My longtime friend, Jerry Rosenblum, 95 years young, is an inspiration to many. When Jerry was12, and at the height of the Great Depression, his father passed away. To help support his widowed mother and younger brother, Jerry began working almost full time at age 14. “It was rough in many ways but it also gave me a work ethic that sustained me throughout my life,” Jerry says proudly.
Even in retirement, Jerry is always busy. He takes classes, lectures, cruise ships around the world, sings at karaoke clubs and enters amateur singing contests. (If only he weren’t so lazy!) Not surprisingly, Jerry attracts many friends. One of his closest is Katie Miller, a Senior Marketing Manager with Uber, who, at 26, is a mere 69 years younger than Jerry.
Katie first met Jerry when she worked down the block from the Silver Crest senior apartments on 5th Street where Jerry lives. Because Katie misses her grandparents in Connecticut and Florida, she loves working with seniors. After work, Katie would volunteer at Silver Crest, helping seniors with computer problems. Jerry had zero interest in computers but, to paraphrase Bogart to Claude Rains in the movie Casablanca, “It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
How close are they? For Jerry’s 95th birthday Katie threw a surprise party at a karaoke club in Culver City where Jerry sang to his heart’s content. And just recently, when Katie returned from a 5-month Uber business trip where she launched marketing campaigns for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (is that all?) Jerry threw a “Welcome Home” dinner party. It was held at John Grant’s popular Guido’s Restaurant on Santa Monica Boulevard, attended by twenty of Katie’s friends who also now adore Jerry.
During Katie’s European assignment her base was Amsterdam. But she spent weekends sightseeing in neighboring countries. Without fail, Katie sent Jerry a postcard from every scenic spot. (In return, he sent her letters twice a week.) Much like a proud great-grandfather, Jerry, who never had children, shared all the postcards with his friends. And, like a much loved great-granddaughter, Katie saved Jerry’s letters. (I smell a book here. If only we knew a writer.)
Katie even helped Jerry artistically support Hillary for president. But first, in 2014, Jerry once waited 7 hours at Barnes & Noble in L.A., to get an autographed copy of Hillary’s book “Hard Choices.” Hot and tired, when he finally got to the front of the line he joked, “You know Hillary, I was a young man when I got on this line.” Uncharacteristically, Hillary busted out laughing.
Last year, when Jerry wrote pro-Hillary songs during the 2016 campaign, Katie filmed Jerry’s singing and posted the videos on YouTube. (Google: “94-year-old Jerry Writes Another.”) Some songs got thousands of hits and apparently one You Tuber was candidate Clinton who sent Jerry a personal thank you letter he has since framed.
Jerry and I first met years ago through a mutual friend. In talking on the phone I discovered Jerry’s career had been in the men’s clothing business and so had my late father’s. When I finally met Jerry in person I was amazed. As with dad’s impeccable taste, Jerry dresses meticulously, rarely seen these days. (I should talk.)
We also shared a love for telling humorous tales. Having grown up during the depression, Jerry is a progressive politically, as were my parents, FDR liberals. When I discovered Jerry’s passion for singing, I had enough for a column. Little did I know, as Jerry experienced new adventures, i.e. organizing a hugely successful Santa Monica Senior Talent show, one column would lead to another and another.
Almost every Friday, Jerry calls after reading my column. But, when I send my columns in, my brain hits delete, I suppose to make room for next week’s column. So frequently during the call Jerry has to remind me of what I wrote. (And he’s the one who’s 95 and I’m…well you get the picture.) A Brooklyn native, Jerry always says I should be writing for the New York Times. And I always ask, “Do you have any connections?”
Speaking of asking, when Katie was posting Jerry on YouTube, I diplomatically inquired about her age. Given her accomplishments, I was stunned by her youth. For some, I suppose Jerry and Katie’s age disparity makes their friendship unusual. For me, as I’m still thinking about Casablanca, I see their friendship as beautiful.
A humorous part of their relationship is that, however subtly, Jerry often tries to steer Katie to eligible bachelors. For Katie, given her career and youth, getting married isn’t a top priority. Jerry wishes it were. He looks forward to a single dance with Katie at her wedding. Who knows, in that special moment, he might even say, “Here’s looking at you, kid.”
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and email@example.com