By Kate Binzen
In September, I had lunch with my dad, Peter Binzen, and his good friends Claude and Beverly Lewis.
My dad and I made our way, very slowly, down the cobblestone street from the parking garage to the restaurant on Rittenhouse Square. Once there we watched for the Lewises, who arrived in a flourish out front in a small two-door car driven by their daughter. As cars careened around theirs, I ran out to help and a passerby gave a hand as well, to assist them in getting out of the back seats.
Beverly had chosen our lunch spot and I marveled at the hutzpah of the three oldies making their way into town to eat lunch in the midst of all the big city action. We four sat, jammed together, at a teetering round table by an open window. The waitress may have thought one thing upon seeing our party - three elderly folks, two walkers, and a cane. But surely her ears pricked up once we began to talk.
Our conversation was instant and lively. I asked Claude if it was really true that he had met 10 presidents. Yes, it was true! And in several cases he was the first black reporter to interview them. I implored him to recount every detail. Our conversation wound its way from Dwight D. Eisenhower through George W. Bush, with wonderful stories from Claude's life, and his work with civil rights leaders, woven in. It was a feast indeed.
Throughout the afternoon Beverly chimed in, filling in details and correcting facts. I insisted that Claude write to President Barack Obama requesting a visit and offered to escort him for that encounter. He took that to heart and later wrote to Obama, receiving a letter in return saying that they certainly wouldn't want to break that thread and that it would happen.
What really struck me about this lunch was the warmth and love that was so apparent between Claude and Beverly; the back-and-forth teasing and the way they knew each other so well they could anticipate each other's next sentence or request. She was his eyes, as he had grown blind and she was obviously the love of his life for 64 years.
Claude was also very generous in his praise for my dad. He said Dad was "a path maker - he took me to places that were rare. He did what he thought was right."
Dad died two months later, and Claude on Thursday. I hope that the old friends are together now, having a beer and talking about the old days at the Evening Bulletin and the Inquirer.