From the meerschaum pipes, deerstalker caps and myriad other Sherlock Holmes memorabilia in his Cliffside Park home, it can be deduced that Irving Kamil admired the cold and calculating London detective.
“Holmes is unique,” Mr. Kamil, a founder of a Sherlock Holmes fan society known as Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers, told The Record in 2011. “He is among the best-known, if not the best-known, literary figures. Although don’t quote me about literary figures — because we’re so supposed to believe he’s alive.”
Mr. Kamil, a career New York City educator who died last Friday at 86, started Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers with two friends, now deceased, in 1976. The Cliffdwellers, named for Holmes’ landlady at 221B Baker St., is an offshoot of another Sherlockian society, the Baker Street Irregulars, founded by the writer Christopher Morley in the 1930s.
The Cliffdwellers gather twice yearly, in June and December, to eat, sing and bask in their affection for Holmes, the late-19th century creation of Arthur Conan Doyle. The meetings are held at the River Palm Terrace restaurant in Edgewater.
Mr. Kamil also belonged to the Baker Street Irregulars, as his certificate attests:
“This is to certify that Irving Kamil, having passed all the tests prescribed by the constitution and bylaws of the society, is hereby declared a full participating member of the Baker Street Irregulars, under the authenticated, titular investiture of M. Oscar Meunier of Grenoble, and is authorized in the purlieus of the Sherlockian world.”
Mr. Kamil’s wife, Selma, said her husband was always “a mystery story addict” but she did not know whether he read Sherlock Holmes as a boy.
What attracted him to the pipe-smoking, cocaine-using consulting detective?
“I guess it was the intellect of Sherlock, not just his character,” Selma Kamil said. “How Sherlock deduced things. And his various oddities …”
She added that her Brooklyn-bred husband had little in common, personality wise, with the arrogant and eccentric Holmes, “although I did hear from his secretaries and some of his teachers that you couldn’t approach Irving before he had his second cup of coffee.”
Mr. Kamil, a science teacher at the start of his career, retired in 1990 as principal of Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School 74 in Bayside, Queens.
The next year, to mark the 137th anniversary of the fictional detective’s birth, Mr. Kamil wrote an essay for The Record wondering what the Victorian-era Sherlock Holmes would have to say about “the pressing issues of our times.”
On President George H.W. Bush’s “read my lips, no new taxes” pledge: “Come, come … it is human to err.”
On Madonna’s latest video: “The more outré and grotesque an incident is, the more carefully it deserves to be examined.”
On the Cross Bronx Expressway: “One should always look for a possible alternative.”
Mr. Kamil is survived by his wife of 63 years; a son, Jan, of West Orange; two daughters, Rowena Gianfredi of Allendale and Shira Kamil of Newton; a brother, Philip, of Fort Lee; three grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Reprinted from NorthJersey.com, May 2, 2013.