Tuesday, December 02, 2008

In Memory of Leon Trager (1928-2008)

I have been informed by Jack Crawford that Leon Trager, a long-time admirer of Ayn Rand passed away November 26th from pancreatic cancer. His newspaper obituary can be read here.

I first met Leon when I was a freshly minted Objectivist. As I am sure was the case with all who knew him, I witnessed a man possessed with an infectious spirit and unbridled passion for life. At a crucial time in my intellectual development, Leon's personification of the Objectivist ideal helped solidify my understanding of what it meant to be an Objectivist on a personal level and where Rand's ideas could take your life.

To share with you one such moment I had with Leon, I remember when he celebrated Christmas by throwing a magnificent party at his home. Already in his 70s, this was nevertheless the first time he had ever marked the holiday. The joy he shared was beyond description: we each sang, danced and laughed like no other. Everyone who had something to give of themselves did just that; my then wife who sang opera regaled us with her talent, another person joined her on the piano, other instruments were brought to bear and people who had never sung a verse in their life discovered their long-buried voice. It was all impromptu, all brought out in the richness and inspiration of Leon's warmth and hospitality.

And there, on the top of Leon's Christmas tree, shone a dollar sign in the place of the Star of Bethlehem, Leon's small testament to Ayn Rand's vision of the trader principle. Needless to day, the real testament was the man himself. Leon was an utterly selfish man and I utterly admired him for it.

I have heard though friends that Leon kept his spark and verve until the bitter end. Outlasting a diagnosis that put him in the grave long before he actually passed, I was told that he was still every bit the man he was right up until the bitter end. I am glad to hear it—I am thankful for Leon's example and I hope that I may do as well in following it.

Thus to Leon's family and loved ones, I extend my sincerest condolences and celebrate with them a life well lived. Leon will be missed, but I am glad for the opportunity to have known him. In its own way, it made all the difference to me.


Rich said...

Your description is right on target. Leon was quite a guy. I remember him and that Christmas party. Sorry to hear he's no longer with us.

Jim said...

Thank you for sharing this tribute to him.

I thoroughly enjoyed the several opportunities that I had had to speak with Leon. Regretfully such opportunities are now gone, but I will remember the passion and wisdom that he shared.

My condolences to all that enjoyed his company, especially family and friends.

Tenure said...

He sounds like a hell of a guy.

How can I learn more about him?

Anonymous said...

I used to see Leon out and about dancing the Lindy Hop virtually every week...always with a huge, infectous smile on his face. It's an image I'm happy to carry with me.


zigory said...

I met Leon and his son Noah, who was still in high school, at the Objectivism '92 Conference in Williamsburg, VA. Leon was full of positive energy and joy and was exactly the way I hoped I would be in my later years. He was encouraging to me. I said I was working on a writing project for a long time, perhaps too long, but I still thought it needed more work before submitting it to the marketplace. He said, "If you're not ready, you're not ready. When you're ready you will do it." I had videotaped his son singing, with another attendee, comedic songs by Monty Python. Leon beamed at his son singing in public, as Leon said Noah was normally on the reserved or shy side. Leon asked me for a copy of the videotape but, alas, I didn't have a working second VCR so I regret that I did not dub it for him. (My mother was fighting cancer that year and the next which put the video on the back burner). Another fact about him: Leon Trager decided that the US Holocaust Memorial Museum ought to carry Leonard Peikoff's book "The Ominous Parallels" so he single-handedly convinced them to carry it.