Not Remembering Charles O’Hara

I just ran across a post, Remembering Charles O’Hara at Blau Stern Shwartz Shlonge.  The post describes Blau’s memories of Charles O’Hara, and asks others to share theirs.  A small part of the post follows:

I first met the late Charles O’Hara in the late 1980s to early 1990s. My Buddhist friend back then, Dave K, and I would drive the 150 miles or so from Harrisburg to the little town of Susquehanna Pennsylvania, just south of the border near Binghamton NY and along the thin northern branch of the Susquehanna river.

We would park in the back and walk up through the yard to the back porch which had huge crates from Nepal stacked all over. It turned out he was a major purveyor and importer of mostly Tibetan Buddhist items from Nepal and northern India, and was a major supplier for Snow Lion, some people there still remembering him.

…Why am I writing about him here 20 years later? Because I think about him often, and I am surrounded by items I purchased from him, and I was recently going through a photo album and found these pictures.

If anyone who reads this remembers Charles O’Hara, or even has a picture of him, I would love to hear from you.

I never met Charles, but my wife and I bought a statue from his daughter (we don’t remember her name) as he lay dying.

I had encephalitis  in 1994 that resulted in my brain injuries.  We had an interest in Buddhism for years, but this event gave a certain urgency to the interest where before there was mainly curiosity. By the next year, we visited Namgyal Monastery in Ithaca which had just opened.  I don’t remember how we heard about Charles, but at some point Karen called , spoke to hs daughter and arranged a time for us to go there.

When we found the house in Susquehanna, we weren’t sure it was the right place.  No one answered the front door so we went around to the back, a big dog, fenced in, barking and snarling at us.  We knocked and his daughter answered.  She apologized for the chaos of the place and explained her father was dying, quite near death in fact.  We asked if we should leave. Graciously she said no and showed us around.

She said the dog wasn’t usually so aggressive. She laughed and said his name was Buddha.  (On the way home, I asked Karen if she thought Buddha had Buddha Nature).

Charles’ daughter said she herself was not a Buddhist, but would continue the business. She left us to tend to her father.  We wandered around among the myriad statues arranged on the floor of several rooms kinda freaked out by all statues of various Buddhist wrathful deities in sexual union with their consorts.  Eventually, we picked out a statue and a wooden mask I now know to be  Amitabha and Mahakala.

She returned and said she wasn’t sure which Buddha the statue was.  Word finding and talking were quite difficult at that point, so I said “I think he is  Sukiyaki” meaning Shakyamuni.  Maybe she missed a beat, but was very kind, saying, “I’m sure that’s it.”

The following year we wanted to buy another statue.  When Karen called, Charles’ daughter said she had sold the business and everything was gone.  I later learned that the name of the business is Tibetan Spirit.

As  I said, we never met Charles,but we will never forget him.

4 thoughts on “Not Remembering Charles O’Hara

  1. Memory is an odd thing. Sharng this post with Karen, and my daughter Emma, I learned Emma was part of this trip as well. She was 7 at the time, and now I remember her staying close as we walked past Buddha and wandered among the statues. We bought her a crystal mala. Sorry for forgetting sweetie.

  2. Thank you so much for filling in part of the end of his life. I knew a lot of stuff, in fact two houses worth, went to Tibetan Spirit and deal with Bauer and David before they also sold the business. I miss Charles a lot, even to this day.

  3. I met Charles after seeing an ad for his company in a very early edition of Trycycle Magazine, calling and inquiring about buying a mala for a going away present for a friend. I traveled to Susquehanna and he opened his ” warehouse” for me. I had no idea what I was walking into in terms of the size and breadth of the operation. I thought I was going to be visiting a storefront. He was extremely gracious especially given that I bought just that mala and a couple of small bronze Buddhas. He let me wander around the entire building with no indication of impatience. I also have a medicine Buddha thanka given to a friend by Charles, the friend passed it onto me.

  4. Reblogged this on Blau Stern Schwarz Schlonge and commented:
    Here is another man who had the privilege of meeting that plain wizened little man and wise man Charles O’Hara. You can read our conversation in the comments section of my original post. I guess i remember him so well, not just because i am surrounded by Buddhist thankas, rupas and implements i got from him, but mostly because of his quirky and generous spirit. Blessings to his spirit that he may be reborn in a land where Buddhism is practiced and into a good family.

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