Volume 78 - Number 32 / January 7 - 13, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Obituary

Robert Aronson, 73, a longtime Democratic activist, copy editor

By Ed Gold

Robert Aronson, a longtime activist in reform Democratic politics in Greenwich Village who also served on Community Board 2, died of an apparent heart attack on Dec. 30, according to his brother, Richard. Aronson, a Villager for more than 45 years, was 73.

Aronson, known as Bob, was supposed to have lunch with his brother on Dec. 30 but failed to show up and could not be reached by phone. His brother went to his walkup apartment on W. Fourth St. but got no response.

“I called the Sixth Precinct,” Richard Aronson recalled, “and officers arrived promptly and had to break down the apartment door. When we got into the apartment we found the body.”

Bob Aronson actually belonged to three Democratic clubs over a two-decade period.

Former City Councilmember Carol Greitzer, who was district leader from Village Independent Democrats in the early 1960s, recalled that, at that time, Aronson had been a member of a third Democratic club during the struggle between the reform V.I.D. and the old-line Tamawa Club, run by Tammany leader Carmine DeSapio.

The third club, organized by Jim Lanigan — V.I.D.’s winning district leader against DeSapio in 1961, who had broken with V.I.D. — had a short life, after which, Greitzer said, Aronson became an active V.I.D. member.

Micki Wolter, who managed election district captains in several V.I.D. campaigns, described Aronson as “a hardworking, reliable election district captain.”

Early in the ’80s, when Ed Koch was mayor, the anti-Koch forces took control of V.I.D., and pro-Koch loyalists, Aronson included, formed a new club, Village Reform Democratic Club.

At C.B. 2, Aronson was active on the board’s Institutions Committee during its oversight of expansion issues at both New York University and St. Vincent’s Hospital. Rita Lee, then district manager at C.B. 2, considered Aronson a “consistently fair, sensible and practical board member” who also had “a delightful sense of humor.”

When Aronson wasn’t politicking, he had several other conspicuous passions. He was heavily involved in cultural activities as well as hiking.

He had eclectic tastes in music, happy with Ellington as well as Mozart. He associated with other music lovers, most of whom he had met during his political activities.

Susan Cohen, a reform activist in Chelsea, was one of his companions at musical events.

“We liked classical music, particularly chamber music,” Cohen said. “I used to meet Bob at weekend concerts. When he retired, he used to go to concerts during the week, and we bought Mostly Mozart tickets. We’d take the subway home from Lincoln Center or Carnegie Hall, usually talking about politics.”

Others in his cultural/political world were Yvonne Morrow, who worked for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and Judy Maxwell, a veteran V.I.D.’er.

Morrow and Aronson had a running debate about the efficacy of nuclear power plants, with Morrow in opposition. She contends Aronson finally came around to her way of thinking.

Aronson, according to Maxwell, was not known as a debater, but he brought to discussions a sardonic wit and liked to get in the last word.

He was also a theater buff who traveled to London several times to see new productions before they arrived in America. His brother said Aronson was once written up in a newspaper article as a “Renaissance man,” thanks to his cultural interests.

He was also an experienced hiker as a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club and the Shorewalkers club. The Appalachian club owned a summerhouse on Fire Island and Aronson would frequently serve as house manager during the summer months.

His working career was on the Jersey Journal in Jersey City, where he was a copy editor and headline writer for more than 30 years, also representing colleagues as a negotiator for the Newspaper Guild.

Public service was part of the Aronson heritage. His mother belonged to the Gray Panthers, which defended the rights of the elderly. At age 91, she drove around with a bumper sticker on her car which read: “I deliver meals on wheels to older people.”

Aronson was born in Bridgeport, Ct., and attended Antioch College. After his sophomore year, he joined the Army, returning to Antioch after military service to earn his B.A. degree.

Besides his brother, Aronson is survived by his sister-in-law, Joyce Kirschner, and a nephew, Ian Aronson.

Aronson was cremated. Friends and family are working on plans for a memorial service.

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