she said.
In his writing, Wohl often touched on elements in nature, as well as life's injustices, his wife said.
Inspired by a news report of an immigration official denying U.S. entrance to a man's sons, "Trees of My Ghana Branch" begins:
Not my sons you say? Not true.
I was there at their birth. Each one.
Until all four became a tribe (a clan) unto ourselves.
Each baby wrapped his hand around my soul
deposited his hopes into my eyes like I was a magic wishing stone.
There was "an energy he had about living and life," said Gladys Henderson, named Long Island poet of the year in 2010 by the Walt Whitman Birthplace Association. She recalled thinking "this is a fabulous writer" the first time she heard Wohl read his work.
He blended a traditional style with "radical concepts" and displayed "a lyrical sensibility and a feeling for drama," she said.
Born on Jan. 6, 1939, Wohl grew up in East New York, Brooklyn, and attended what was then Thomas Jefferson High School, where he met his future wife. He went on to earn a degree in English from Queens College.
Wohl was interested in a wide range of subjects, his wife said, including art, politics, astronomy and morality. He was an especially good listener, she said, and when he asked people, "How are you?" he really wanted to know the answer.
A longtime neighbor and more recently a close friend, Richard Fadem, 83, said Wohl "had lots of facets," including appreciation for wildlife and tenacity in lobbying for neighborhood initiatives.
Most every morning the two met at a local Starbucks for coffee and conversation, Fadem said.
At an April 21 memorial service at the New Hyde Park Funeral Home, Fadem spoke of those morning meetings and how his friend made the rounds, saying good morning to all the other regulars. "Jack and I had found a sweet spot in our later years," he said.