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When there isn't a pandemic happening, Citymeals staff often have the opportunity to visit with meal recipients – hearing about their lives and taking pictures for stories like these. But for everyone's safety, visits have become phone calls. Here's how Raoul is doing in his own words:
"Never in my lifetime have I seen anything like this," Raoul observes. Due to illness, he must leave the safety of his apartment to visit his doctors.
Other than these appointments, he does not venture outside, although he sometimes takes a moment to breathe the fresh air from his balcony. When his meal deliverer Shari arrives, they always share a few friendly words.
Music has always been a big part of Raoul’s life. As a composer with almost 150 compositions to his credit, he continues to write to this day because “once you retire you might as well be dead.”
Born in Vienna, Raoul’s parents were both musicians. His mother could play piano by ear and his father was a concert violinist. His family moved to Czechoslovakia where his father traveled with an orchestra, performing in various cities throughout the country. And then, the unthinkable happened – the Nazis crossed the border and took control in 1939. After a few nervous months, his father was able to obtain an artist’s visa. This was just the beginning of a journey that would take two full years before the family could reach America. For a brief period they lived illegally in Switzerland, then they made their way into France – first in Paris, and then in Vichy. Finally, in the summer of 1941, Raoul and his parents boarded the SS Normandie for the transatlantic crossing to a new life in the United States.
It was inevitable that Raoul would make a living connected to music. As a young boy, his parents both instructed him in their instruments of choice. When he received a piano scholarship to Julliard, his mother’s dream that he would become a famous concert pianist seemed on the verge of coming true. However, after one year he was diagnosed with chorea, a neurological disorder that caused both his arms and legs to move uncontrollably.
Disappointed that his career as a performer was over before it began, Raoul earned a master’s degree in music from Columbia University in 1958. The following year he intended to study at Boston University for his doctorate. A last minute offer led him to take a job on the music faculty at C.W. Post College instead. He went on to become the chairman of the school’s music department, and even received an honorary doctorate – the Most Distinguished Professor award. In 1994, he retired after 35 years at the college.
Once you retire you might as well be dead.
The modest pension he receives from C.W. Post, as well as the commissions paid on performances of his compositions, provide Raoul with just enough to pay the rent and keep the lights on. The continuing complications from chorea limit his ability to stand for extended periods. A recently diagnosed heart valve problem, and arthritis, have also impacted his mobility. Even using his cane, it is virtually impossible for him to get out of his apartment.
Unable to steady himself long enough to prepare his own meals, Raoul tried ordering his favorite dish (chicken with broccoli) from the local Chinese restaurant. His meager funds prevented this from becoming a long-term solution. He now receives well-balanced and nutritious meals provided by Citymeals.