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most of the buildings to representatives of the Wertheim family, who used them to house refugees from
the Nazis. Percival Whittlesey took charge of the program and as a consequence suffered terribly. In
January, 1941, Walter Groebl, a 17-year-old pro-Nazi from Georgia, drifted into Nyack, sought out
Whittlesey, and shot him five times with a .32 revolver. Whittlesey miraculously survived.
Groebl escaped, but Oom launched an all-out campaign to find him. He hired detectives and their
Sherlocking proved successful. In April, they nabbed Groebl in Minnesota and brought him back to New
York. Because of his youth, a judge went easy on him. Instead of prison, he was sent to Elmira
Reformatory.
By the close of the war the population of Nyack had tripled since Oom set up shop there a quarter-
century before, and land had soared value. Oom unloaded a part of his real estate at a fat profit, and the
purchaser, ironically, was a fundamentalist religious sect whose evangelists preached dictums sexual
abstinence directly at odds with the free loving Tantriks.
But Oom kept the bulk of his property, putting in a golf course and an airstrip, and he called the
establishment he now operated the Clarkstown Country Club. It was a public, not a private club--a
country hotel, really, complete with a social director, jazz band and conventional entertainment. Oom's
wife, always an adaptable sort, assisted Oom in running it.
In 1947, Theos Bernard made the news again. Dispatches from India brought word that he had launched
a second expedition to Lhasa, the Tibetan capital at the top of the world, had been set upon by Lahouli
bandits high in the Himalayas and killed.
For sequels to their stories on the slaying of Theos, a contingent of reporters descended on Oom at his
Clarkstown hostelry and found him puttering about the grounds. He appeared mild of manner, bald and
tubby--a far cry from the old Oom of lean muscularity and hypnotic eye. He said he was sorry to learn of
Theos' death but declared he knew no more about it than what he had read. On the other hand, he
seemed to enjoy talking about the heyday of the Tantrik colony. "People tell me I'm supposed to have
gotten a million dollars out of the Vanderbilts," he chuckled. "A million bucks! Out of the Vanderbilts!
If I could do that I wouldn't be a mystic--I'd be a magician!" Then he added that he had seen neither Mrs.
Vanderbilt nor either of her daughters for years and years.
Oom wore no turban or robe. Instead, he had on a baseball cap, sweat shirt and dungarees. Asked if he
was still interested in Yoga, he grinned and said: "Yoga's my bug, that's all. Like another guy goes in for
running a Boy Scout troop or collecting stamps. But I don't teach it any more. How could I pay $20,000
a year taxes on this place and spend my time teaching Yoga; Today I run a country club, just like any
other country club, only better than most. But it's open to anybody with a checkbook." When the
reporters left, Oom was squirting a hose on a rhododendron bush.
Oom lasted another eight years. His club prospered, but it never interested him the way his Tantrik
colony had, and he closed up shop. In the early 1950's he sold the bulk of his remaining real estate, some
for a housing development and some for the site of what is now the Hilltop Elementary School. With the
last sale went Old Mom's grave. The big elephant's bones, resurrected from the earth, are today objects
of zoological interest to Nyack students.
Oom died on September 27, 1955 at the age of 80. He was sick only a few days, at the end of a summer
marked by severe heat waves. His wife could not recall that he had ever been sick before, not with so
much as a headache. By this time, Nyack boasted a daily paper--the Journal News. The paper gave Oom
an obituary of two full columns on the front page, plus a carry-over inside. And in all this outpouring of
words, every word was favorable.
--Charles Boswell [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]