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Wednesday, January 25th, 2023, 1:08 pm

Losing Your Best Friend

Harvey Tobkes and Roy

I AM grieving today. I lost my best friend. I had been worrying for more than 20 years that this day would come.

Many decisions that I made in my life were guided in part — if not largely — by Harvey. I always listened to him and asked him for advice, since I was a teenager in fact. Harvey was like a second father to me. Harvey was honest, attentive, and knowledgeable. I could see it and I could feel it. I felt like it was reciprocal. We had a special chemistry in spite of the vast age difference (more than 50 years). Maybe the age difference assured me that he knew a lot better than me what life would bring, how to prepare for it, and what paths to choose. We used to amicably joke about this unusual connection and we corresponded a lot. Anita and Harvey sent me more gifts than I can recall and I sent them some too. Anita’s extensive and marvellous artwork has been at my site for two decades. Harvey constantly bragged about her skills.

Harvey was a proud father of 3 children and a loving husband who appreciated human values (and contact) rather than accumulation of wealth. This is a quality that sadly so many people nowadays lack. Harvey was a principled person who did not judge people based on what they had but based on who they really were.

I first met him in the late 1990s, if I recall correctly first at the gym at a hotel (that’s where I worked out back then), only hours or days before he came to our home. As a teenager back then, I didn’t know much about him but I had met his son 2 years earlier (his son is the husband of my mom’s cousin). But there was good mental chemistry and because he had a lot of witty things to say we stayed in touch for the next 22+ years. He always had very useful advice to offer and he never lacked the time to advise me on matters of personal life, career, and so on. My “career” ended up as mostly activism. I devoted my life to exposing injustice and corruption. I still do that. Harvey was supportive, whereas my (biological) parents don’t fully understand me.

In 2004 I set up a blog for him and he was active until January 16th of this year. Only 1-2 days before his death he forwarded me an E-mail boasting about his granddaughter Rachelle. Years ago he asked me to advise him (and her) on some personal and technical matters or key decisions. I remember all this like it happened yesterday, but upon a closer look that was a long time ago. Last time I met them in person (2006) he gave me valuable guidance. While it’s difficult to remember the dialogue in detail, the overall picture stayed with me, as did the thousands of E-mails we exchanged. My home still has many gifts that he sent over the years; I use them regularly; he’s still there everywhere I turn. I can’t forget all he did for me. I tried to reciprocate as best I could. I hope I enriched his life as much as he enriched mine.

Harvey wasn’t a man of greed. He would occasionally dismiss the mindset of collecting money and that helped inspire me in my current route. He had a lovely sense of humour since the first time I met him and he didn’t judge people based on superficial things. I’ll always admire that trait of his. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that without his guidance I could end up living a less fulfilling and more unhappy life. I always valued Harvey’s vast experience in life (he was already in his 70s when we first met). Young people should learn from Harvey, not from television.

Harvey knew that a stroll in the beach can be not just healthy but also a truly rewarding experience — something that money cannot buy. I’m grateful that I had the experience joining him in his walk there and a regret I still have is that we never did that again (and cannot do it again, either). A long time ago I vouched to Harvey that I would keep his blog running as long as I’m able to; I know how much he liked writing there, knowing people from all over the world were reading it, even total strangers. His words can inspire many, even if some people under-appreciate what he has to say. He loved his wife a great deal and he repeatedly asked about my wife too. He even occasionally wrote to her directly. He kept asking about my family and he knew my siblings individually, all of them by name. He cared a lot less about matters like work and money; I appreciated that. I envy how sharp he was even in his 90s. It’s like he never aged since his 70s and in my mind I still had the picture of him as when we first met.

While I’m deeply sad, grieving, I can still imagine witty Harvey saying something to the effect of, “cheer up!” He always valued good banter or humour and he was rarely sad, at least publicly. You only live once. Be happy.

If I ever turn 90 I will still remember Harvey and miss him very much. Thank you for everything you have done. Nothing can replace that.

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