The Corner

Memories of Bill Rusher

I wanted to add to the tributes a personal reminiscence of Bill Rusher, who was special to me in the thirty-two years I knew him. I first met Bill before Rick (Brookhiser) and I were engaged, in 1979. Naturally, I was apprehensive, since at the time the only conservative I knew well as a life-long liberal was the one I eventually married. We met at a handsome Indian restaurant on Central Park South. It became clear very quickly that I had no reason to worry. Bill, dapper and courtly, was welcoming from the first. I remember we talked about snorkeling and travel, and he was intrigued that I was a psychologist. I was struck by how psychologically-minded he was, and what a dry wit he had, as well as a keen intelligence and a taste for passionate poetry. Soon I discovered that he had a tender heart as well. I admired his frankness and his stoic temperament. At our wedding, he read from First Corinthians with great dignity.

The silver wine cooler he gave us as a wedding present got lots of use. Over the next few years, we evolved a ritual of meeting bi-monthly for dinner. Either I cooked for him at our apartment (he always brought a special bottle of wine, about which he instructed me with great aplomb), or he took us to one of his favorite, mostly classic French, restaurants. His generosity and delight as a host were only matched by his pleasure as a guest.

One of the highlights of my time with Bill was meeting him in Taiwan, and touring the National Palace Museum with so great a connoisseur of all things Chinese — and the delectable banquet that followed.

I was deeply touched by a particular compliment he paid me. He called me “daughter” — and he insisted that deep down I was actually a conservative. I can still hear his voice, and I treasure his memory.

Jeanne Safer is a psychotherapist and author.


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