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Bonnie Sue Stein
Who was Harry Weider?
Harry Wieder, 57 years old, died, April 27, 2010.
Tragedy struck, when Harry Wieder was killed crossing Essex Street, following his ubiquitous attendance at the monthly meeting of Community board 3 – a board whose foundation was literally shook up by his passing.
Wieder, born to modest Jewish Holocaust survivors in Forest Hills, was a complex person -- friend, son, colleague, actor, dwarf right activist, Gay activist, community board loyal/articulate member, and a person that people knew on the streets ("even if you did not know him, you knew him") as a dedicated, courageous, and passionate human being who had ideas and the ability to act upon them. He described himself simply and openly on his Facebook page: "Disabled, gay, Jewish, leftist, middle aged dwarf who ambulates with crutches…"
Being born a dwarf did not lessen his active and prolific life in the community of the East Village/Lower East Side, where he was revered by neighbors, politicians, and fellow activists and a strong voice on the Community Board. His activism also included an incident, among others, in which he was arrested for blocking the Queens Midtown Tunnel.
Harry knew how to sum things up at any meeting – he was articulate and able to speak from a knowledgeable base of experience, bravado and perception. Working with Act-Up years ago, and acting himself in many performances, he learned simple, but vital facts as quoted in Betty Adelson's 2005 book, The Lives of Dwarfs: Their Journey from Public Curiosity toward Social Liberation, "if you ask for 10 %, you might get 5, but if you ask for 150% you will get 110!" Harry gave more than 110% to every project that he jumped on and challenged each colleague to follow suit. One of his last lengthy letters to the DOT proclaimed his lifelong struggle with accessibility (or more accurately INaccessibility in public transportation. Harry wrote:
"DOT needs finally to engage in intensive, painful soul-searching regarding its mission and ethos where it, in effect, segregates or unduly burdens New Yorkers with Disabilities in all aspects of transportation. I am not writing this to insult, I am writing this as a wake-up call…"
Harry will be sorely missed. The theater artist, Craig Lucas said, most poignantly: "Anyone who knows Harry knows that he is a pain in the ass and they also know he is one of those rare pains in the ass worth every effort it costs to love him and, more rightly said, to be loved by him. I am disoriented and shattered. I'm not through with Harry, I don't know what to say really or what to do. The person I want to call to scream about taxis and this city to is Harry."