GREAT BARRINGTON — Donald Victor is a character. You have to love the man. He was a master sergeant in the Korean War and now, at 82 years of age, he's fighting the good fight, recovering from a stroke at Fairview Commons.
He called our Vox Pop program on WAMC with some regularity. He is thoughtful, considerate and, above all, generous. He has always been a major force in Great Barrington's reconstructionist synagogue, Ahavath Shalom.
He was known for chauffeuring cancer patients around town. One fellow congregant of his synagogue recounted all the times Don had been there for her during her medical emergencies. His giving didn't stop there. He never forgot our birthdays and if we weren't home to answer the phone, he would sing happy birthday into the answering machine.
For most of his friends and neighbors, it was as a photographer that Don Victor was best known. Photography has been his lifelong passion. He was a bit of a physical fitness nut and would run through town and around Lake Mansfield.
If you passed him on his rounds, he'd turn and click his camera and I would always say, "Don, you're not kidding anyone — there's no film in that camera." Of course, it turned out that there was a lot film in his cameras and we all just found out about it. To put it mildly, both Roselle and I are tearing up a bit.
Recently his son, Keith Bailey, who happens to be a saint, traveled to Great Barrington from Columbus, Ohio. Don told him that he was ready to leave his adopted home of Great Barrington and enter into a graduated assisted living program in the Columbus area.
It turns out that Don had hundreds of thousands of pictures in his home. He was not much of a housekeeper — the place was a bit of a disaster — but the important thing is that he had all these photographs. Keith hired some people to box the photos.
The Chartock file had hundreds of pictures. We got here in 1971 and Don arrived a few years later, around 1976. From the time he arrived, he started taking pictures of Roselle and the children and sometimes of me.
When Keith let everyone know that their lives were available in a box, we marched around the corner and picked up the box with our names written on it. The one proviso that Keith had was that each of us with a box with our names on it would hold up one of Don's pictures and let Keith take a picture of each of us.
Don Victor took so many pictures for so many years that when we looked at all of the hundreds of pictures, we saw our history unfold before our eyes. We saw ourselves as thin. We saw ourselves when we had more hair. We saw ourselves in our hippie days. We compared now and then.
A number of years ago, before there was Murray the Westie, there were Glendy and Odyss. Roselle was passionate about the dogs. Don knew it and took hundreds of pictures of them.
When they were gone, Roselle sent out a note that read, "Dear Don, you captured those dear pups in all of their moods: pensive, friendly, watchful and — doing their job — barking at folks walking by, friend or foe; and they were, indeed so beautiful and loyal as your wonderful pictures portray — thank you so much." When we got our box of pictures, that note was in it.
Don recently told both his son and his neighbor that he would go to Columbus to his new home until Keith's kids were out of the house, but that he would be coming back to Great Barrington in six years. You have to love this wonderful and generous man.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.