Dr Alan J. White - Aharon ben Eliezer - June 29, 2012
We are here today to mourn the passing but also to honor the life of Dr. Alan J. White. While Alan has had more than his share of medical problems, including a heart-wrenching crisis a few years ago, his death does come as a sudden shock for which we were not prepared. I know that it sounds like a platitude, but we can at least be comforted that he did not go through another period of suffering. Our task today is not to focus on his death but his life, and it was an interesting life full of accomplishment.
Alan was born in Brockton, MA, on Jan. 8, 1942, the beloved only child of Louis & Fannie White.
He grew up and went to school in Brockton. His parents, and his uncle and aunt Anna & Joseph Fishman adored him and nurtured him.
He always spoke about his father as his hero. His family was in the restaurant business and worked very hard. On Sunday mornings his father would be at home and cook and this inspired Alan, who certainly made cooking and eating a big interest, Later in life, if Alan made something and his father said it was good, that was the highest compliment.
I find it significant that he was the President of his class for all three years of high school, which tells you that the respect that he was given at a young age but also the leadership he showed early on. He was very well known in his community and had a wide circle of support.
At Harvard, he majored in Social Relations so that he could choose more elective courses. He was an intellectual and had eclectic interests.
He received an A.B. degree in 1963 from Harvard College. He received his Master's in Education from Harvard in 1964 and became a teacher. He taught 6th grade for a year in the Brockton, Ma. School System. He then became part of a program for the gifted there; he became the lead teacher in a program like the one he had been in himself as a kid. It was called Ceiling Unlimited.
He knew what the gifted program had done for him and he wanted others to benefit in similar ways.
He moved to Connecticut to go to a doctoral program at UConn. He received his PhD in Gifted Education. He then went to Cherry Hill, New Jersey as Director of Gifted Education.
He then got a call from the State Consultant and moved to Hamden where he could develop a program for gifted students in which he would identify talents among handicapped students.
The capstone of his career was that he served as a Consultant for Gifted Education for the State of Ct. Dept. of Education.
As he was growing up, there was a girl in his hometown named Sandra Hurst. She was three years behind him, and in a sense, always followed him. The first time she ever heard Alan White is when she was a candle in a Hanukkah program. She and the other candles were behind the curtain, and they were hot in their candle costumes, waiting to do their thing, but this bigger kid named Alan White kept going on and on giving a speech. So the first time Sandy ever heard Alan, she was just hoping he would stop talking. Over the years, it seemed that she was following in his footsteps. But there was always a three-year difference. She would see his name on projects on the bulletin boards. At one point, they were cultural directors of different parts of the camp. Alan was liked and respected in his positions of leadership
She turned him down the first time he called because she had another date, but she was thrilled that he asked. Their first date was in 1962 when she asked him to the Freshman Snowball Dance.
Together, Alan and Sandy raised their two beloved children Jonathan and Sarah,
Jon talks about him as an intellectual role model, that his father was interested in everything. Alan was very interested in his family history and then even did Leslie and Sandy's family trees. He had so much knowledge
And Jon and Leslie talk about him as a very loving and proud grandfather of Nate and Janessa.
Sarah talks about his sweet nature and how he was a walking encyclopedia who could answer the questions on Jeopardy.
He was very proud of Dr. Sarah and was very happy for her relationship with Stephanie. Alan traveled to meet Stephanie's family a few months ago and he was very pleased.
This service is being held in this sanctuary today because Alan was very important to our shul. For years, he led the Sunday morning minyan, week in and week out throughout the year. He often led services on Shabbat morning, chanted the Haftarah, especially his Bar Mitzvah portion Bo, and led services on Yom Kippur morning, our most sacred day. As I’m saying this, I hear that voice, that wonderful, careful, melodious voice that enveloped you and made you want to pray. He knew what he was singing and it showed.
People around here have said to me: When he was talking to you, you felt he was talking to you. He was gentle and kind.
When he spoke about Sandy, it was with affection and respect. When he spoke about Jon and Sarah, and then about Leslie and more recently about Nate and Janessa and then about Stephanie, it was with pride and pleasure.
The last period of his life had its own challenges and he lived them as he wanted to. He used a lot of his time to pursue his intellectual pursuits and to follow his passions like Cantorial Music all over the map and the internet. He loved Pesach and the Haggadah most of all. One of the reasons I’m sad about the timing of his death is that this was going to be the year when we would create a Haggadah for the shul and he would have been the editor.
He created the Anna & Joseph Fishman Fund for Synagogue Music here at Temple Beth Sholom and contributions are to be made to this fund. Last year, the Fund sponsored a Sabbath with our new High Holiday Cantor and it helped the whole High Holiday season because he had spent time with us before the fact. Alan was wise that way.
To Sandy, whose life changes now so dramatically, we ask you to think about yourself as the candle who helped light his life, who gave him a family, constant support, and unconditional love, To Sandy and the children and grandchildren, we wish you G-d’s comfort at this difficult time.
He was a righteous man. May he rest in peace. Let us say Amen.