Marty Waxman’s Life of Public Service Continues

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Waxman stands in his home office with photos of presidents and heads of state. (Susan C. Ingram photo)

On a bright and breezy spring afternoon, the panoramic view from Marty and Estelle Waxman’s fourth-floor North Oaks apartment takes in a stunning, emerald Pikesville landscape of rolling hills and lush verdant woods. Inside, Marty’s tidy office boasts the same view, where across the room his bookshelf displays great reads from Ernest Hemingway to Jimmy Breslin to a book titled, “When Boxing Was a Jewish Sport.”

A colorful side table reveals itself as a bass drum from a set that Marty played in his youth, with sides of black lacquer and the drum head, protected with a layer of glass, painted with a bucolic scene not unlike the one out the picture window.


On the wall above his computer and wide-screen monitor are a group of black-and-white photos of Marty with Ted Kennedy, with Hubert Humphrey, with President Lyndon B. Johnson. Below those are a few more, picturing Marty with Golda Meir and another with David Ben-Gurion.

He may be living the retirement lifestyle, but his life, then and now, has been anything but retiring. And last week, in the heat of the showdown leading up to Maryland’s primary election, Marty hosted a couple lively political forums at North Oaks, with candidates from the State Legislative District 11, Baltimore County Executive and County Council District 2 races.

In other words, this 88-year-old born and bred Brooklynite, is still in the game. A game that began with his desire to be a journalist, a sports writer, to be exact, at a daily New York paper.

And, for a time, Waxman got his wish.

As a teen, he was sports editor of his high school newspaper and worked on the sports staff at New York University, but dropped out when they raised tuition to take the first step to his dream job — as a copy boy at the New York Journal-American. He was 20 years old and found himself running copy as the infamous 1951 New York college basketball point-shaving scandal unfolded.

“Basketball players, a lot of them in New York, were shaving points to stay within the point spread for gamblers,” he said. “And I knew some of these players and I knew some of the fixers. I knew them from my neighborhood in Brooklyn. I played ball with them.”

Itching for a byline, Marty took his inside information to the sports editor who asked if he wanted to join the sports staff. “Absolutely, I want to,” he answered. “That’s why I’m here.”

With his battlefield promotion, Waxman began covering the basketball scandals. But his dream was short-lived. Three months later he was drafted for the Korean War. After two years in Germany he returned to his job, but found that the newspaper, one of William Randolph Heart’s properties, was a backer of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s apparatus and its infamous blacklist that included many Jews.

“So, I would see all of this going on and I said, ‘This is no place for me. I can’t stay here,’” Marty recalled. “And in effect that ended my journalism career. I quit and I felt a little dirty.”

After that, in 1954, Marty started seeking a job someplace “where I could do some good for society.” And he did, and he has spent the rest of his life pursuing that goal, including as a young education director, newspaper writer/editor and an organizer for the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, which landed him in Baltimore. He moved on to the public relations staff and then as PR director for the International Union of Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers in Washington, D.C.

But after five years, averaging 150 days out of town a year, his wife asked him to get a job closer to home as the couple had two kids and another on the way. Baltimore brought him work at The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, where he did public relations and was campaign director and vice president, eventually spearheading the program that twinned needy Israeli cities with Baltimore for social services and humanitarian aid. That program morphed into the sister city program that now offers a two-way relationship for business and cultural exchange with the city of Ashkelon.

All of those jobs led him to meeting the many political figures that grace his office walls.

“And that brings me around to, what am I doing organizing political forums?” he said. “I’m interested in government, I know how to organize things and I still can write. And at the same time I’m the president of the North Oaks chapter of MaCCRA (Maryland Continuing Care Residents Association).

The group represents the interests of residents in not only North Oaks, but 17 continuing care retirement communities comprising 13,000 residents, working mainly with state legislators in Annapolis to make sure they understand the unique needs of the aging senior population.

“It really was because of MaCCRA and my interest in that and in good government that I suggested that we have a forum for candidates,” he said.

At last week’s political forums, residents submitted questions in advance to state and local candidates about their concerns on topics including increased traffic that 150 proposed new homes might bring to Mount Wilson Lane; improving Pikesville and its armory; chronic absenteeism, lack of air conditioning and gun safety in county schools; free college education; rising health care costs; safeguarding elections; a $15 and hour minimum wage; and reducing Chesapeake Bay pollution.

The forums drew about 70-80 people to the meeting room where residents will cast their ballots on June 26. “They stayed for the full hour and a half, listened intently and a lot of them stayed around to go up to the candidates afterward to ask them individual questions,” Marty said about the state forum. “I think it was much appreciated.”

Marty believes it’s imperative for seniors to stay involved and engaged with politics and life.

“It’s a two-way street,” he said. “I think the world needs us and at the same time, we need the world to keep mentally and physically healthy. And it’s never too late to learn something.”

North Oaks executive director Susan Chrissley has worked with Marty for several years.

“He is an outstanding engaged resident who continues to use his talents of working with people to keep North Oaks residents well informed,” she said.

Marty’s not shy in saying he’s concerned about the vitriolic atmosphere of national politics today.

“How can you not have concerns?” he asked. “You look at the television and see pictures of little children being torn away from their parents. Is that our America doing that? Yes, I have many concerns. This is not the America I grew up in.”

Nevertheless Marty, still a tall, sharp and somewhat imposing figure, says he appreciates the life he has led and with which he is still happily and actively engaged.

“I’m a lucky man, I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever done in life,” he said. “Even my army service.”

singram@midatlanticmedia.com

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Great article which really brings out who Marty is. It’s been my pleasure to work with him for close to half a century and every occasion has been outstanding. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from Marty who has been a mentor for me and many, many, many others.

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