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In Memory of Martin J Tener

Martin Tener child and sister Renee
Dad and his sister Renee as children

My dad passed away a week and a few hours ago.

I’m still processing the loss of his body and my continued connection to his soul.

There’s so much to share about my dad, a remarkable man from humble beginnings who remained intellectually curious until the day he died at 82.

My brother and sister and I touched on different aspects of my father during our eulogies. Here, I share a few of my memories and thoughts from the eulogy I wrote and shared on Monday at his funeral:

Many a Sunday morning, Dad led us in a rousing round of Rise and Shine, while mom made popovers for breakfast.

A mealtime discussion could revolve around a recent scientific discovery, an incurable disease, the plot of a favorite novel (“What happens next, Dad?” “You’ll have to read the book for that.”), a Zen Koan or a recitation of The Highwayman (‘The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor…”).

My dad introduced me to the magic and poetry of words, our shared passion.

Martin Tener and family
Dad and his family (Alan, Lisa, Diana in back, Mom and Dad in front)

Dad was a master of many things:

  • composer
  • teacher
  • lyricist
  • playwright
  • poet
  • expert on art from Japan, China, Korea, India—and a bit of European and American art to boot.

For fun, he read medical journals, hard science, history, art books, poetry. Dad loved to learn and teach. Later in life he combed websites on herbs and alternative healing, and well known experts asked him for information.

Dad felt especially proud of the way he engaged his students in group projects and cooperative learning. And his students adored him. A year or so ago, a former student of his reached out to me on Facebook, still inspired by her seventh grade English teacher, Mr. Tener.

Dad’s varied interests and pursuits ranged from writing at least four musicals, inventing a new poetic form he called traplets, planting fruit trees in our Waterside hillside in New Brunswick, Canada, cooking sushi, creating mystery dinner parties and designing a water wall.

Martin TenerDad’s genius comes to mind when we first think of him, but I think if you asked him, he’d be proudest of the way he raised his kids. The last two days in his home, I felt that the camaraderie, forgiveness, love, honest communication and understanding among the three of us (my siblings and me) was a testament to the values Dad instilled.

I think if you asked him of his greatest creation and proudest accomplishment, he would not have hesitated to say, “Lisa, Diana and Alan” (Alan insisted I put it in that order!). Thank you, Dad, for the wisdom, passion, guidance and love that shaped our lives and our love for each other.

 

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Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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Comments

  1. Janet Kermes says

    Lisa what a fascinating man your father was. How lucky you and your siblings were that you got to call him Dad. May his inquisitive mind and lively spirit live on in his children and grandchildren.
    I am sorry for your loss and I am sending lots of love and hugs your way!! ??????
    Janet

    • Lisa Tener says

      Janet, thank you so much. It is a tender time and also very beautiful. Hard to describe but I feel very grateful! Thanks for your love and hugs!

  2. Lisa Rothstein says

    What a lovely tribute. I was that student who reached out on Facebook. I’m 57 now but I remember Mr. Tener as one of my favorite teachers at Russell Sage junior high. It’s funny that you cite “The Highwayman”, I remember he introduced us to that poem and also used it to explain metaphor and alliteration, new concepts to a 7th-grader. From the way he recited it, it was obviously one of his favorites. He also had a great sense of humor. Thank you for sharing your dad with us. I’m sure he inspired more than one budding writer, including me.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Thank you for sharing this Lisa. He did love The Highwayman and I love it too for the reasons you mention and its relentless rhythm. You made Dad’s day when you reached out to him. Teaching brought him great joy.

    • Jonathan Lapin says

      Lisa:

      I just read your lovely response to Marty Tenrr’s daughter. I was fortunate enough to have him as my English teacher for two years (65-67), roughly I guess by your age about six years before you. His was a grand and glorious life, was it not?

      Best,
      JONATHAN LAPIN

  3. Dawn Paoletta says

    Lisa, I am so sorry for the loss of your father- he sounds like he has been a beautiful mentor for who you are! He must have been a generous soul as you certainly have been to me and many others!

    I am an only child, who has been caring for my mom the past year- and she passed on 12/22/ so I am truly empathetic at this time. I offer my heartfelt condolences to you and your family during this time.

    Sending hugs and prayers up on your behalf-
    Dawn

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Dawn, That is a lovely way of putting it. He was a mentor and generous.
      I am so sorry for your loss as well. I hope you are feeling much support and love as you navigate this journey. And I send my prayers for you and your family as well.
      Lisa

  4. Lynn Manning says

    Lisa, my thoughts are with you. The memories you have of your father are yours forever–and what a wonderful man he was indeed! You carry him forward with you into the future.

  5. J. Thomas Ross says

    I’m so sorry to hear this. Thank you for sharing all the beautiful memories of your father. It makes me think again about mine, who passed away eleven years ago at age 85. Grieving is a long, painful process, but the beautiful memories will always remain.
    You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. Deborah Louth says

    The eulogy you wrote for your father evoked deep feelings in me.
    I was touched at how he gave you gifts that propelled you into
    being a wonderful teacher and writer. I am thanking him for
    bestowing you with his great gifts to combine with your talents,
    which you have passed on to us, your clients. You are fortunate
    to have a father who nurtured your creativity.

  7. Roger Hoar says

    Dear Lisa, I was saddened to find out today about the passing of your mom’s “Honeybunch”. He was such a voracious reader. He told me that even if a book only had one interesting idea in it, then it was well worth reading. First and foremost, he was always a teacher. Making a difference in the life of a child is about as good as it gets.

  8. Richard Herschlag says

    Your father, whom I sometimes called Marty and other times called Uncle Marty, left a strong intellectual impression on me, but also a strong sense of optimism. I remember having dinner at your parents’ house in the late 80s and having an intense round-robin political discussion. Herb, Jane, Anne and Howard were there along with my young bride, Sue. It was the end of the Reagan administration and all of us, each in our own way, were skewering U.S. policy with regard to the environment, excessive military buildup, lack of infrastructure planning and spending, prison policy, social justice, and a few other critical issues I can’t quite recall. Every person at that table was readily able to assess and dissect American policy and home in on the short-sightedness that drove it— your father more so than anyone.

    After about an hour there was a lull in the conversation, dinner was winding down, and people started to drift away from the table. There was a palpable sense of hopelessness hanging over dessert. Seemingly out of the blue your father turned to me and said: Don’t believe these things are unsolvable. Always remember there are solutions out there, and when people get together for the common good, it’s a very powerful experience.

    Uncle Marty believed in people, in ideas, and in doing the work required to get where you were going. He was way too brilliant to believe that path was virtually ever a straight line, but he believed in the circuitous routes of the mind and in the people brave enough to travel them. Whenever I spoke to him I came away feeling a little better. He was never formally my teacher, but I believe he was a teacher to anyone who took the time to listen to the complexity and earnestness of his thoughts and absorb his goodwill.

    Beyond that, I shared a very special affinity with Marty Tener which I have never mentioned until now. He was an artist—a songwriter living the life of a teacher, with its rules, regulations, hours, and sometimes difficult kids. I think of myself as an artist trapped in an engineer’s life. It’s been difficult. I have no way of knowing whether Uncle Marty ever found his situation frustrating. What I do know is that his spirit was—and is—indomitable. Absolute evidence of that is the way he utilized “retirement” to continue creating right up to the days the Creator called him back. I am entirely sure my Uncle Marty is now helping the Creator create, sharing the World to Come with your amazing mom, and spreading his optimism appropriately—where it came from in the first place.

    • Lisa Tener says

      Rich, thank you so much for sharing your memory and this powerful interaction. It is such a beautiful tribute to my Dad. I have always admired you and your creativity. I hope you will continue to nurture it whatever you are doing for work. Dad would have said the same.

  9. Jonathan Lapin says

    Dear Lisa,
    I just came upon your memory of your dad Marty Tener: he was my English teacher in 1965-67, and my home room teacher the second year. I have long stated that I learned to read when I was four, but only learned HOW TO READ from Mr. Tener.

    Because of him I discovered Twain and Kipling and Saroyan and Wilde and others, including Poe whose poetry he loathed; hey nobody’s perfect! He played us recordings by Ewan MacColl and Leonard Warren and Alexander Scourby and the like. And half a century later I still get chills over the difference between “between” and “among”: just one of his marvelously “petty” annoyances in usage in our language. No doubt he would read this with horror at my half dozen miscues.

    Mr. Tener was friends with Ginny Solomon: my high school English teacher and the only one I hold in his class. I stayed friendly with her for years after I finished school, before the travails of time cut our correspondences from monthly to three months to Christmas cards to never. I’m sad that I didn’t manage even that much with your father.

    A couple years back when I learned I had cancer I went on a hunt for people I cared about and had allowed to slip out of my life. Your dad passed away since then; how much I wish I had gotten hold of him to express my respect. And my love.

    Yours,
    JONATHAN LAPIN

    • Lisa Tener says

      Jonathan, It is so moving for me to hear from you. My dad was a passionate and devoted teacher. I remember how he loved those authors you mention, particularly Saroyan.
      He was a master of multimedia before it was trendy! Always ahead of his time.
      Thank you so much for sharing your memories of him. What a beautiful thing to say: “only learned HOW TO READ from Mr. Tener.”
      I am going to let my sister and brother know of your comment to. It means so much to us to hear from you.
      Thank you!

      • Jonathan Lapin says

        Dear Tener children:

        In the past two days I have mentioned your father passing to several friends. They immediately knew of whom I was speaking, and expressed condolences over a man they’d never met and I hadn’t seen in over forty years. Does that give you an idea of how deeply I respected and revered him?

        I was an unhappy kid: fat, lonely, and the only person in Sage who felt stirrings for people of the same gender. This was before any mention of gay liberation existed. Your dad pulled me aside one day and told me to read a book on the trials of Oscar Wilde. Unsolicited help from a teacher who c. 1967 could have found himself in trouble for just such an action.

        Your father had students who loathed him for his strictness and demanding we bring out our better angels. Me? I thank God he came into my life!

        82 when he died? That means he was just about thirty (please note Mr,, Tener: I remember that numbers should be written out until thirty) Damn, he was a kid when I had him as s teacher!

        Ave and addio, sir. Ave and addio…

        • Lisa Tener says

          Jonathan, I am so touched by what you wrote. Dad was very sensitive and I’m so glad he made such a difference in your life. Thank you so much for sharing. It warms my heart to hear of your experience.

  10. Patricia Bugland says

    It has been over 53 years since I was graduated from Russell Sage JHS 190. Your father remains one of the most vivid individuals, a teacher whom I wished has been one of mine, but whom everyone seemed to know. Occasionally, he covered for one of my English teachers who was absent. His wit, ability to talk to any kid, get any of us to write something, reflect upon something and love the characters in stories, novels or poetry was amazing. More recently, one of your cousins, Sharon, I believe, was a student teacher at Forest Hills High when I was still teaching there. We had many conversations about his wit and brilliance. I am delighted to have known him, envious of my younger brother who was one of his students and as sorry as I am for your loss, I hope you will find some smiles and comfort from knowing how well he is remembered.

      • Patricia (Patty, please!) Bugland says

        Dear Lisa,
        I taught for almost 44 years. when I retired 15 months ago, I promptly went back to school for fun. What keeps coming up all over the place is how fortunate all of us at Russell Sage were to have teachers such as your father, the late Ruth Krebs, Barbara Cohen Diane Allen, briefly, Benito Rakower, all of whom were so well educated, so loving of literature, so able to convey their own loves and displeasure ( I remember from my younger brother, Tim, that your father loved Saroyan and did not like Poe’s poetry. seeing Jon Lapin’s comment brought that right back to me. Being the elder sister who looked over the little brother’s homework gave me more than I realized at the time.) The Scourby recordings played in class by Mrs. Krebs, who, like your father, impressed upon us the beauty of gorgeous voice and the skill to interpret literature pop up for me from time to time. I have been a speech and debate judge for over 28 years now. Amazing how the lessons learned in junior high reverberate! Your father was revered by more than reviled by the occasional grumblers, and I think that they grudgingly adored him. Taking courses now on Dickens and O’Neill brings back even more wonderful memories of how fortunate we all were. your father’s memory will continue to to be a blessing. I hope that my own former students can appreciate how each of us who had wonderful teachers wanted to give those gifts to them as well.

  11. lorraine naiztat says

    All this time of staying indoors due to the coronavirus, I have spent much time on my computer.
    I came across a note that was sent to me from your father. As I almost never participate in the
    social media that many do, I had never seen it. It was written a number of years ago.
    Your dad was in my class at Miami Beach High School. I was not active at the school and hardly
    knew anyone as I came into the school in my senior year. I never thought anyone knew me.
    He wrote a short note saying that he was in my class and knew that my parents owned a small
    store. This really surprised me. I don’t remember ever speaking with him. Apparently he was
    the kind of person that was interested in people and took note of them. If we had an encounter,
    I don’t recall. However, it impressed me.
    You and your family were fortunate to have such a father. He sounded like a person of depth and character. I am sorry that I missed an opportunity to speak with him.
    Your warm and loving memories of him are a gift for your lifetime.
    .

    • Lisa Tener says

      Thank you for writing Lorraine. My dad did have a wonderful memory for people and truly appreciated them. I’m sure your parents made an impression on him for him to remember them.

  12. Connie martin says

    Hi lisa, my name is Connie Martin, I bought your mom and dads house in waterside! It has been my dream house since I was a child driving by on our way to our cottage in Alma, the family, 9 of us crammed into an old Buick , with the backseat facing backwards!
    I’m 65 now, and I am invigorated because of the things I want to do on the property, first of all your dad was a genius with plants, I’m surprised daily by what new flower is blooming, roses so many roses. Beautiful! The inside hasn’t had any heat on for 5 years I’m guessing, but the water seems fine, Darren hoar has taken great care of the outside, the house has been broken into many times, he meets with the RCMP each time and they more or less ignore it!
    A shame, that won’t happen anymore,
    We are going through everything, not the personal stuff, that’s not our business, I found a huge watercolour your mom was working on, and a couple of other smaller ones, I’ll pack them up somehow, i saved hundreds of photos , some with people , I assume, family . All packed ! AnywY I can go on and on , but wanted to say hi

    • Lisa Tener says

      Hi Connie, Thanks for reaching out. I”m sorry I didn’t see this until today. We are so happy that the house is with people who love and appreciate it. It is an extraordinary spot and we have so many happy memories–from fishing in the stream in the back woods to our daily trips down the hollow to the beach to games outside with the Hoar “boys” and lots of friends visiting over the years. I don’t know if you remember but we held home spun puppet shows each year in the barn. It is also a great house for hide and seek! If you ever have any questions about the house, please let me know. I’ll email you about the photos! I wish you and your family many happy memories in that house and the surrounding beauty! Thank you for mentioning the photos. We had thought a bunch of family photos got lost in NY. I wonder if those are them! And a painting my mom was working on–wow!

  13. Patti doolittle says

    Marvin Steel knee your Dad he bought a painting Marvin painted of the famous SilverSlipper, Marvin was 13 T he time, this was in 1946 Marvin is a wonderful artist and your Dad recognized it! Marvino would like to know if you have the painting? So sorry about your Father! Marvin’s Mother took him into the Silver slipper to see and Marvin painted it from memory! He was instrumental in setting Marvin on the right track to organic foods at the time his wife had cancer ! Let me know about the painting if you can! Thank you so much! You have wonderful memories about your Father! Sincerely Patti Doolittle

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