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Stephen Arlak

1915 - 2013
Stephen Arlak, 97, passed away after a long and fulfilling life. He lived in the Bronx for many years before moving to New Jersey. He received a degree in finance from NYU. He served four years in the Army during World War II. We are always defined by the people we love and the things we do and enjoy. His family, swimming, canoeing, and work were his passions. In his early teens, during a school trip, he swam across the Hudson River and back. He is perhaps the youngest person to accomplish this feat. There isn't a waterway in New York he didn't swim. And if it was challenging like the Hellsgate, he swam it. His love of swimming never abated. In his nineties this former Orchard Beach lifeguard jumped into the rough surf in Amagansett. Rescued by lifeguards, he insisted that he didn't need to be rescued. Afterall, he swam with legendary Olympian and actor, Johnny Weissmuller! He experienced many of New York's sporting and cultural highlights: he attended a Yankees game as a guest of Babe Ruth; Lou Gehrig's farewell speech; Don Larsen's perfect game; and many jazz and big band concerts. He joined Governor Roosevelt and other pedestrians to cross the George Washington Bridge the first day it opened. He worked forty years for General Motors in Manhattan. He then began a new and long career with the IRS. An ardent traveler, he and his wife Helen were among the first group of travelers to visit China when it opened to Westerners. He was a devoted pinochle and poker player throughout his life even after his vision and hearing were greatly impaired. It was an incredible sight to see a blind and deaf man play Texas Hold'em and win! He was always generous with his time in helping others. His cheerful vitality, pleasant disposition, extraordinary patience and dignified life will be deeply missed by all. He is survived by his son, Stephen; daughter-in-law, Gloria; his beloved granddaughters, Vanessa, Alexandra, and Katherine. His wife, Helen, and daughter, Victoria, predeceased him. Visitation is at Mccorry's, Cliffside Park, N.J., 2-4, 7-9, June 23. But he must go as his favorite sea poet, John Masefield said, "I must down to the seas again for the call of the running tide is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied."

Published on NYTimes.com from June 21 to June 22, 2013
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