On Thursday July 21st, 2011 - Joseph Malkiewicz passed away. He was a fixture of our shop and the Buffalo magic community. He was one of my best friends, a mentor, ever present cheerleader, and confidant. Joe was a large man in every sense of the word and we have felt his loss deeply. I was honored to speak at Joe’s memorial service. I thought it fitting to share those words here...
Joseph Malkiewicz, has been retired for years but he was a teacher even in the end. I suppose it’s fitting then that he would leave behind - a writing assignment.
I am standing here because I knew Joe best from the world of magic. Although, I assure you his reach into my life - and that of my family - went far deeper than time here permits me to share. People are drawn to magic for different reasons. Some for fun, some to perform, some to learn secrets - but some because they see the deeper metaphors within it. Don’t let the top hats and sequined jackets fool you - sawing a lady in half and bringing her back whole has some serious spiritual implications. We’re talking life and death, big idea kind of stuff and I think that’s one of the things Joe loved about it.
Good magicians seek out ideas from every source imaginable. They will travel, as Joe did with myself and others, to the biggest cities and the smallest towns to hear someone talk about some tiny finesse with a pack of playing cards or an obscure performer from 70 years ago who the world has long forgot. Good magicians do this because they understand that they are part of a rich history and they are obligated to carry it on and make it better.
Joseph Malkiewicz certainly did that. He supported magicians and world of magic more fully and deeply then almost anyone I know. He embraced magic and the people within it - like all things in his life - with love, caring, and an enthusiasm that affected all who met him, even briefly. Back in the days when I had a retail magic shop on Elmwood, Joe would often cover for me when I had to go off and do a show or magic convention. I was always amazed that I would come back to find some item – an item that had sat on our shelves for years - had been sold by Joe. Something I could not sell for love or money. When I asked Joe how he did it - he would always reply, “I just talked to them.” For Joe, “just talking to someone” was like creating a work of art - and he liked his creations to be large and meaningful.
Anyone who knew Joe well, knew the experience of standing and waiting while Joe had a deep and profound conversation – often with a complete stranger. Over time I learned never to rush Joe as this was happening. Once while trying to get back from a convention in Las Vegas, we had a layover in Chicago - when suddenly the skies opened up and oceans of water fell down. O’Hare Airport shut down completely, thousands of people scrambling to find a place to stay and harder still a way to get there. I made calls, looked for taxis, a rental car anything - but none was to be had. It was Joe who saved the day. While everyone else was getting angry with ticket agents, cab companies, and airlines - Joe was having a quite and genuine conversation with a man who turned out to be - a limo driver. The driver, no doubt surprised by Joe’s honest interest in him as a human being - not just a lift - offered to get us anywhere we needed to go. While others stood back, frustrated and yelling in the rain, we were being escorted via limousine to a lovely hotel by the newest friend of Joseph Malkiewicz.
Joe was so good at making these connections that he even began conducting interviews with renowned magicians for my monthly newsletter - and later our web site. These were interviews with performers and creators who traveled the world. Many of which spoke with professional reporters and writers on a regular basis - true stars and celebrities within our field. Almost always they would go out of there way to come back to me and share how much they enjoyed their talk with Joe. Expressing real and genuine gratitude for the chance to talk with him. One of those interviews was with an award winning magician by the name of Michael Ammar. I want to close with a short poem that was made popular in magic by Michael. The author is unknown, but Joe and Michael discussed its profound meaning. I could never match the courage and enthusiasm that Joe showed when he spoke these words, which he did often. But I know Joe was always fond of it, so I’ll do my best.
It’s called The Careful Builder…
I saw them tearing a building down
-a gang of men, in my hometown
With a heave and a 'ho' and a "Yes! Yes!" yell -
they swung a beam, and a sidewall fell
I said to the foreman "Are these men skilled?
Like the ones you'd use if you had to build?"
He laughed and said "Oh no! Indeed! The most
common labor is all I need. Because I can
destroy in a day or two, what it takes a builder
ten years to do."
I thought to myself, as I went my way:
"Which of these roles am I willing to play?
Am I one who's tearing down,
as I carelessly make my way around?
Or am I one who builds with care. So my craft
- my community, are just a little better,
because I was there?"
Joseph Malkiewicz was a careful builder.
I can think of no better way to share and protect his legacy than by being one too.