[1st Oct., '11]
Kalev Pehme---Elnor Geissman---Mary Scarpulla
Kalev Pehme, ace reporter and first-class political journalist, died this August in California, where he resided. A memorial service will be held in New York city. Watch this column for time and date or call New York Civic at (212) LOngacre 4 - 4441. [See järelehüüe, below.]
Elnor Geissman, mother of Mary Geissman, died last month at her home in Illinois. She was 97 years young. Condolences to Mary and Jerry Koenig.
Mary Scarpulla, mother of Acting State Supreme Court Justice Saliann Scarpulla. Wake Monday, 3 Oct., Mathew's Funeral Parlor, 2508 Victory Blvd. @ Willowbrook Rd., Staten Island (718-761-55.44). Funeral Mass Tues., 11 A.M., Holy Child R.C. Church, 4747 Amboy Rd. @ Arden Ave., S.I. Condoglianze to Saliann, her husband Paul Gillow and children Michael and Gabrielle.
Pehme, Ex-Editor of Our Town, Dies
By Dennis King in Our Town on September 8, 2011
Kalev Pehme, a former managing editor of Our Town, died two weeks ago of natural causes at his home in Redondo Beach, Calif. He was 61 and had been in poor health for several years.
Pehme worked at Our Town during the 1970s and 1980s. He shared the passion of then-publisher Ed Kayatt for taking on stories that the major media ignored as too controversial. He delighted especially in commenting on the underbelly of New York politics and ferreting out below-the-radar-screen corruption in the court system. He also placed a strong emphasis on combating religious and racial bigotry and the deceptive practices of cults such as the Unification Church.
Perhaps his most important achievements were his series on the endemic problems of New York’s federal bankruptcy court and his upholding of Our Town’s reputation as a fearless paper with a strong point of view. Betty Dewing, a long-time columnist for the paper, has written that Pehme’s “scorching editorials were legendary, but best were his critical comments that followed some letters to the editors.”
Pehme’s father, Karl Pehme, born in Estonia, was a noted sculptor. His mother, Guerel Oulanoff, trained as a concert pianist and was the daughter of a Kalmyk writer and political figure who had fled to the west after the Bolshevik Revolution. The couple met in Paris and Pehme was born there in 1949. Two years later, the family immigrated to the United States and settled in the New York City area. Pehme graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois in 1972. After working briefly for a theatrical agent in Manhattan, he became an editor at the East Side Express, where he met his wife, Scarlett Lovell, one of the paper’s photographers. They had one child, Morgan, born in 1978. The couple divorced in 1986.
Pehme nurtured Morgan’s early talent for chess, and both father and son would be depicted as secondary characters in the 1993 film "Searching for Bobby Fischer." Pehme was played by David Paymer and Morgan by Hal Scardino. With his father as his coach, Morgan would become a national scholastic chess champion.
After leaving Our Town, Pehme became the editor of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board’s Recodification of the Law project. He worked as a book editor and as the editor of Chess Life magazine and became an adjunct professor of journalism at St. John’s University in Queens, where he taught from 2003-2008. He would tell friends and family that working with college students was a “delight.”
A voracious reader and a devotee of hermeneutics, Pehme was learned in a dizzying array of subjects from Greek philosophy and Renaissance magic to the I Ching and French literature. He had a generous sense of humor and love of laughter. His favorite comic writer was the British novelist P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Bertie Wooster. Several days before his death, Pehme wrote on his Facebook page that he’d been re-reading Wodehouse “for the sake of a few laughs—no, many laughs. My life has a great void in it, i.e., that I could never join the Drones Club” [a reference to the fictional band of aristocratic scamps to which Wooster belonged].
Aside from his son Morgan, Pehme is survived by his daughter-in-law Patricia and two-year-old granddaughter Fiona, of Brooklyn, and his two sisters, Reet Caldwell of Chicago and Olivia Pehme of Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands.
Dennis King worked with his friend Kalev Pehme at Our Town.