Thursday, February 25, 2021

“I’m Proud of You, Brother” by James W. Ziskin

With apologies to my 7 Criminal Minds colleagues, I’d like to go back to last week’s topic, which was preempted by the Lefty Historical first lines post. So here it is.

Who is someone in your life who has been supportive of your writing? What was their impact? 

My brother Bill has always been a enthusiastic supporter of my writing—deserved or not—showing up at each local signing with his trusty camera, reading all my books and stories, recommending them to friends and colleagues, and offering detailed feedback and criticism at every turn. A scholar of Shakespeare—and then some—he’s given me invaluable advice on characterization, plot points, and the rhetorical devices his experience taught him. He truly has been an inspiration for me to do better and strive to reach higher. That’s the advice he always gave to his drama students. “That was great. Now do better.” No wonder I’ve always been so touched and encouraged by his congratulations on social media when one of my books comes out. “So proud of you, brother,” is his usual refrain. And that means a lot coming from such a creative and accomplished soul. 

Let me tell you about my brother Bill. I thought some bullet points would illustrate his remarkable and varied accomplishments/talents:

  • Captain of his high school football team
  • Valedictorian of his high school class
  • B.A. and M.A. from the University of Albany in English and Education
  • Veteran of the Army National Guard, having served six years in the 10th Mountain Infantry Division
  • Educator—Bill retired from teaching English and Theater at Schenectady High School after thirty years
  • Actor/director in regional stage productions from 1980-2016
  • Founder of the prestigious Blue Roses Theater, Schenectady, NY
  • Professional photographer, covering the University of Albany sports programs

There’s no shame in saying that, from time to time, we all need a boost for our flagging creative spirits. And Bill has always done that for me. For that I’m grateful.

I’m heartbroken to report, however, that I’ll have to rely on memory for that support from now on. Bill passed away on Monday at the age of fifty-eight from complications from pneumonia, brought on by Covid. Over the past fifteen years, a chronic health condition sapped him of his strength, wasted his once-strong body and health, and left the door open for that killer contagion to do its worst. Jennifer, his loving wife of thirty-five years, was by his side when died, as were two of my brothers. His suffering is at an end. A small grace.

I’ve found comfort in the dozens of tributes posted in his honor on social media since Monday. So many former students—their parents, too—his lifelong friends, and his loving relatives—siblings and cousins—wrote such moving paeans to his dedication, goodness, and talent. He not only touched lives, he changed them and inspired them. For the better. His loss will forever leave a huge hole in the hearts of those who knew and loved him. Bill was that special. So, coming full circle, I say to him, “I’m proud of you, brother.”



William W. Ziskin
1962-2021

If you’d like to read more about his amazing life, and the good that he did, please have a look at this article in the Daily Gazette from Schenectady, NY.

https://dailygazette.com/2021/02/23/bill-ziskin-longtime-schenectady-hs-theater-director-remembered-as-an-educator-that-brought-magic-out-of-everyone/?fbclid=IwAR3QW5hQUi5Di5rGQy4zhUa4G1lovmJQY38Sn-X6b2GrQVqqdeKkcDpn0ro


26 comments:

Patricia Messineo Buell said...

Such a wonderful tribute... My sincere condolences to you and your family.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

God bless.

Grace Koshida said...

Lovely tribute to your brother, Jim. My deepest condolences.

Anonymous said...

A bright light. So sorry for your loss.
Love and hugs.

Jules

Jeffrey Siger said...

Barbara and I offer you and your family our condolences, thoughts, and prayers at your loss, Jim. I know how you feel, as I lost a brother at about Bill’s age. May his memory be a blessing to all. Much live, Jeff & Barbara

Aubrey Hamilton said...

Such a loss! I am so very sorry.

Chris Goff said...

I’m so sorry for your loss. What a wonderful tribute.

Frank Zafiro said...

My condolences, Jim. I'm glad he was there for you, and was so much to you.

Matthew Meade said...

This was a really moving tribute. I knew and loved your brother. I'm really sorry for your loss and I'm really sad that he's gone.

Catriona McPherson said...

Oh, Jim. I'm so sorry. Thank you for sharing this tribute. Cx

Leslie Karst said...

I am so, so, sorry Jim. He sounds like an amazing, generous man. Sending you love and hugs, my dear.

Susan C Shea said...

Jim, I'm so sorry to read this, but hear the warmth and admiration in your voice, and know he was cherished right up to the last. You and the rest of his family have my deep sympathy.

Erica Miner said...

Bill had much to be proud of in you, Jim. He'll always be with you.

Brenda Chapman said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your brother''s death this week, Jim. My deepest condolences. Bill sounds like a man who led a rich life that touched and inspired many people, and I know you have deep, wonderful memories. Your post is a lovely tribute.

Kathy Reel said...

Oh Jim, I am so very sorry to hear your sad news. Bill will have inspired and influenced many young people over all those years of teaching and led them to richer, fuller lives. I can tell how much you loved him by your beautiful tribute to him. You both were lucky to have one another, and I'm sure the bond is there with all the brothers. That's so special. This damn COVID has robbed us of so many bright shining stars. I will be thinking of you, dear friend.

Vinnie Hansen said...

This is heart-breaking. My deepest condolences.

Unknown said...

Jim-so sorry to read about your loss. His memories will be an important part of of your lief now-he sounded like a real mensch and a love. Your sorrow is shared with your friends. Bill Gottfried

James W. Ziskin said...

Thank you to you all for your kind words. They are truly a comfort.

Jim

Susan Alice Bickford said...

Gone too young, too soon. A loving family is a priceless gift.

Art Taylor said...

I'm so sorry to hear this news, Jim — sending good thoughts to you and your family.

dru said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Unknown said...

Beautiful tribute to your brother, Jim. My deepest condolences to you and your family.

Abir said...

Thanks for this wonderful piece, Jim.

Aaron J said...

Jim,

So we’ll written and such a great capture of Bill. Thank you.

Lisa Ciarfella said...

So sorry to hear! 💜💙♥️😎

Kris G said...

Wow....so eloquent. My memories go so far back...to a rope hanging from a tree in your back yard....swinging and playing in that huge yard with my brother Rick, the Catenas and well half of McNulty school. The Purple Knights vs The Orange Crushers....and more and more
What is the right thing to say? Don't know. My mother keeps up on everybody and she told me all about Billy's accomplishments in Schenectady..... I'm so grateful to have grown up along side the Ziskins in Amsterdam Ny....so so sorry again.