What About George?
January 11, 2010
From the New York Times (free registration required to see the article, sorry):
WHEN George was a child, his parents were told to put him in an institution. Though it’s not clear whether doctors gave him a precise diagnosis at that time, they said he would never be able to get along in society. His mother visited a couple of schools — including the Willowbrook State School on Staten Island, which later became notorious for its brutal treatment of residents — but ultimately they kept him at home. George’s younger brother, a copywriter in New Jersey, said George was eventually found to be mentally retarded but has not been examined for his disability since childhood.
In retrospect, the choice his parents made may seem like an obvious one, but it went against the prevailing wisdom of the day, and it also raised a difficult question for them: Who would support their son after they were gone?
David Kramer, whose father, Gdal, founded Kramer’s Hardware around 1930, started giving George small chores around the shop — moving the stock, taking out the garbage. According to the accounts of some of our relatives, George had been an unruly child, yet he proved an eager and reliable worker, and over time, his responsibilities multiplied.
Three decades passed and Mr. Abraham, then a young Brooklyn entrepreneur, began expressing an interest in acquiring the store. By this time — 1979 — David was thinking seriously about retirement. “He was ready to teach me the business,” Mr. Abraham recalled, “but there was a ‘but’ — and this was a big ‘but’ — he wanted to make sure that George would be secure.”