remembering Michael Barlow

The world lost one of its lights on Saturday with the passing of a man named Michael Barlow.

Mike was married to Anita, who was my first wife Ruth’s cousin. He gained a certain amount of notoriety in the 1980’s when, as the chief negotiator for the teacher’s union in the Oklahoma City school district, he took the teachers out on strike. He later left the union and went to work for the school district as their lead negotiator.

But I knew him on a personal level. Ruth, who, you will recall, was Jewish, and Anita were very close, and we visited their house a number of times. The fact that I was not Jewish did not matter to them, and they were very gracious and welcoming. When Ruth and I got married, her mother, Leah, not only refused to come to the wedding but disowned her. Leah and Ruth’s Aunt Dorothy were very close, so Dorothy did not feel that she could come to the wedding. But she did bake a challah loaf and sent it with Mike and Anita who were enthusiastically present.

I always enjoyed the time we spent with Mike and Anita. We did a Passover Seder with them and their two sons one year.

When Ruth was in the hospital and we knew what the likely outcome of her ruptured brain aneurysm was going to be, I asked Anita to come out to help me deal with Leah, with whom I had reconciled, but who was still a basket case (understandably). Anita graciously flew out from Oklahoma City to San Jose and made things a whole lot easier for me. I stayed at Mike and Anita’s house when I flew back to Oklahoma City for Ruth’s funeral.

I knew Mike as a large, robust persona. I knew he had had some health issues, though I don’t know the details. In August Terry and I attended the wedding of Ruth’s daughter Debbie in San Diego. Mike and Anita were there, and Debbie thoughtfully seated us together. Mike was by then a small, gentle, quiet person with a gray beard, but was as kind and gracious and ever.

I was privileged to have known him, and I will miss him.

Michael Barlow, Alav Ha-shalom.

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