My father was one of four brothers. They lived with their parents in Queens until their mother died in her 30s of leukemia. At some point they lived on a farm in Ellenville, NY. My Grandfather was a tailor. He couldn’t raise the boys without a wife. I’m not sure where they all went but my Dad was deposited into a loveless home. I’m told the couple who often beat him up. Gabe, the oldest, lived with his Aunt Molly and Uncle Jack (not the same Uncle Jack who sold cemetery headstones). Jack was a conscientious objector who served in the Spanish-American War. By their kindness they saved my Dad. Gabe begged Molly to give my Dad a loving home. She did and his life changed dramatically for the better. My Dad was the sweetest man I’ve ever known.
GABE was the oldest of the four brothers. He was married and had two children. His daughter became a notable NY State Legislator. His son went into sales. Studious, serious, hard working and a true family man. The four brothers eventually owned and operated a factory in NYC manufacturing “lady’s house dresses and aprons”. While I’m not entirely sure how they divided up their working roles, the brothers were in business for 32 years. And then, well … word has it that they just had enough of each other. Gabe originally wanted to be a doctor. But, the reality of supporting his family trumped this dream. While Gabe was the family’s intellectual he spent some of his free time taking art classes. When he retired, in the early 60s, he found a paint brush. Gabe was attracted to the post-modern abstract geometric style. He loved to swim, listened to the opera and watched the NY Yankees. And he painted almost everyday. It was his passion.
BEN was married twice. No kids. I only remember one tidbit from him. I was about 21 and stopped to visit him in his Queens apartment. We didn’t know each other well, I detected a real warmth to our relationship. During out meandering conversation he said, “You know, kid … life is backwards. We should all be retired until we’re 65 and then, when we’re not worth a shit, we should start working.” Back then, I didn’t quite get that idea back then. I do now.
HERB was the baby. Married with two kids. I remember he smoked a pipe all of the time. He was quiet. I don’t remember ever having a conversation with him.
My DAD was the factory cutter. A heavy bolt of material would arrive at the factory on West 27th Street in New York City. Dad would take the designated pattern over to a machine and cut the bolt to the exact specifications. And, then someone would distribute the cut patterns to the the 50 – 80 women who operated the sewing machines. It was a job that required strength and endurance. The factory floor was hot in the summer with only fans to cool them down. My Dad was as strong as an ox with a heart of gold. He taught me to ride a bike and catch a ball. I don’t think he ever graduated from high school, but he was plenty street smart and had a true moral compass.