article

07.19.09

A Luxury Vacation, Via Madoff

Burt Ross, the former mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, was forced to cancel a resort vacation after he lost $5 million to Madoff—but now he’s headed off to a luxury destination, thanks to the Ponzi schemer.

My wife and I are about to leave for a luxury trip, thanks to Bernie Madoff. The Lord works in mysterious ways!

About 10 days after I learned that Madoff had taken me to the cleaners, I was driving on the George Washington Bridge, still feeling rather down on mankind, when my cellphone rang.

“You don’t know me,” the stranger said, “but I read in the weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal that you were forced to cancel a vacation to a luxury resort. I own a luxury resort and I want you and your wife to be my guest at your convenience.”

About 10 days after I learned that Madoff had taken me to the cleaners, my cellphone rang.

Having just been burned by a scoundrel, I naturally was skeptical, and I Googled the caller and his resort. They are both for real. The stranger is Dan George (George is his middle name, but he uses it because his last name has too many syllables), and he owns Canoe Bay, a renowned Relais & Châteaux resort on a beautiful lake in the woods of northwestern Wisconsin.

Dan read the Journal article and immediately wanted to help me. It’s not the first time Dan has helped a stranger. A religious person but no fanatic, Dan believes in the words of Luke: “To whom much is given much is required.”

When I offered to pay for the meals at his resort, he wouldn’t even think of it—even though his business, like almost everybody else’s, is not doing well in this economy.

It is difficult for me to describe what this single act of kindness has meant. A stranger’s generosity has helped to restore my faith in my fellow man. As I get ready to leave for the airport, I reflect on how many good, caring, considerate people there are—and that I shouldn’t let the bastards get me down.

There is a saying that a stranger is a just a friend you haven’t met yet. I look forward to meeting my new friend, and when the sun sets, we will toast to our friendship and the freedoms we enjoy, which Madoff will never have again.

Burt Ross, former mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey, and former administrator of the New Jersey Energy Office, is a lawyer and real-estate investor. A book The Bribe was written about his exploits with the Mafia.