WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY — September 25, 2020 — In reflecting on the life of my friend Richard Blassberg, the first thought that comes to mind is the idiom, “God threw the mold away when he made him.” There was no one like Richard, as those who knew him will attest to.
I met Richard in 2001 when I first ran for Westchester County District Attorney. I remember how he stormed into the County Democratic Committee office in White Plains and asked then executive director Rocky Richard if I was for “real.” If I was, he was determined to do all that he could to support me and try to bring real change to Westchester County politics. And, that he did.
He worked tirelessly to bring about change in the criminal justice system, with his passion and dedication. When he was most productive he did the work of a team of Budweiser clydesdales. However, Richard being Richard, there were times when he was not so productive and his blind intensity had more the effect of a horse running amuck a corn field. It was not easy, if not impossible, to control Richard. He had the best of intentions but his actions were not always perceived as such.
Richard had no filter and certainly spoke his mind. I did not always agree with his methods but realized that he meant well. He was totally dedicated to making the criminal justice system more just and was relentless in defending worthy causes such as those of the wrongfully convicted. He did it as a reporter for the Martinelli newspapers, as the editor of The Westchester Guardian, and as a legal analyst for the Jeffrey Deskovic Foundation.
Richard and I remained friends till the end. I mostly appreciated his strong sense of loyalty and honor; attributes that are a rarity in the world of politics. He feared no one and was afraid of nothing. My wife Rose would sometimes tell me, “Richard would take a bullet for you.” He was incorruptible and wanted nothing for himself. Rather, he just wanted a better world where the average citizen would be treated justly before the eyes of the law.
When I attended Boston College Law School I had the opportunity to play on a soccer team called the Maccabees. I confess that I was unfamiliar with the term. But soon, I learned its significance. The Maccabees were Jewish warriors who took control of Judea in the 2nd century BC. They were known for their fighting spirit and courageous behavior.
Often, I thought of Richard as a true Maccabee. He fought the hard fight and gave all of himself. Along the way he made many friends but, like any true warrior, he also made some enemies. Richard had no regrets, undoubtedly.
He was true to the end. Whenever we spoke recently, in his weakened physical state, he always ended the conversation by saying how much he loved me and my family. I reassured him the feeling was mutual. Richard left an indelible mark and will never be forgotten.
So now my brother, it is time for me to say, “Hamakomy’nachem etchem b’toch sh’ar availai tziyon eeyerushalayim.” May God comfort you among all the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.