Last week I received an email from a New Yorker named Mark who had stumbled across my essay about my dad’s acquaintance with Alger Hiss. (Short refresher: At the beginning of the Red Scare, Hiss was accused of committing espionage while serving in FDR’s State Department. He spent about four years in prison for perjury. It was a very big deal at the time.) The name Vodrey came up in my piece; Bill Vodrey, an executive at the Canton Repository, where my dad worked, had attended law school with Hiss. Vodrey introduced my dad and Alger. (Sorry this is so complicated. It gets worse.)
Anyway, Mark was googling the Vodreys, because his dad had also worked for the Repository, and one of the Vodrey brothers (Bill or Joe) had helped his family out when his dad died. They provided a plane to fly Mark’s family to Arlington for the burial and later lent them their beach home in North Carolina for a few vacations. About to vacation in NC, Mark was whiling away a lunch hour trying to figure out which Vodrey had lent them the home, when Google led him to my piece.
More amazingly, Mark also has a Hiss connection. In the ’70’s, Hiss had delivered a speech at Michican State. Mark’s roommate helped with the speaker’s program there, and Mark got to meet Hiss. He has fond memories of Hiss’s friendliness and kindness.
He emailed me just to convey these serendipities.
By another coincidence, I received Mark’s email (via my new iPhone) while we were in NYC, visiting my daughter. Mark, an attorney, and I met at a Starbucks for coffee on Thursday, providing a restful interlude for this footsore tourist. We had an enjoyable talk about the Rep and Alger and Ohio and other things.
The thoughtfulness of the Vodreys, whoever they are, brought us together. For both of us, this is a mythic name from the ’50s and ’60s when we were children. One or another of these men introduced my homesick dad, hospitalized in NYC for months, to Hiss, who continued weekly visits; helped provide a plane, and later a vacation spot, for Mark’s grieving family; and may have been instrumental in helping my dad get all the medical care he needed. (He was a paraplegic.) My dad and our family also got to fly on that private plane to New York for my dad’s hospitalizations.
Then there’s Alger, who was extremely kind to my dad and gracious to Mark when he was a young college student.
There’s also Mark, who took the trouble to contact me and interrupted his work day to visit with me and my husband.
On the bus to LaGuardia on our way home yesterday, we saw an Asian man frantically feeling around in his pockets as he came on board the crowded bus. A young African-American woman, realizing the guy couldn’t find his Metrocard, stepped to the front of the bus and said, “Here. Take a swipe of mine.”