Saturday, April 13, 2019

My real friend Ralph Fertig will be remembered forever

My mentor, a mensch; Ralph D. Fertig
People have been writing about Ralph’s many life accomplishments and rather than regurgitate the well-known facts of his life, I wanted to share on a more personal note, the way he has impacted my life and played a pivotal role in my growth.
The last few times Ralph and I met, I just assumed he wouldn’t remember little details from our past, but he would always refer to them, asking about my son, my daughter, our mutual friends and my plans. He remembered my research topic, he knew details about my advocacy work, he knew what was important to me. He always made me feel unique and special. Thinking back now, I am sure I was not the only one who had this feeling around him. He paid close attention to each person in his life and made us feel like the center of the universe. This was one of his many human gifts.  
A True Mentor
Ralph had many qualifications and qualities that are now well-known in the LA community and beyond. He was a fighter for justice, a steadfast believer in activism for freedom in all its forms. One of his most important roles was as a mentor. When I was applying for graduate school positions, I once came to him feeling so disappointed. I had just been rejected from a Ph.D. program because they were seeking a pure academic and researcher and my long-life activism history didn’t align with their vision. I was questioning everything. I told him I felt like my activism was becoming an obstacle to my progress. He listened to me for some time without saying anything and then in a very compelling tone told me: “if you become an academic and have no passion and ambition for change, you are no longer complete. Your activism is a plus, not an obstacle.” He cheered me on and reminded me to pick programs that aligned with my life’s work. He kept me on track.  
A Problem Solver
Every time I came to Ralph with a request, like a letter of recommendation or a lead on an internship or ideas for how to hold a large event together, he was quick to respond. He would ask me to sit behind his computer and would dictate emails to people he knew around the city, networking and bringing people together. People had so much respect for him that we would always hear back with positive news. He was so deeply generous and no matter what the issue was, he was quick to brainstorm for solutions. We never ruminated too long on the problem.  
A Caring Role Model
In 2008, we all went to the Democratic convention. My delegation was part of Hillary’s campaign, he was on Obama’s team and we would have long fruitful discussions about differences. Our delegation was trying to get a signature from Hillary about troops in Iraq and he encouraged us to go in front of the line and make our statement in one or two sentences to get her signature. He told us to ask people to allow us to go in front of them. He said tell people about your cause and make your case. He was a seasoned campaigner and a fierce advocate.  
A few hours later, we found ourselves in a hospital. He was under IV for hours and we were waiting in the urgent care. I was sitting close to his hospital bed and looking at his face and hand, hoping he gets better soon. He opened his eyes, looked at us, and in a gentle voice asked: “Did you finally get the signature, Soraya?” My friend and I looked at each other and smiled: “Yes, Ralph, we did!” He said “I am so glad, good job”, and closed his eyelids to fall back asleep.
We only later found out that he had stayed up all night the night before and had barely had anything to eat because he had been part of a resolution team on homelessness and they had had to work through the night. He was deeply and selflessly dedicated.  
When Ralph asked me to become his SME (subject matter expert) for his book, I was trilled and humbled. Ralph was ready to write another book. In one of his last emails to me he said: “read and comment on that chapter. Be candid; we have many more chapters to write on that subject.”; he was ready to continue.
A real friend
One of my great honors in our relationship was being able to accompany him to UCLA Medical Center for a routine test and appointment. Afterwards, we went together to Wholefoods. He bought a few items and I bought him Iranian pastries that he loved. I once gave him a handmade painting with the words “welcome” on a creamy/ greenish colored canvas. He adored it. He asked “Why do you always bring me something?” I told him: “Because I love you Ralph. I bought this during an art walk and thought of how welcoming you have been. I thought you might like it.” “I love it!” He said. 
It was these simple but meaningful interactions that I will keep treasuring and carry with me to help me through the grief of his loss.
I am truly honored to have had an amazing friend, role model, and mentor in Ralph D.Fertig. I am humbled that he wrote glowingly about me to my doctoral department. He once said that he held me in high esteem and the feeling was truly mutual. I suspect there are many in this city who hold him in high regard and miss him dearly.
After every event or pictures taking, I was creating a folder to send him the photos.I am creating him one again.

A few pictures of us

In KNC conference 2007 talking

2010 in Ralph's Home office, in an interview with him from Voice of Kurdish/American after supreme court on Humanitarian Law Project vs. Holder. 

VOKRADIO: An Interview with Dr. Ralph Fertig , Video No 2

during a demonstration for Free Kurdish girl in Turkish prison" Free Berivan". Front of Turkish consulate 

"Free Berivan" Protest in LosAngeles, March2010 - VOKRadio

He encourages the qualision  to stay together to make changes 
Front of Turkish Consulate after we talked to the member of Turkish consulate and gave them the demand for free Berivan

Arminian, Kurds, Greek, American for one cause, social justice and freedom 

During my hooding ceremony, a picture for him and his message 
invitation for graduation, sent photo to Ralph

In Ralph's House after her book was published. he was super happy for her book and super proud for my dissertation on her table and of course the water melon he loved 

In a demonstration to support Kurds in Afrin /Rojava/Syrian Kurd, front of Federal building.
He came with his caregiver on wheelchair, this man is a hero


After a successful meeting with Aris Anagens 
 ,Nyma Ardalan, Ralph, and I for a qualision on rights of minorities and emphasize on Kurdish issue
In Kurdish National Congress conference 

Demonstration front of Federal building. He asked me to write Human Rights for Kurds,Now


July 2018 book signing, ready to write another one for sure. Ralph

Dr. Ralph D. Fertig, ’ book A Passion for Justice: One Man's Dedication to Civil Rights

April 7th Memorial ceremony , my picture with Ralph was featured
 Leo Baeck Temple 1300 N. Sepulveda Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90049 

Kurdish community in Ralph's ceremony, "we lost a mountain" 
Kurdish women in support of Sussi(Ralph's better half)