In New York Times Piece, Professor Orner Remembers his Uncle Harry

Monday, December 15, 2014
Photo of Peter Orner

Professor Peter Orner tells a compelling and true family story in his latest piece for The New York Times opinion pages. His grandmother’s first cousin — they called him “Uncle Harry” — was a lovable loner and postal worker who would occasionally stop by Orner’s family get-togethers in Chicago.

“I think of him bursting in the back door of my grandparents’ house on Pine Point Drive in a wet trench coat, rain pouring down from the brim of his hat to the kitchen floor, shouting, ‘Hallo! Hallo! Anybody ashore?’” Orner writes in the December 10 edition. “My brother and I would sprint to the kitchen and he’d kneel down and offer up his nose. ‘Honk the schnozz, go ahead and honk it!’ A monster of a nose, flabby, pockmarked and when we squeezed his nostrils together he’d honk like a frantic goose. Since then I’ve heard honking geese who had nothing on Harry.”

After years went by without any family in contact with Harry, most assumed he had died. During his senior year in high school, Orner was obsessed with determining what happened to Uncle Harry.

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Photo: Traci Griffin Treat

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