The founder of the Federation of Petanque, USA, Mr. Alfred Levitt, died
in New York on May 29 at the age of 105.
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This extraordinary lifespan allowed him to experience our age in diverse ways: playing chess in a Greenwich Village walk-up with the painter Marcel Duchamp - then fifty years later playing petanque in a French village or with boulistes from around the world gathered for another Mondiale. The following story was in the FPUSA newsletter which came out at the end of last year. The headline was "FPUSA's Man of the Century".
As January approaches and the hype and excitement about the coming year builds, consider this: After the three nines on the odometer of our
western clock roll over, Alfred Levitt, founder of the F.P.U.S.A. and its President of Honor for Life, will have seen the sun rise, and the rain (or snow) fall on three centuries, not to mention two millenia. Alfred was born in August in 1894 and spent his childhood in the Ukraine. Time spent watching his father make his own paint (to decorate the carriages he built and sold to the bourgeoisie) instilled in Alfred the desire to spend his life painting. The family left Ukraine for New York and young Alfred soon found himself
in Greenwich Village where he was drawn to life among the city‚s avant-garde. He gave himself an education in the New York Public
Library‚s main reading room. In Washington Square Park he found intellectual stimulation among the artists and writers who gathered
there to exchange ideas. Just as the great depression descended he married his wife Jerry Gertrude Horowitz) who was his staunchest supporter for nearly sixty years. As hard times saw Alfred turn to selling apples on the street, Jerry went to night school to become a lawyer, winning for the couple a
Painting took the Levitts to France. Together they spent hours at a time exploring the caves where prehistoric artists left paintings in what might be called the oldest museums of art in the world. The French government later made Alfred a Chevalier de l‚Ordre des Arts et Lettres in recognition of the contributions he made to the study of the caves.
But it is the Levitts‚ sojourns in St. Remy de Provence which have the most significance for us. Looking for the landscapes and light that had inspired so many artists before him brought Alfred and Jerry to the land of „la petite boule.‰ They returned to New York enchanted with the game
of pétanque, determined to bring it to their beloved Greenwich Village.
La Boule New Yorkaise was founded and members met to play in the northeast corner of Washington Square Park. Contact with others in the U.S. who were playing the game led to the founding in 1973 of the Federation of Petanque, U.S.A. Inc.
A crowning achievement came in 1983 when the parks department decided to „improve‰ the strip of bare ground that had served LBNY so well for man years. The planned improvements did not allow for pétanque to be played there anymore. Leading a campaign of protest and diplomacy, Alfred secured for the club purpose-built pétanque courts in Washington Square Park which ˜ considering the price of land in that neighborhood ˜ may just be the most valuable in the world!
Pétanque has a history of appealing to a broad cross section of humanity, and has its share of personalities and characters. Small wonder then that our founder is an exceptional gentleman who has lived several lifetimes while charting his own course spanning three centuries. The challenge he has set for us is stated in the F.P.U.S.A. constitution: „to build a national body of Federation-affiliated clubs and individuals dedicated to spreading, practicing and enjoying Pétanque.‰ A task of unlimited scope for the new millenium.
Frank Pipal, correspondent for the USA
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