Mr. Eddy and his wife, Margaret Ruth Eddy, who was known as Peg and was also a minister, moved to the area as co-pastors of the East Harlem Protestant Parish, an assembly of four storefront churches that they had helped establish while attending Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan.
They raised their three children in a walk-up at 330 East 100th Street, staying put as narcotics trafficking, arson and gang violence swept the area. An article in The New York Times Magazine in 1962 called their street, between First and Second Avenues, the city’s “worst block.” When they moved, in 1970, to accommodate a housing renewal project initiated by one of Mr. Eddy’s neighborhood groups, they settled in a brownstone on East 105th Street. The Rev. Ruth Eddy died in 1990.
Mr. Eddy, a tall, soft-spoken, prematurely white-haired man who insisted on being called Norm, became a fixture in the area during its worst decades, a white man who plied the streets un-self-consciously in a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood, stopping to talk to addicts and churchgoers alike, inviting people to meetings on the parish calendar, helping tenants in disputes with landlords, sometimes mediating gang rivalries.
And then I read this:
Norman Cooley Eddy was born in New Britain, Conn., on Feb. 9, 1920, to Stanley and Alice Hart Eddy, who were both from prosperous New England families. His father was a stockbroker. His mother’s family owned a summer retreat on Martha’s Vineyard, which later became the Eddys’.
“It didn’t occur to us that there was anything unusual about our living where there were muggings, fires, gunshots, that sort of thing,” Martha Eddy said in an interview on Friday. “We had so many friends in the neighborhood. We felt protected” — though certain adjustments were required.
“We spent August at Martha’s Vineyard,” she said. “That was always a culture shock.”
Oh, well. The Eddys still led a pretty admirable life.