A reporter’s seven-year correspondence with his 93-year-old cousin, illustrator Sam Fink, reveals a family’s past and the beauty in old-fashioned letter writing
Shortly before Christmas 2002, I received my first letter from Sam Fink. On the envelope, he had drawn an elephant and colored it with orange, yellow, brown and blue crayons. “Good to remember. Happy New Year,” he wrote above the address.
The letter was equally charming. He wrote about his son, David, who lived in Israel with a brood of grandchildren and great grandchildren. “When I visit my family in Jerusalem twice a year for a two-week stay, instead of asking about their lives, I share mine,” Sam wrote. “In most instances, young people do not know how to share with old people.” He signed it, “Your cousin, somehow, once removed, second, or whatever the term…Sam Fink.”
That letter marked the start of a seven-year correspondence I have had with Sam, who is a family success story — a noted illustrator who has drawn popular books about the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He was my father’s first cousin, and though I hadn’t seen him more than a dozen times in my life, a family photo my wife had mailed as a holiday card caught his interest and prompted him to write me.