June 17, 2010

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We now know Jules’ backstory

This is just a quick Thank You for your article on Jules Csatry. My wife and I would see him in our neighborhood all the time on his walks. He always said hello (actually, it was usually “Hey, laddie”), but he seemed to speed up to avoid conversation, which I respected. I always knew there was a tremendous backstory to him, and thanks to you we now know it. Also, Rich McIlhenny’s “adoption” of Jules’ mother was a wonderful thing, and heartwarming to read.

Doug Polgardy
Chestnut Hill


Thanks for honoring the memory of Jules

Thank you to Rich McIlhenny for solving the mystery and honoring the memory of Jules Csatry. What an incredible story!

Like many local residents, my family would often see Jules walking around Chestnut Hill. It wasn’t unusual to see him a few times in the same day. My kids and their friends often referred to him as “One Dread.”

Usually, Jules would be talking to himself as he walked about. On the outside, he presented a crazed, grisly image, one that children – and some adults – were easily scared by. Or at least leery of.

When we walked our dogs around the neighborhood, our two small dogs would catch his attention as all of our paths would frequently cross. He seemed to be entertained by them.

We came to nod to or wave at each other as we passed. Often his eyes would brighten. He’d smile.

It was several years of these simple greetings before my husband decided to talk to him. He asked him why he walks so much.

“Because I have to,” Jules said, breaking into a big grin.

There was a kindness to Jules. A gentleness about him.

The last time I saw Jules, about a week before his death, he was walking at a brisk pace across the street. When he saw me, he slowed down a bit, craned his neck more upright and called out in a loud, cheerful voice and with a smiling face: “Hello, Sunshine!” He so made my day!

Now, knowing a bit more about Jules and thinking back on that last exchange, he just made my day – again.

Monique Seyler
Chestnut Hill


Heartbreaking and fascinating story

Just wanted to say how much I loved Rich McIlhenny’s article on Jules Csatry. Although my family and I moved away from the area three years ago, I distinctly remember seeing Jules on his many walks up and down the Avenue.

I often wondered if he lived nearby or somehow just wound up there. I guess I assumed he was homeless. And admittedly, I looked at him as just another problem plaguing Chestnut Hill.

Like a splash of cold water, Rich’s article was a much-needed reminder to me that Jules was a living, breathing person; he was not “forgotten.” He lived in a nice house in a nice community, and at home there is a heartbroken mother who truly cared about him. I am really very sorry for her loss.

As the renewal reminders have piled up on my desk, I have been reluctant to keep my long-distance Local subscription current because I felt like there was a disproportionate focus on bad news souring the hill (Good Food Market, etc.). Rich’s article reminded me that Chestnut Hill is a uniquely diverse and genuinely caring community. And if I let my Local subscription lapse, I will miss the stories like that of Jules Csatry and his mother.

John Langbein
Bethesda, MD


Jules story lacked important details

I read with great interest your story last week about Jules Csatry. As the story indicates, anyone from the Chestnut Hill area certainly would have seen Jules walking about, always seemingly on some kind of immediate quest. I appreciated learning about the life of the mysterious character, and I was touched and saddened by the details of his death.

My emotional reaction, though, does not convince me to overlook some very questionable decisions the editors of the Local made while producing the story.

It baffles me – as it should any other careful reader – that editors did not assign the story to a staff writer. It has all the ingredients of a great piece, and it would have been a prize, and an honor, for any staff writer to cover. Instead, editors accepted the first-person account of Rich McIllhenny, a local real estate salesman with such emotional ties to the Csatry family that any chance of objectivity was gone before McIllhenny crafted his first biased word

If an objective staff writer covered the story, he or she still could have used McIllhenny as a quotable source, and injected into the piece the interesting chain of events that led to McIllhenny’s involvement with the enigmatic family.

An objective journalist could also have done some simple research about drug-induced psychosis and schizophrenia, and provided some basic facts and statistics about the prevalence of certain mental illnesses among LSD users. And what about genetics, demographics, environmental influences, family dynamics, and occurrence rates?

McIllhenny did offer that Jules had a harrowing history of trauma, but how about citing a reputable and reliable source to support this implied correlation, especially considering the seriousness of the subject matter?

My suspicion that there is more to Jules Csatry’s decades-long mental anguish than one accidental LSD experience in the late 60s is not meant to be as heartless and harsh as it might sound. I am deeply sympathetic towards the Csatry family, and all families caring for mentally ill loved ones.

But, the story had the incredible opportunity to really teach readers – via a local angle – about schizophrenia, and, more importantly, it could have also debunked some common myths. The editors, unfortunately, eliminated all that profound potential by inviting McIllhenny to write the story.

There is no way McIllhenny could have asked the tough, ugly questions, or dug farther into the darker holes of the important story. A good staff writer could have.

Besides all that, it was terribly distasteful for the editors to run an ad (featuring the same photo used in the story) near the article’s conclusion for the sale of Mrs. Csatry’s Mermaid Lane estate. Any interested buyer can call – guess who – Rich McIllhenny. While being borderline unethical, it is just embarrassingly tacky for any editorial staff to execute such a decision. Or, maybe it was an honest oversight, which would make it even worse.

Andrew Whelan


God bless Marguerite

Rich McIlhenny’s beautifully written article about the lives of Jules Csatry and his mother, Marguerite, was fascinating and heartbreaking. We, like many Chestnut Hillers, saw Jules wandering the streets of Chestnut Hill and wondered what his story was. And what a story it is!

The fact that Rich and his wife, Marissa, have welcomed Marguerite to live with their family is a wonderful ending to such a tragic story. God bless the McIlhenny family and Marguerite.

Shane and Mary-Ellen Creamer
Chestnut Hill

Ed. Note: Marguerite is still living in her Chestnut Hill home, not with the McIlhennys. However, Rich McIlhenny and his wife are trying to raise funds to get her into an assisted living facility.


An important and eloquent story

Wow, Rich McIlhenny has written such an important and eloquent story that will provide answers for all who passed by Jules so many times over the years. It touches all of us in so many ways to hear the story and that Rich (not surprisingly) has been the one to unlock the mystery and provide support to his mom.

Cindy Soto Kane


Article helped to humanize Jules

That was a beautiful article Rich McIlhenny wrote about Jules Csatry. It moved me very much, and left me sad, but uplifted to know now that that poor anonymous man who fascinated so many of us is now at peace, now has a name, a memorial and a place in the lore of Chestnut Hill.

Rich helped humanize him and make him a “brother” of us all. Congratulations on a beautiful piece of writing. I hope it helped McIlhenny as much as it helped all of us who watched and wondered.

Hugh Gilmore
Chestnut Hill


Missing out on talented people

A very moving, touching story about Jules and his mother. Thank you for writing it and sharing it with the rest of us.

I often think that our culture, by not doing better by those among us who are addicted or mentally ill or both, misses out on a lot of potential contributions of talented people. So many are artists or talented in other ways.

Who knows what paintings Jules might have contributed over time? We tend, at least in the U.S., to think in terms of charity and poor souls, and we forget what we rob of by letting so many people go.

And that’s my philosophizing for the day. Thanks again.

Laura Cohen Romano


Tragic, but with much humanity

I’m glad Rich McIlhenny wrote the story about Jules Csatry, “the uni-dread.” It is Rich’s finest. The story is compelling and tragic, but he infused it with so much humanity. I will remember this the next time I see a pair of lonely desperate eyes begging on the street.

Well done, brother!

Cornelius Nolen
Kosovo (Mt. Airy native)


Could not hold back the tears

Thank You for the article about Marguerite and Jules. It was such a touching story. I could not hold back the tears.

Jules had so many devastating life events, but always had his mother’s love, and he was fortunate to have her in his life up to the end. Marguerite was a very beautiful woman, and she must be very strong willed, but most of all she is very fortunate to have found you, I think it was meant to be!

Rich McIlhenny and his wife are angels and to have adopted her into their lives; they will be rewarded. I think they have already been rewarded because a woman like Marguerite and her life story is very precious.

You have been blessed. If you are thinking of doing any fundraisers or an art auction to help out Marguerite financially, I would be most happy to help and volunteer some of my time.

Dorrie Tatarsky


Part of the Hill ‘circle of life’

Thank you so much for writing the article about Jules. I could have sworn I just saw him yesterday. Where did that year go? He was part of the circle of life here in the Hill where I have lived for 26-plus years. I will miss him.

I would love to meet his mother (if that is appropriate) and express my sympathies to her.

Phyllis Strock
Chestnut Hill


Judging those who are ‘different’

Thank you, for sharing the story of Jules in this week’s Local. Jules presented a frightening visage as he endlessly walked the streets. I didn’t know what life had been like for him as a child, what caused his brokenness, or that he had died.

It makes me sad that I viewed him as someone to avoid at all costs. His life story (and that of Marguerite) is a profoundly moving reminder that we never know the story behind the human beings whose paths we cross.

We make a quick judgment of those who are “different.” The vulnerable and lost souls among us are, like us, surely marked as God’s own forever. The only thing that separates us is our own lack of awareness that we share in Jules’ brokenness. Ours just looks different.

Bless Rich McIlhenny and his family for loving Marguerite now, in Jules’ absence.

Karen Clayton
Chestnut Hill


New heights

There have been times in the past year when reading the Local has been depressing with many negative articles and letters. This was not so last week, with our newspaper reaching an exciting height of excellence.

Rich McIlhenny’s lead article on Jules Csatry and his mother, Marguerite, was fascinating and compassionate as it answered questions so many of us had asked over the years. The author and Len Lear gave us insight we wished we’d had long ago.

Amy Edelman’s ongoing struggles to bring her Isabella home through the adoption process made us share her frustration and love, while the Rodgers family and their efforts with Alex’s Lemonade Stand and the picnic and fundraising by the Bocce Club for Frank Galioto’s family were all examples of the caring for others within our community.

Clark Groome’s reviews of Vaclav Havel’s “Leaving” and of “Fiddler on the Roof” were so well written, joined by Mary Price and Richard Lee’s humorous piece on an all too familiar problem with “Old Refrigerators Never Die.” Len Lear and Michael Caruso gave us their usual excellent reviews on restaurants and music.

The news of our new recruiter for the Chestnut Hill Business Association, Eileen Reilly, was as positive as was the announcement of the first Pastorius Park concert and the CHH “Girls’ Night Out.” Paula Riley’s “Your Neighbors” and Theresa Tiger’s Little Treehouse story all helped to bring us up to date on projects of value.

Congratulations to our editor and all his staff for making the Local a force for all that is good in our community, as well as exposing the problems facing us all. There are so many caring projects that go on by so many, day in and day out; it is reassuring to read about and to share in all these efforts.

Caroline Haussermann
Chestnut Hill


Tragic but well written article

What a tragic but beautifully written story about Jules Csatry. Happy endings have strange ways of coming about, but through you, Marguerite, his mother, finally has what her heart has longed for. No doubt Rich McIlhenny (who wrote the article) is a true talent and also a very kind and empathetic soul.

Cynthia Perno
Alexandria, VA
(Chestnut Hill soon)

Everybody Won

On June 9, Meredith Sonderskov, Ron Recko and I attended the zoning hearing for the dialysis center at 10 E. Moreland Avenue in support of near neighbors.

The near neighbors, who wholeheartedly supported the center petition, had legitimate concerns about future extensions of the long hours of operation they had agreed to and accepted for the good of the community as a whole.

Everybody won.

The dialysis center got the variances they wanted.

The city got the jobs.

The community got the center, which will bring services and beauty to a blighted area.

The near neighbors got a proviso for the hours requested in the center’s petition.

Congratulations Chestnut Hill.

Dorothy H. Coles
Chestnut Hill
Residents Association

Win or lose?

The zoning board of adjustment ruled on the proposed dialysis center at 10 E. Moreland Ave. As a near neighbor I was there and prepared to testify in favor of the variance. The variance was approved with the proviso that the business could only run till 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This was a WIN - WIN. The center can run its business, the blighted building will be improved, There will be a lot more jobs in Chestnut Hill and the neighbors plea to limit the hours has been heard. But if that proviso along with the provisos our committees got from the developers cause the investors to back out, then it becomes a LOSE - LOSE. The corner stays blighted and the neighbors have to wonder if a business that doesn’t need a variance to move into a property zoned industrial decides to take the property.

Bob Rossman

Come to fundraiser for Galiotos

I would like to encourage all Chestnut Hill residents to attend the fundraiser/memorial picnic on June 19 for the family of Frank Galioto.

Frank worked for Councilman Rizzo and was a dedicated, loyal person who worked very hard for Chestnut Hill.

Frank died suddenly April 6 at 41 years old. He leaves behind his young wife, Melanie, and two daughters, Lauren, 7, and Anna, 2.

The picnic will be held on the grounds of St. Paul’s Church, 22 East Chestnut Hill Ave. from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. A $25 donation is suggested.

For more information, please contact CHBA at 215-247-6696, the Chestnut Hill Bocce Club or Councilman Rizzo’s office.

Donations may also be made to Merrill Lynch c/o Galioto College Fund.

Thank you.

Susannah Story Bell
Chestnut Hill


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