Saturday, December 10, 2016. We had a chance to catch up last night with our close friends Ian and Namoi Arons. Ian and Naomi live here in Scarsdale and we have been friends since we moved to town around the same time.
And we have lots of connections. Jen and I went to Cardozo Law School with Naomi. Ian’s brother Andrew, who recently joined the private equity practice at Kirkland & Ellis LLP (looking forward to finally seeing him in the office in a few weeks!), and my brother Drew, share a brother-in-law in comm0n. [I always have trouble explaining this in an orally coherent way, but I think I just nailed it in writing by avoiding details.] Hoping the “other” Arons’ and Sussberg’s move out to Scarsdale soon….
It has been a tough year and half plus for the Arons family to say the least. Howie Arons a/k/a firstname.lastname@example.org — husband to Roni; Dad to Ian and Andrew; father-in-law to Naomi and Ashley; Papa Howie to his four grandchildren; and tennis coach to thousands over a 36-year career — was diagnosed with cancer that actually could not be diagnosed. Howie passed away on October 13, 2016. As I have learned over the last several months, including through incredible tributes to Howie at his funeral from his sons, ex-players and best friends, Howie was one of those magnetic people that made a difference in — and touched — so many lives. The tribute to Howie below, which appeared in the TimesLedger on October 21, 2016 , says it all.
BELOVED CARDOZO TENNIS COACH HOWIE ARONS DIES AT 67
BY LAURA AMATO
The Queens athletic community lost one of its most prominent and successful names Thursday when longtime Cardozo tennis coach Howie Arons died after battling cancer. He was 67 years old.
Arons was a dominant presence with the Judges throughout his 36-year career, leading the program to a whopping 18 PSAL city championships. His leadership on the court was electric and while he retired from Cardozo in 2012, Arons’ legacy is something the Judges will never be able to shake.
“He was always the most positive, exciting person,” said Cardozo boys’ basketball coach Ron Naclerio, who considered Arons both a colleague and friend. “During the course of the year he would call me and I would call him and he would tell me how things were not going well, but he was so positive about it. He just told me, ‘I’m always going to keep fighting.’”
During his time at ‘Dozo, Arons racked up 584 career victories and just 51 defeats, but it was what he did once the matches were over that truly set him apart from other coaches in the area. Always ready to lend an ear or help finetune a serve, Arons’ relationship with his players was the defining characteristic of his coaching approach.
“I look at the history of this school and what it’s meant to me in my life,” Naclerio said. “And these big names were like my uncles and Howie Arons was my big brother. He always made you feel so good. He was just one of those people who walked into the room and he made everyone feel good.”
In addition to his work at Cardozo – where he was as an English teacher and eventually dean of the school – Arons also served as the co-director of the New York Tennis Academy at Great Neck Estates, sparking a successful junior program on Long Island.
He also ran the junior program at Alley Pond Tennis Center and devoted much of his time to helping foster an early love of the game for players across the area. In 2015, he was the recipient of The Vitas Gerulaitis “For the Love of Tennis” Award and was also a member of the Cardozo athletic Hall of Fame.
All of Arons’ hard work paid off – he saw more than 80 players move on to the Division I level, including both his sons, Ian and Andrew.
“If I had to say there was a Mt. Rushmore of Cardozo athletics and there were three or four people that had to be on it, he’s easily one of them,” Naclerio said. “Not just athletically, everything he did.”
Arons had not spent much time on the court at ‘Dozo since announcing his retirement, but the longtime coach was still regarded as one of the most important figures in the Judges’ storied athletic history. Naclerio knows that reputation won’t change any time soon either.
“One of his former players called me last night and told me that he’s meeting with a couple of guys, graduated in ‘83 and ‘84, at Cardozo so they can all go to the services together,” Naclerio said. “That’s the kind of impact he had. He said he never saw a teacher so enthused as [Howie] was. Thirty years later and he remembers that.”
Arons’ funeral will be held this Sunday, Oct. 16, at 12 p.m. at the Star of David Chapel, 1236 North Wellwood Ave., West Babylon NY 11704.
I only wish I had known Howie better. From the couple of e-mails we exchanged this past May, you just knew you were dealing with a special guy. I checked in with him to see how he was doing, noted I would love to get together if we could make it work, and told him that I was sure he was proud of his impressive and successful sons. And I told him “there was so much to live and fight for.” Ian, like so many of our friends, was at the hospital religiously during that “emergency” three week stay in late April and early May. I only learned during some of those visits that the Arons family had been dealing with the same thing for many many months with his Dad.
“Thanks sooo much Josh there is not a day that passes that I don’t think of you and your beautiful family. I know you are going to win and beat the crap out of this shit I know it and I really appreciate this note from you. Love yo man Howie can’t wait to get together.”
I remember thinking immediately that Howie was selfless. Not a word about himself. This was evident in his email to me on May 22, 2016 (prompted after reading a post I entitled “Distracted,” which was caused by my “coasting” (after totally losing focus) into the curb on Heathcote Road with my brother-in-law and Jake in the car on the way to baseball team pictures).
“What’s up Josh the distraction is part of the Chemo Beast It’s called chemo Brain. After my 3rd treatment I drove to great neck. Middle neck rd. Tried to park saw a spot I I pulled in and hit another guy pulling out. Don’t know how I did it but was my fault. This chemo shit is powerful and we must more than focus. Roni drives at night because I get tired Go slow no hurry for anything stay in the now when possible. Believe in yourself”
Howie was taking his experience to make sure I felt better and believed in myself. After e-mails like these, I was not surprised to hear from Ian and Andrew that Howie, who also found time to coach both of his boys (each of whom had highly successful tennis careers, including four years of college tennis at Indiana and Yale, respectively), regularly left “short” notes of encouragement or words of wisdom in the morning or before a match. In fact, I had a chance to go through books of these notes (that dated back 30 plus years), and it was easy to understand why Howie had such a positive impact on everything he touched. Including his most important accomplishment — his family. And with Ian’s permission last night, we took our first page (of what will be many) out of Howie’s book and gave Jake this note earlier today before his basketball game. Ryan will get a similar one tomorrow.
There is something to be said for writing it down and having something to look back at. This note is sitting on Jake’s night stand. And I am sitting here writing another note for tomorrow based on a few things I saw and we discussed today.
Howie Arons was a legend that touched so many lives; that legend lives on and will certainly not be forgotten.