Sadly, for Shores residents, the much-beloved Bill and Flo Kaufman have recently passed: Bill in 2016 at age 94 and Flo in January of this year at 89. Thankfully, they lived wonderful and rich lives. Married sixty-nine years, forty at the Shores, the Kaufmans had three children and five grandchildren all of whom they adored and in whom they took tremendous pride.
Nancy, a neighbor of Flo and Bill’s said, “They had the kind of marriage most of us aspire to have.” True enough, they shared so much in life, including music, bridge, and world travel.
Flo was whip-smart and refreshingly candid, except when she pointed out typos in my column. (Making me cringe.) The best word to describe Bill is “mensch,” Yiddish for a stand-up guy. He was also unbelievably optimistic. He was so supportive of my writing he often wished I’d get my “big break.” On one occasion his enthusiasm became funny to us both.
The Kaufmans were on my “paper-route.” Every Friday for the past ten years, I pass out my Daily Press column to residents who can’t get to a newsstand easily. (Maureen Dowd has a Pulitzer but does she deliver door-to-door?)
In 2016, April Fool’s Day landed on a Friday. I mention it because it’s a Daily Press tradition that on 4/1 articles be gag stories but believable. I wrote I was moving to Trump Tower. This, at the behest of Ivanka, to help write speeches for her father’s fledgling campaign from the “liberal point of view.”
I explained that Ivanka’s rabbi and my rabbi were friends and that led to the job offer. I conceded that I couldn’t stand Trump but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity and maybe I could expose him to more liberal thought. (In reality, I’d love to expose our “For-Profit President,” aka David Dennison, who, as never in the history of the Republic, just got sued by a porn star, aka Stormy Daniels.)
I received emails from readers, none of whom seemed all that upset that I was working for Trump or that I was moving. I got a few “good lucks” but not one, “ I’m going to miss your column every Friday!” Oh well. And now how Bill figures in.
Months later I was leaving my column at Bill’s door when he opened it to go the mailbox. He was both surprised and disappointed. “I thought you moved to Trump Tower.” Much as he, too, despised Trump, he had hoped this was going to be my “big break.” (Even in his last days from bed, I gather Bill threw his socks at the TV as Trump was bloviating.)
In perspective, Flo and Bill part of what Tom Brokaw termed, “The Greatest Generation,” those who lived through the Great Depression and WWII. As millions of men his age, Bill served in the war, stationed in Europe. Because he spoke Yiddish and understood some German, at one point Bill was put in charge of German POWs. He took great pleasure in introducing himself, “My name is Bill Kaufman. And I’m a Jew.”
After the war Bill used the G.I. Bill to attend the University of Miami and their great music department. As a boy in Erie, Pennsylvania, Bill had been a prodigy on the piano. In fact almost every weekend he would take the train from Erie to Manhattan to classes at the Julliard School. He became known as “the kid who traveled 1,000 miles every weekend.”
At U. of Miami Bill met Flo who also had a great passion for music. She was gifted on the clarinet. In fact, Flo played expertly and enthusiastically in the Santa Monica Emeritus Band until two years before her passing.
In addition to the joys of a wonderful family, the Kaufmans also had their share of tragedy. Their son, Paul, was a Summa Cum Laude at UCLA and a mensch just like his dad. Ever-liberal, Paul was a prominent anti-Vietnam War activist and ultimately a dedicated teacher in the inner city. Tragically, in 1986, he passed away following back surgery. (In those days transfusions were not screened for HIV and ultimately Paul succumbed to AIDS.)
Despite this horrible loss, typical of their optimism, the Kaufmans started a scholarship fund at Cal State Dominguez Hills where Paul had earned his Masters degree. To this day, scholarships are awarded to aspiring teachers who commit to teaching in the inner city. The fund-raising was so successful the scholarships will be given in perpetuity. (Is that great or what?)
Lately on Fridays, when I pass out my columns, out of habit and affection for the Kaufmans, I’ve gone to push the elevator button for their floor before I suddenly remember they’re gone.
Lives well-lived, may Flo and Bill rest in peace.
Bill and Flo are survived by their children, Lynn and Arthur, and grandchildren Andy, Jacob, Joanie, Sara, and Hannah.
Jack can be reached at email@example.com.