Mr Ianni lived down the street from me when I was a boy. I remember him well. I wrote about him a few years ago. His obituary guestbook is here. A local archive is below.
My parents went on to write Society and Health, a seminal book in public health, and my father ran the research program for the NY State Department of Health for many years. My mother ran many research studies including the one on seat belt safety that kick started our country’s use of seat belts.
My mother has been reading the article in the August 2014 New Yorker about the Crooked Ladder, which relied in part on Fritz’s book. How sorry am I that I will never meet him, and that my mother wont have the chance to see him again. Best wishes to you all – friends and family, from my 90 year old mother who knew him when he was starting out – Sandy Boek Werness, Great Falls, Va.
My wife and I got to know Fritz and his first wife Liz very well. Will never forget the parties we had at their unique and beautiful home in NJ. One experience I will never forget, at the dinner table, over lots of wine, I was talking about how it was to have grown up as a black American in Peekskill, N.Y. Fritz said to us, “…well I have black roots in my family as well.” I said prove it, wherein he excused himself and brought a photo of a family member. The picture was of an African with a carved bone in his nose. I could not stop laughing and had to be carried to the sofa to stop the incessant laughter.
I sadly just learned of his passing. Yes, Fritz was one of a kind: brilliant, irascible, confident, handsome, empathetic and wise.
Thank you Fritz for the gifts you have given to your students. We will deeply miss you.
Eric J. Cooper
1924 Long Ridge Road
Stamford, CT 06903
President & Founder,
National Urban Alliance
I only learned this month that Fritz is no longer with us. I want you to know I have carried him inside me a full 50 years.
My former Dean recruited me to come to the US Office of Education in Washington in the spring of 1964. There was a vacancy in the curriculum development branch (my training was in history and philosophy; go figure!), and Keppel pressed hard for me to come interview, so I did. Three people stood out in those interviews: Commissioner (Dean) Keppel, Fritz Ianni, and his assistant, Barbara McNeill. The three had spark and class. For a variety of reasons, though, I told the Commissioner I was reluctant to join them, but he knew just what strings to pull on me and, like Jimmy Stewart’s Mr. Smith, I “went to Washington.” Best move of my life!
I had barely mastered the ropes of my assignment as a social studies curriculum specialist when I was seconded to write papers, analyses, and speech drafts for the Commissioner in connection with emergent legislative proposals. Included among them were proposals to dramatically increase the R&D efforts in education, and I began to work more and more closely with Fritz who was then the Director of the Division of Research. I’d never met anyone quite like him or the highly unusual approach he took to administration. I got an early sense that he might not exactly know where he was going, but he was so intensely personable he had no difficulty surrounding himself or otherwise connecting with people who would, if not define a destination, assist directly in the production of currents that would help us get there. Fritz gave me chances to perform and grow into research and research policy planning that started me on courses of action that shaped the rest of my life — long, long after the few brief years I spent in his dust, as it were — and I never will forget He taught me that passion and government administration were not incompatible with one another nor did a sense of personal style need to be jettisoned just because you were a Fed. Further, he showed me one’s personal sense of ethics needn’t be parked at the Federal Office Building door. Sometimes demands were made of you as part of the hierarchy that were unreasonable if not immoral, and he supported me in the notion it was worth an investment of intellect and conviction to figure out how one could be moral and yet safely “disobedient” so that one’s service to the people could be accomplished.
I enjoyed more than a few birdbath Martinis with Fritz and more than a few rum-soaked crook cigars and Garcia y Vega Elegantes. The group surrounding him ate well, and we were subtly encouraged to swashbuckle our way through our tasks when it might be to good advantage. That part of Fritz’ modeling didn’t really take with me over the long haul, but I certainly participated in same at the time, and while it made me nervous and that nervousness toward the end of our time brought us to a short period of my being at odds with him, he taught me how to survey a scene widely, hold a lance just so, and set my eye on emergent goals capable of further defining and becoming worth pursuing.
Fritz always took care of Fritz, but I have to say that when I first learned he had decided to invest his talents and time as the anthropologist he was studying organized crime, my own experience with his personalized, almost family style as an administrator led me to a kind of sardonic appreciation for his choice. It was as if his persona gave him half a leg up on the domain!
Francis A. J. Ianni was definitely something else. To this day I don’t know what the AJ stands for but many around him referred to ‘almost Jesus’ routinely in the transmittal of his Research Divison directives or in their often enthusiastic reflections on their intent and meaning. I never met anyone else like him. It was a privilege, an adventure to work with him, and I wouldn’t entertain for a minute the idea that his impact on me was anything but huge.
119 Old County Road
Brooklin, ME 04616
August 18, 2014
Later, when he was in his Mafia period, he treated me to some fine grappa-fueled times, including a crawl through Mulberry Street with all the trimmings.
When I went to work for the Congress, doing education legislation, his high and decent standards were an inspiration.
A pleasure and an honour — and a loss.
Fritz will be missed greatly. His kindness, humility, knowledge and humor will be remembored always.
With love and sympathy, Nancy and Arthur
My prayers, and thoughts are with you. If there is anything I can do for you please feel free to call.
Lisa Mueller nee Kirk lived across the street from me all those years ago. She writes: I definitely remember the Iannis. I remember the wolves, and swimming in their pool. I loved that cobblestone drive – it was so cool compared to the rest of our normal street. I also remember that my dad would take me riding on the back of his motorcycle on their property (with Mr. Ianni’s permission, of course). While I don’t remember the smaller house you mention (not sure why that is), I do remember their home being as you described – full of interesting and unusual things, especially for someone our age at the time. Thank you so much for sharing this. I am sorry to hear of his passing.