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In Memory of Frank Ray Rifkin--Renaissance Man Founder, Editor, and Publisher of Nutrition Health Review.

Frank Ray Rifkin was the most amazing person I have ever encountered. Even if he were not my father, I still would have wanted to know him.

His range of interests was proportionate to his intellectual fervor, which seemed endless. He harbored an insatiable curiosity about life that manifested itself in a constant hunger for learning. His personal library consists of thousands of books on a comprehensive assortment of subjects: philosophy, literature, the arts, medicine, psychology, general science, history, language, theology, law, rhetoric, economics, and humor. He could converse knowledgeably and skillfully on virtually any topic; yet, he was neither pompous nor pedantic, but caring and enthusiastic. It was simply impossible to dislike him.

He possessed a sense of adventure that led him down many paths. In 1926, when the Benjamin Franklin Bridge opened in Philadelphia, he became the first person to walk across its span after the inaugural ceremonies. By the early 1930's, he was writing a regular column for the South Philadelphia Journal. Its popularity inspired him to initiate a series of feature articles published under a myriad of pseudonyms. He covered everything from politics to entertainment to juvenile fiction without ever running out of material.

Words and ideas were his obsessions. Not content with journalism alone, he regularly searched for new avenues of creative expression.

While remaining at the Journal, he bravely embarked upon a career as a stand-up comedian in vaudeville. "Being in front of an audience is frightening enough," he recalled, "but trying to make them laugh is pure terror. If you can do that, you can accomplish just about anything."

Not only was he successful in his comedic efforts, but he also was able to adapt many of his routines for use in radio. Commercial broadcasting was in its infancy during the 1930's and Frank Ray (as he was known) wanted to be part of it. Imbued with the pioneer spirit, he began a radio show on station WNAT (now WHAT) in Philadelphia.

"I realized that vaudeville was inevitably doomed as a medium," he said. "I was saddened by the thought that it would not last, but, at the same time, I understood the tremendous potential of radio."

His radio program gave him the opportunity to use his fertile imagination to develop innovative comedy sketches. "What I liked about radio," he remarked, "was that I never had to face my listeners. Therefore, I could be somewhat less inhibited than I was on stage."

Throughout the 1930's and early 1940's, he expanded his journalistic endeavors through syndication. He was a tireless crusader for various causes and refused to compromise his principles for the sake of expediency.

Then the United States entered World War II. Frank Ray was ready to give his contribution to the wartime effort.

The United States Army took full advantage of his communication skills by assigning him to its Information and Education Program. His function was to prepare and deliver orientation talks to new soldiers while writing speeches for high-ranking officers.

"Information and Education," he recollected, "was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I had the chance to meet and work with some of the best writers in the country. The Army also tried to lighten things up a bit by introducing comic relief, and, at one point, I found myself training with Red Skelton. All the humor in the world, though, couldn't change the fact that we were dealing with a very serious situation. It isn't easy explaining to a group of young men why they will be asked to risk their lives. Even after the war ended, I could still see their faces in front of me."

After his discharge from military service, Frank Ray resumed his columns and also became involved in numerous charitable undertakings, including the Association for Retarded Children, which he helped organize in the Philadelphia area during the late 1940's. Before Special Education became widespread, this fledgling group provided a variety of services benefitting the mentally impaired.

In the 1950's, Frank Ray's fascination with the human mind led him to interview the eminent psychiatrist, Edmund Bergler. Dr. Bergler was a prolific author who shared Frank Ray's love of language. As a result of their similarities, they became not only close friends, but professional associates as well. Dr. Bergler paid Frank Ray the ultimate honor: he asked him to edit several of his books.

Dr. Bergler's works were popular and original. They explored new concepts that today are often taken for granted. One of these is the notion of "mid-life crisis," which was discussed in The Revolt of the Middle-Aged Man.

"When I edited The Revolt of the Middle-Aged Man," Frank Ray recounted, "I felt that it would be a monumental opus. Dr. Bergler was really the first person to have a thorough grasp of the `mid-life crisis.' The idea quickly became part of the popular culture and was lampooned in a movie entitled The Seven-Year Itch, which starred Marilyn Monroe. One of the film's characters is a psychiatrist-author named Dr. Brubaker, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Dr. Bergler."

Frank Ray continued his literary involvement with Dr. Bergler until the latter's death in 1962. Following Dr. Bergler's demise, Frank Ray became a trustee of the Edmund Bergler Psychiatric Foundation, a position that he held until the mid-1980's.

Throughout the 1960's, Frank Ray continued writing columns while becoming active in the theater. He produced and directed local plays and was affiliated with an actors' group in New York City. His main passion, however, remained the printed word, and, by the 1970's, he was thinking of ways to use his talents in different directions.

In 1975, we started Nutrition Health Review. At an age when many men have already retired, Frank Ray brought tremendous energy to the launching of this newspaper. His insight, devotion, and guidance helped us to surmount the daunting task of establishing a national journal dedicated to presenting vegetarian principles in an accurate, scientific manner.

When we began Nutrition Health Review, alternative medicine did not have the recognition that it enjoys today. Many physicians viewed unconventional treatments as suspicious, if not fully disreputable. Our goal was to present the reader with credible, well-documented reports of medical research generally ignored by mainstream media. Frank Ray fearlessly printed articles by doctors and other health professionals who frequently were considered too controversial for other publications.

Because of Nutrition Health Review, we have been afforded the opportunity to meet some of the leading scientific figures of the twentieth century, including several Nobel Prize winners. We were also fortunate to be able to assemble a group of distinguished advisors whose counsel has proved invaluable to us since Nutrition Health Review's inception.

In the 1990's, Frank Ray contracted Lyme disease from a tick bite. Neurological and immunological damage followed. In 2000 alone, he developed pneumonia on two occasions. The second bout in November of 2000 proved fatal. Throughout the course of his long life, he remained completely free of heart disease and cancer.

If you have formed the impression that I regard Frank Ray Rifkin as a gigantic figure, you are right. He was my father, my mentor, my alter ego, my irreplaceable best friend. The years that I spent working by his side unquestionably comprised the happiest times of my life.

One of the ways in which I intend to honor my father's name is by maintaining the high standards that he set for our newspaper. Nutrition Health Review may not be the most visually impressive publication in existence, but it has integrity. Our emphasis on veracity over sensationalism springs from the moral character of Frank Ray Rifkin's soul.

I feel privileged to be his son.

I love him very much.
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Copyright 2001 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
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Author:Rifkin, Andrew
Publication:Nutrition Health Review
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
Words:1284
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