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In Memoriam:
Former New York State Champion John Halpern

NINE TIMES YALE CLUB CHAMPION,
HELPED CREATE BROAD ST SQUAS


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Nov 11, 2003, By Rob Dinerman © 2002 SquashTalk

Former New York State Champion John Halpern, 68, Dies
From Cancer By Rob
Dinerman

The Frank Campbell
Funeral Home was packed the afternoon of Oct 12 2003 when several hundred
of his friends and family members gathered to pay tribute to John S. Halpern,
68, who succumbed after a six-year battle with cancer on October 8th.

Known as a fierce
competitor both in real estate and on the squash courts, Halpern was actively
engaged in his own medical treatment plans throughout his illness, which
included two remissions and a variety of chemotherapy and other curative
procedures; right up to the final week of his
life, he was trying to get his white blood cell count up to a high enough
level to undergo a bone marrow transplant. His handling of the disease
was typical of the energy, humor, intelligence and tenacity with which
he comported himself in all fronts of his life, and both the size and
diversity of the turn-out for his funeral in itself bears testimony to
the numerous interests he had and
the persona he exuded in almost any social setting.

This latter phenomenon
certainly extended to the world of squash, a sport he didn’t even begin
to seriously play until several years after his graduation in 1957 from
Yale, where he had excelled in track after previously being a football
star at New Rochelle High School and setting the New York state high school
records in the 60- and 100-yard dashes. He swiftly parlayed his innate
strategic instincts and natural all-around athleticism to become a top-ten
nationally ranked player and the winner of the 1968 New York State championship.

He also won nine
Yale Club championships, a record at the time, and more than a dozen club
championships at the City Athletic Club, where he had a number of exciting
finals with the late Mel Sokolow. In one of his most memorable Yale Club
matches, he led Ralph Howe, who had recently won several U. S. Nationals
as well as the 1967 North American Open, 11-4 in the fifth before the
latter embarked on one of his trademark shot-making sprees to eventually
prevail in a tiebreaker.

In addition to his
on-court achievements, which included a squash-playing tour overseas as
a member of the U. S. chapter of the Jesters Society, Halpern also served
as MSRA president from 1969-71 and combined his squash and real estate
interests to play a major role in the construction of the Broad Street
Club near Wall Street in the late 1970’s and later the Lincoln Club in
1981.

Just this past April
he was honored by the Yale Club, which presented him with the Chairman’s
Cup as a kind of lifetime achievement award in recognition of his many-faceted
set of accomplishments in and contributions to the sport.

By that time it was
known that his lymphoma condition was taking a serious toll, and the brief
remission he was enjoying that spring ended shortly thereafter. Several
of the speakers yesterday afternoon, from Michael Sweedler, Halpern’s
high-school classmate and close friend ever since, to the gay activist
Larry Kramer, took note of the irreverent wit, courageous resolve and
complete lack of self-pity that characterized the manner in which Halpern
endured the painful ordeal of the last several months, and both Kramer
and Halpern’s step-son Duncan Foster both noted the self-acceptance with
which Halpern finally acknowledged during his final week what he by that
time knew lay ahead. Foster himself emphasized the degree to which Halpern
treated him as though he was
actually his son, and other speakers alluded to the devotion that Halpern
felt for his two daughters, Cynthia and Alison, as well as Duncan, and
for his two grand-children, Hope and Eva.

Even for those who
for weeks had become aware of his impending death, it was difficult to
believe that such a force of personality and vitality would no longer
be among them. The sharpest of dressers ("He always looked like he
had just stepped out of a barber’s chair," one speaker noted), Halpern
possessed a feistiness, a love of a good argument over almost any issue,
a penchant for
playing practical jokes on his good friends and an infectious laugh that
endeared him to almost everyone who got to know him. John Halpern was
one of those people who wholeheartedly embrace life and are in turn themselves
embraced by an enormous number and variety of people
.

(photos anyone? Please
send to editor@squashtalk.com or to SquashTalk, 409 Massachusetts Ave,
Acton MA 01720.



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