Remembering Oscar

The dinner for invited guests following the board meeting of he NMSS was moving and provocative. The winner of the John Dystel Prize for MS research was interviewed. John Dystel, a promising young attorney, had died from complications of the disease in 20 03. John’s father, Oscar Dystel, supported the prize and did so much more.
Oscar was a giant in the world of publishing, the man who saved Bantam Books and reinvented the paperback as a backbone of the industry. Oscar changed to book business, probably forever. After his son’s death, Oscar made MS his cause. His creativity and management skills made the National Multiple Sclerosis Society a better p lace. Oscar died earlier this year at 101. The video tribute the other night was extraordinary. Oscar was friend to all who did battle with MS.
And Oscar was my friend. It just sort of happened. He would take me to lunch when he was well into his nineties, always asking about my writing. When I described a book as a mess, which happened more often than not, he would take my hand and encourage me. Oscar cared about people. And he was devoted to the cause o f MS. Oscar Dystel was a role model on both fronts.

15 Responses to Remembering Oscar

  1. Nik July 26, 2014 at 1:35 pm #

    Sorry for the loss of your friend. Sounds like an incredible man!

    • Richard M. Cohen July 26, 2014 at 1:37 pm #

      He was.


  2. MB July 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    He left behind a legacy of hope through his compassion and action. When a cure is finally found, we will have people like Oscar Dystel to thank.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 26, 2014 at 8:39 pm #

      You bet.


  3. Desinie July 27, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    Sorry to hear of the loss of your friend,Richard.

  4. Martha July 27, 2014 at 3:45 am #

    What a lovely tribute. I lost a very dear friend this past year from liver cancer and she was so lovely, witty and bright. I considered her such a role model and true mentor and to this day I always want to pick up the phone and tell her some random tidbit of nothingness. She was very strong willed and I admired her so much for her convictions, never one to back down over controversy or unpopular opinions…she could dig her high heels into the ground and hell or high water couldn’t budge her an inch.

    Years ago I was going through some bull shit drama (for the life of me I haven’t a clue what it was as most bull shit drama tends to be) and she said something I have never forgotten: “It’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”

    Even though I didn’t know what it meant, and I still don’t…and probably never will…somehow it made sense in a nonsensical way. She left me a gift of a mantra that I have yet to apply but believe someday I will pull it out of my hat and it will turn out brilliantly.

    I am sure your friend left you many gifts, even ones you have yet to unwrap.

    As always, thanks for your wonderful words.

    Cheers from hot, sticky, miserable Arizona.


    • Richard M. Cohen July 27, 2014 at 4:27 pm #



  5. Mark July 27, 2014 at 6:35 am #

    I am sorry for your loss, Richard. You wrote a very touching memorial. I never knew Oscar. But after reading your tribute, I feel like we all lost a good friend. My sincerest condolences.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 29, 2014 at 9:20 am #



  6. Linda Lazarus July 27, 2014 at 8:31 am #

    Thanks for telling us about Oscar Dystel. You have given him a great gift. Life in our thoughts.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 29, 2014 at 9:21 am #



  7. Yvonne July 27, 2014 at 11:31 am #

    Another MS pioneer who so many of us probably never heard of before your post. It’s the small battles that will win this war. Glad he and his son will live on through their foundation of hope and determination. The reward is not in heaven. The reward is his legacy right here on earth as the work to find the next step in the MS battle continues through them. Thank you for sharing your wonderful friend with us. Hopefully MS never robs you of his memory.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 29, 2014 at 9:22 am #



  8. Sarah July 27, 2014 at 12:53 pm #

    Why can’t there be more Oscar’s in the world? There is a lack of compassion everywhere. People like Oscar are a dying breed (mostly a generational thing), and when I hear of someone so considerate and caring of others, who most people never knew of and are now gone, it makes me mad that their goodness wasn’t brought to light until their death. His reward is in Heaven, and still here on earth. Godspeed Oscar, and thank you.

    • Richard M. Cohen July 29, 2014 at 9:24 am #

      Thank you for that.