Thursday, December 3, 2009

Remembering Mickey Hornung: Aug. 27, 1953 - Nov. 24, 2009

The staff at the Forum is deeply saddened by the unexpected passing of Mickey Hornung.

Mickey’s column was to run this week, however in its place we would like to share with you two selections from family members. We invite you to also read the editorial (p.8) in his memory. We would like to express our deepest sympathies to Mickey’s wife and children, Camille, Bettina, Michael and to the entire Hornung family. Mickey will be greatly missed by all of Howard Beach.

The Eulogy of Mickey Hornung

Delivered on Saturday, November 28 Our Lady of Grace Church by Mickey’s sister, Maureen Hornung

My brother Mickey was the sweetest gentlest little boy I ever met. He was kind, quiet and unassuming as a child—yet he was no coward. He never gave my parents or teachers an ounce of trouble. He was a wonderful brother, but had the unfortunate distinction of having my older brother Johnny as his big brother when Johnny was refining the art of teasing.

Although much of Johnny’s good natured teasing was directed toward Mickey, who was naïve and gullible as a child, Mickey adored Johnny and was always following him around, which made him an easy target. When things occasionally got too much, Mickey came to me to tell on Johnny. In those days, kids didn’t run to their parents unless there was a calamity but attempted to work out disagreements on their own. Like the Little Rascals and Charlie Brown, parents were always busy doing grownup things. He and my brother Johnny grew up to be close friends, confidents and inseparable for good and sometimes the not so good. Their escapades were legendary in Howard Beach.

My fondest memory of Mickey occurred one Sunday morning when he was about 7 years old. His beloved salamanders, Sally and Mander (they actually turned out to be Sal and Mander), appeared to be lifeless. He ran to tell my parents who were preparing for mass. They told him that they would have a funeral when they returned from church.

Ever organized, Mickey took it upon himself to hold the funeral and bury his salamanders in the back yard. When my parents returned he ran up to tell them that he had taken care of the situation. My mother replied, “What if they weren’t dead?” He said it was OK because he buried them with their heads sticking out of the ground in case they were still alive.

At age 24, Mickey took on the adult responsibility of organizing the funeral of our father and later in his life, the arrangements for our brother Johnny, both of whom died at an early age.

When I spoke to my sister Annemarie who was in Florida, she was so happy that she came up for Camille’s 50th costume party last month so she could remember him as he was that night. I said “Yes” but reminded her that he was dressed as a “Whoopee Cushion” at the time.

Over the past three days, I have heard comments about him ranging from loyal, sweet, gentle, good friend, trustworthy to goonbaka, and if he said ‘ZSA, ZSA one more time, I was going to beat him!” Let’s face it, Camille was a saint and he adored her. She was good to him and took care of him and my family is forever grateful.

Mickey was a loving husband to Camille and unconditionally supportive and loving father to Bettina and Michael. He was a good family man, like his father before him, a generous, loving brother to his siblings and a respectful son.

Some of you may remember Mickey for his good deeds to this community, some as a childhood friend, others as a devoted family member. I will remember him as my little brother who thought I could fix everything and everybody.

As you know Mickey’s life was an open book and sometimes… you were literally a character in it. Yet he was never mean or vindictive. Mickey dealt with his personal tragedies with dignity and forgave his trespassers with grace.

“Blessed are the pure in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. If there is a heaven and he wanted to go there, I am certain that there is a spot for him.

When he gets to the pearly gates, I know he will be ushered in without hesitation…Unless of course, my brother Johnny is there convincing him to take one last adventure with him.

Thank you for celebrating my brother’s life with us. He will be sorely missed but forever loved.

My Cousin Mickey

By Maria Hornung

As I sit here writing this it is the evening that I learned of my Cousin Mickey’s death. I know that his passing has affected most of you in some way, and I couldn’t let it pass by without a farewell column in his honor.

Those of us that know Mickey know he took the writing of each article very seriously. Although each article had some flaws, a misspelling or a run-on sentence, they were all from the heart. (I am not a professional writer so you may find the same things in this article also.) What made them special was that they took us back to a time of childhood innocence. A time before fears of losing jobs, raising families, and paying bills were even thought about. A time of worrying about the health and well-being of our parents, children, families, friends, and ourselves were even a concern. To lose yourself for those few minutes in each column was a relief.

What was our biggest concern back then? For the boys, it was getting the newest pack of baseball cards, making sure your baseball mitt was oiled and formed perfectly. To being at the schoolyard on time for whatever was going on. For the girls, the right Barbie dolls, what were we going to wear so the ‘cute’ guy will notice, or what the new type of shoe to get was. Our biggest worry was to make sure we were home for dinner by the last chime of the church bells, and home at night by the time the street lights went on. We were gone for hours without contact with our parents. No cell phones or any connection to those who would worry about us. Lost innocence.

How great that Mickey could bring us back to better days. I was fortunate that I was present for some of the things he wrote about. (The squeaky step at the top of flight of the stairs was scary to this young girl) One of the articles that I remember the most and still brings a smile to my face was the nickname article. Who had names back then? How many people approached me in my youth to ask if my parents actually named my brother John Mugger? Who would do that to a child? That did not stop us, however. My uncle Harry, Mickey’s dad, gave each and everyone a nickname, whether you wanted one or not.

A couple of months ago I sat and asked Mickey a question that was on my mind since childhood. He was a great singer and I had always heard stories of him trying out for a roll in the original Broadway version of Jesus Christ Superstar and coming in third for the roll of Judas Iscariot. When approached he assured me the story was true but he didn’t go through with it because he was about seventeen or eighteen at the time and he would have to wear tights for part of his costume and he didn’t want his friends and his girlfriend at the time making fun of him. In response I told him he could have been an actor today and could have had money and everything. As I rambled on he response to me was a simple “Yeah but would I have been happy?”

The bible states that Jesus says “Bring unto me the little children”. That is how I will always remember my cousin. He had the ability in every article to bring unto ourselves the little child. Although I say goodbye to him I know for sure his presence will always be felt “About Town”.

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