BY JIM RAFTUS
My cousin David Angell and his wife Lynn were the first victims identified on 9/11. Tom Brokaw, with unearned solemnity, intoned, “We have learned the name of one of the victims, and he is one of us. David Angell, creator of the NBC show ‘Frasier.’ . . .” Our family had been with David and Lynn at a function on Sept. 8. Twelve years later, I still, irrationally, resent Brokaw’s claim of familiarity. But then, 9/11 was a completely irrational day.
This past June 13, I began reading sections of the Koran. Why? Because even after a dozen years I still have trouble speaking of that day. I still rarely speak of my cousin, although I think of him daily. Most importantly, I need to read the Koran to try and not live the rest of my life with a deep prejudice against an entire group of people. I’ve sought to meld ideals found in the Koran with aspects of the remarkable lives of David and Lynn, who were devout Catholics.
•Humility: The Koran says: “Successful indeed are the believers, those who humble themselves in their prayer.”
David and I were close, born seven months apart. He grew up in East Providence while I was raised in Pawtucket. At Christmas gatherings, his father would sing humorous nonsense songs while strumming an old ukulele.
David’s Hollywood success, as head writer on “Cheers” and co-creator of “Wings” and “Frasier,” came only after five years of struggle and perseverance. Lynn supported his efforts by working as a librarian. By the mid 1990s, I had only seen them periodically. Busy lives and 3,000 miles of separation will do that.
One day I bumped into them at a restaurant in Chatham on Cape Cod. After a fun-filled “catch-up” lunch, they invited me to see the old captain’s home they had just remodeled. Lynn, in addition to being the epitome of Southern grace and charm, was also a very talented amateur decorator. Their new home reflected her refined yet casual style.
As the tour ended, it struck me that nowhere in the house was there a hint of my cousin’s exciting career. I noticed a door in the kitchen and asked if it led to the garage.
David hesitantly replied, “Yes, and I have a little office above. Would you like to see it?”
As we walked up the stairs there were the first glimpses of David and Lynn’s journey. Framed, autographed photographs of the casts from “Cheers,” “Wings” and “Frasier” adorned the walls surrounding the narrow staircase.
More significantly, a three-tiered bookcase came into view as we ascended the final stairs.
On the bottom shelf were various books. The middle shelf contained three of David’s Emmy Awards. (He would win eight.) And there, on the top shelf, was displayed his father’s old ukulele. In that moment, I knew there was no chance of David ever “going Hollywood”
•Charity: The Koran says: “And be steadfast in prayer and regular charity.”
In 2000, I was the director of marketing for Clarke Distribution, which was having a charity golf tournament for a young Providence College graduate paralyzed in a body-surfing accident. Searching for items to auction, I called my cousin’s office in Los Angeles to see if they could donate some “Frasier” memorabilia.
My cousin called me back, and upon hearing the young man was a fellow PC graduate, upped the ante by offering for the auction a cameo appearance on the show. He mentioned that he would be in Massachusetts on the day of the tournament and said he’d love to play “if we had the room.” We made room.
Coincidentally, another auction item was a full-day treatment at a world-famous spa that was located in California, as was the filming of “Frasier.” A potential bidder for the spa item asked if transportation was included. When the answer was “no,” the bidding ground to a halt.
Observing this, David leaned over to me and whispered, “Tell the auctioneer to include two round-trip tickets to the ‘Frasier’ package.” Needless to say, with this addition, the “Frasier” cameo became the most hotly contested item of the day, with the owner of my company, Tom Clarke, and another guest waging a friendly bidding war. Once again my cousin whispered to me, “If they’ll match bids, let’s make it two cameos and four round-trip tickets.”
So, David had taken my humble request for some “Frasier” autographed photos, coffee mugs and T-shirts and had quietly turned it into a spectacular contribution to our efforts.
In 1996, David and Lynn established the Angell Foundation, which continues to this day to support education and arts for youngsters in Southern California and New England. The Angell Blackfriars Theatre at Providence College was a gift from the Foundation.
Two concepts from the Koran: humility and charity. David and Lynn embodied these virtues. Of course, these two words are on the bright side of the Koran coin. Other teachings, such as calls for jihad, with violence implied against those who “make mischief in the land,” etc., can be, and have been, perverted by radicals to perform unspeakable acts.
Religion is like a tool. Like a claw hammer. One end joins together and builds, the other pulls apart and destroys. David and Lynn knew which end of the hammer to use.
Jim Raftus, of Cumberland, is a retired marketing executive.
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Two Angel(L)s Lost 9/11/01 – First Published in the Providence Journal
BY JIM RAFTUS