I sent a joke the other day to a friend I hadn’t seen in years. What I got in return was not what I expected. Manny Luftglass, the co-author of my very first book, Gone Fishin’ with Kids (How to Take Your Kid Fishing and Still be Friends) had passed away. His wife, Karen, wrote me a beautiful email, describing exactly what had happened, and reinforcing for me the evaluation I held of our friendship for over twenty-five years. She had intercepted my email while looking for my email address.
Manny and I had spoken on the phone sometime in the last year or so, and that’s when I learned of his early stage Alzheimers. It seemed like a cruel joke to have been played on one so totally immersed in life. But it was the flu that done him in!
Rather than try to recount Manny’s many accomplishments from memory, let me just quote from his obituary, which appeared in a Florida newspaper: “He started his own insurance agency, founded a bank, founded a newspaper, wrote and published 27 books (mostly about fishing), wrote thousands of fishing articles under the byline “Gone Fishin,” started the first recycling program in NJ, and served two terms as Mayor of Somerville, NJ. Wow! What a resume.
But, more than anything, Manny LOVED to fish. And it didn’t matter what species. I doubt that there was a fish Manny hadn’t fished for at least one time. Wherever there were fish to be caught, you’d find Manny. And he wasn’t an effite snob like some. Garden worms, crickets, meal worms, blood worms, minnows: any bait was okay with him. I guess you could say fishing was invented just for Manny.
I first met Manny when I was the manager of the fishing department at Ramsey Outdoor Store back in New Jersey. He was writing a fishing report (“Gone Fishin’ “), and since I was a guide at the time, he wanted to know if he could call me each week for a fishing report from the Catskills. Each week I would chronicle what flies were hatching on the Beaverkill River and any “fish stories” that were of interest to his readers. We meshed instantly. Eventually, because I knew Manny had self-published several books on local fisheries, I approached him with an idea I had for a book about taking kids fishing. The rest is history.
Manny put up a considerable amount of his own money (I had exactly none), and we worked out a plan. I would do the writing, and Manny would provide most of the information. We met once at a point halfway between our homes at a Friendly’s Ice Cream parlor to go over the outline, and assign certain chapters to one another. From then on, I would receive these huge manila envelopes crammed with rough copy, which I would then rewrite into my own style.
The process took almost exactly a year, and involved a lot of work. Eventually the book was published, and, in no small part due to Manny’s connections and perseverance, we sold nearly all of the 10,000 copies we printed. Manny kept fastidious notes, and each month I would receive an accounting that showed how many books had been sold, and how much I had earned toward my half of the cost. Eventually, I paid for my half, and went on to enjoy a nice profit. Even as recently as a couple of years ago, I would receive a little surprise in the mail: an envelope with Manny’s distinctive chicken scratch handwriting, with a check and a slip of paper with the accounting on it for what little royalties I had earned that year. Manny was honest to a fault!
We fished once, early on after we first met, but that was not the driving force of our relationship. We just genuinely liked each other. During the last five years I was at Ramsey Outdoor Store, we talked nearly every week of fishing season. Then, when I moved to the Carolinas, the phone calls became more of a once or twice a year occurrence. But always, Manny was there in my heart and on my mind.
I know it might seem trite, but I believe Manny is wetting a line even now, and surely catching more fish than anyone else . . . and probably writing about it. Tight lines, my friend! Save me a spot on the boat.