57-year-old Roger at Rockaway Park, Queens, New York City in August 2006.
(March 6, 1949 - September 1, 2009)
by Lew Goodman
He was wearing a U.S. Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) uniform. I was a fervent antiwar radical, but there was something about him that made me realize he was special. He was 18; I was 16. It was September 1967 and we were freshman classmates at Fordham University in the Bronx, a politically conservative Roman Catholic institution. He soon quit ROTC, and, coincidentally, we both majored in communications and spent most of our undergraduate years at WFUV, Fordham's FM radio station. In my six years at the station, he was the only person I knew who never tried to get on the air. He was not an egomaniac and was content to hang out, shoot the breeze, and be amongst friends. Of course, we took many courses together and we graduated together as well.
In August 1969 we both attended the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. I was a city boy, slept in a rooming house a mile from Yasgur's Farm, and saw only three of the acts. He was a country boyan experienced camper, who stayed for the entire four days and saw everyone. Despite the rains and the mud, he had the time of his life and, contrary to the stereotype of the hippie, freak Woodstock attendee, never smoked marijuana. The artist he enjoyed the most there was Creedence Clearwater Revivalan unpretentious, straightforward, hit-making band that this progressive rock snob looked down upon.
He was always the bespectacled, clean-shaven gentleman. I eventually grew a full-faced beard and didn't cut my hair for four years. At an age when young men can be prone to describe sexy, young women in somewhat earthy language, Roger had a stock expression when he found one appealing"She's very pleasant." Despite our differences or perhaps because of them, we remained close friends for 42 years and never even came close to having an argument. And I can be an extremely argumentative person!
Roger was a great nonfiction writer and, after graduating from college, became a newspaper reporter. The newspaper of record, The New York Times, was his Bible. He eventually became a real estate appraiser and, ironically, appraised Yasgur's Farmthe site of the Woodstock festivalenabling it to become the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
He was always there for me. He was my only friend who visited me from New York, during my three-year period of residency in La Jolla, California. He was one of 65 well-wishers who came to my last radio show in 1973, many of whom roasted me or partied in the next studio. But Roger stayed in the same spot in the control room, directly across the glass from me, for the entire three hours, with an assuring look on his faceenabling me not to lose my composure on the air. I never asked him to do that; he just wisely surmised that I needed him. When I decided to purchase a Manhattan co-op, his letter of recommendation for the co-op board was, by far, the longest and most from the heart. He never condemned any of my controversial actionsnot because he didn't care, but because he wasn't self-righteous. We often spoke on the phone for a full hour and we always found new topics of mutual interest. During his final year of life, when he was often hospitalized and in intensive-care, both in person and on the phone, he only wanted me to speak of my life and my problems. But till the end he continued to be a worldly, philosophical, down-to-earth scholar. It was my honor to be the first to inform him that a person of color was elected as president of the United States, though he was in a medically-induced coma at the time. The nurse and I thought he understood, as he moved his head and opened his mouth while I was speaking. It was something that he greatly cared about before the election.
I have never known a kinder person than Roger Bromfield and I was truly privileged to have him as a friend.