FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2007
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT FUNERAL SERVICE FOR BROOKE ASTOR
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's eulogy as delivered
"Reverend Andrew, Reverend Mead, family and distinguished guests, everyone who loved Brooke Astor: good afternoon. Brooke was born just seven years before my 98 year old mother, Charlotte. And that means she, like my mother, she saw history from a perspective that few of us here can share.
"For them, the 'Great War' was World War One. The rest of us learned about that in school, but never lived through it. They were there as electric lights replaced gas lights, and horse-drawn carriages gave way to automobiles. They were already young women when Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, and when the movies learned to talk. They came from an era before the internet, before television, even before Ed Koch and David Dinkins were in knee pants.
"And all that makes the love affair between Brooke Astor and this frantically fast-paced true city remarkable. She had a wonderful life, and, as she wanted us to know, she also had a long one. And during that long time, the world around her was profoundly transformed. She rode those tides of change with a sure sense of style and an unshakable commitment to what was abidingly decent, thoughtful, and generously-spirited about New York.
"Brooke once contributed a poem to a children's book. She called it 'Love Is an Apple.' It reads:
'Love is an apple,
Bite into it and you will find
"It's a delightful little poem, full of the tart insight that was Brooke's hallmark. And for Brooke, there was one apple that she truly did have a love affair with: The Big Apple."
"The past week has shown us just how much the people of New York, people of the Big Apple loved her back. She left us just a day before the passing of another New York icon: The legendary Yankee shortstop Phil Rizzuto. At first blush, they wouldn't seem to have very much in common. Although Brooke looked pretty good in pinstripes, too, although for her it was a fashion statement. And I don't know that she ever had friends nicknamed Scooter. But then, Phil Rizzuto probably didn't know the difference between a Titian and a Caravaggio.
"But it does- I do think that it speaks volumes about what kind of diverse and democratic city this is that the blue-blooded lady, and the diamond-in-the rough Hall-of-Famer, enjoyed the same robust level of name recognition and the same warm affection in the hearts of New Yorkers.
"My own encounters with her were far too infrequent. Thanks to Annette de la Renta, I lunched with Brooke once at her apartment. It was a memorable experience-a reminder of just how far someone from Medford, Massachusetts could come. And it was memorable as well, for her warmth and wit, which just took over the entire conversation.
"She loved good company, female and male. Finding herself at lunch with one woman and 11 men, she once remarked, 'Now this is what I consider a proper ratio!' Personally, I prefer the reverse but then, this is her day. For a time, we also both served on the board of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I remember being fascinated by the chic woman with the stylish hat who sat across from me, following every word of the discussion. And now, as mayor, wherever I go in this city, I see the results of her work and generosity, in community centers and neighborhood parks and also at our world-class cultural institutions. No wonder that she was officially declared a "living landmark."
"Earlier this summer, I helped rededicate the Astor Court at the Bronx Zoo, which once again displays the kind of classic grace befitting Brooke's memory. And within a few weeks, in parks and gardens across our city, fittingly enough the asters will be in bloom. They're the last flowers of the season, and they show us that often it's the fullness of time that brings out the best in nature-and in people as well. Their elegance-and that message-will remind us of Brooke.
"It's true that Brooke was always smartly dressed for everyone, whether they were her dinner companions or the schoolchildren and homeless shelter residents she met in the course of her philanthropic work.
"'People expect to see Mrs. Astor, and not some dowdy old lady,' she once explained, 'and I don't intend to disappoint them.' Well, she never did.
"And you know, there's a Yiddish saying that 'Our mitzvahs, our good deeds, are the clothing of our soul.' So in more ways than one, Brooke Astor was always the best-dressed woman in New York.
"On behalf of 8.2 million New Yorkers: She will be deeply missed. And she will be long remembered."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958