My Dad was born in Williamsburg Virginia. His family lived in South Hadley MA where his father was an English professor and his Mother a homemaker. When he was a young boy and teenager they lived in Greece and Rome on two different Fulbright scholarships. He graduated from Harvard with a bachelor's degree in English History and completed architecture school at the University of Minnesota. As an adult, he lived in Abu Dhabi, Seoul South Korea, Dubai, Cairo Egypt, Riyadh Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait City. He also travelled to Pakistan, Oman, Istanbul, Amsterdam, China, Japan, France, Yugoslavia and Belize. He always studied up on the history and architecture of where he was going before his trips and was ambitious and thoughtful sightseer. Once when we were in Greece, after a full day of walking around Athens, he wanted to go see the Pnyx so that we could have our picture taken on the liberal side. But my mom and I had to throw in the towel, we were exhausted ("Dad, we can't see anymore! We have to go back to the hotel!") So he went on without us, bad knees and all, and stood on the left by himself, probably channeling his liberal heros.
Even though he had an elite education, he was not an elitist. He read Herodotus, and Homer, The Origin of the Species and practically all the original texts. But he also explained to me that he loved Wikipedia because everyone in the world had access to information that was once only available to a privileged few. He strongly believed in the potential of the individual and he lived his political beliefs. He was proud to be an American from Minnesota and his overseas colleagues told us that he represented the best of American liberal values. Early this week we received an e-mail from a colleague and friend, Ashraf that gave us a little window to his work-life. I’ll share this from that e-mail:
Kit helped me mature in my architectural thinking and design capabilities. In Cairo, Kit touched the lives of so many, not only architecturally, but more importantly on the personal level. As resilient as he was, he never gave up on a just cause and never compromised his strongly held values. Kit fought many long fights with both the managers of Cairo office and the headquarters in Minneapolis to improve working conditions and achieve a fair pay for the employees in Cairo’s office. He didn't fear for his own position within the company nor was he willing to betray the cause of achieving a more just working environment. This was something that brought him troubles and difficulties, but he did not care about any of that. He was willing to sacrifice his own privilege for the benefits of others and for a more just world.
I remember the countless days Kit and I spent on the balcony of the office discussing not only architecture, but also the frustrating political situation in Egypt and in the Middle East, American politics, world events, various intellectual and artistic topics.
He also wrote a section of personal anecdotes about how dad made up his own names for things:
Once at a wedding celebration, Kit looked at me and pointed to his favorite Egyptian dessert, KONAFA. It is made of dried sugary noodles, wrapped around nuts, and all are compacted in a cylindrical form. Not remembering its Egyptian name, Kit kept referring to KONAFA as the “Egyptian transatlantic cable dessert.”
I'll add here that he also had a pair of sturdy boots that he wore in the desert called "cobra benders", he called pot-holes "axle breakers", if there was a grey cloud in the sky that meant there was going to be “one hell of a storm” and he preferred to call stop lights "semaphores"
I’m particularly proud of how my Dad operated while working at that office in Egypt. It was a demonstration of his integrity and how he lived his values, treating everyone equally.
He was passionately liberal and he and I would get fired up talking about politics. During election years he would often remind me, "for God's sake, don't forget to VOTE" (As if I ever would.) For a time, he served as president of the neighborhood board and was responsible for the treed median down 31st street. He had a eye for detail and design. He was an artist. He could spot truth and beauty and was a big source of information on that for me. He was a magic cook. He was my favorite chef. He could make a delicious dinner when there was nothing but condiments in the fridge. He could cook a big hearty beef bourguignon, but he could also cook vegetables perfectly. (He had an especially deft hand with veggies.) He sent me to college with a copy of Julia Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”.
But one of the things I most appreciated about my father was that when I had a problem or dispute at school with one of my peers, he always emphatically suggested that I "punch them in the nose!" Even though going around punching people in the nose was something I would have NEVER done, what it meant to me was that my Dad always had my back, no matter what, and by any means necessary. These days, faced with raising four boys, I'm generally discouraging punching, but I have said to them when they come home with complaints from school, "Well, you know what Grandpa would say... Punch them in the nose!!!"
Lastly, I’d like to thank everyone for coming. This last week has been a chance to reflect on how big my Dad’s life was. He was a deeply emotional, extremely intelligent, adventurous and intense person. I’d like you to know that if anyone is mean to you, you have my Dad’s support to punch them in the nose, and also “for God’s sake, don’t forget to vote.”