Eleven years after he started, Jerry finished just had his memoir published. Courtesy image.

Before I clarify how I became the “co-writer,” the far more remarkable event is that Jerry Rosenblum, who moved here in 1963 and who’ll turn 99 in January, just had his first book published, An Angel On My Shoulder. (Ever busy Jerry’s already only half-joking talking about a sequel, An Angel on My Other Shoulder.)

Spanning from 1922 to 2020, Angel contains 98 fast-paced and uniquely varied chapters, one for each year of his life. Born and raised in Brooklyn, imagine that Jerry remembers the excitement of Lindbergh’s 1927 landing in Paris and feeling comforted by FDR’s first fireside chat in 1933.

Jerry’s book is often touching, funny and filled with colorful characters. Many are famous, like Muhammad Ali who wound up the world’s most recognized person and some infamous like mobster union official Alan Dorfman, who wound up with a bullet in his head. (Ouch!) Jerry knew them both.

Exceptionally congenial, Jerry is blessed with an infectious sense of humor and a unique ability to have a front row seat at many historic events and met a number who made that history. (I refer to Jerry as the “thinking man’s Forrest Gump.”)

However, Jerry also writes about the extremely difficult times in his life, such as his father’s passing when Jerry was 12 and his having “to be the man of the house” to help support his family. As is tragically happening currently, he and his family were evicted during the Great Depression and Jerry recalls sadness and helplessness as his family’s furniture was piled on the sidewalk.  And he remembers in vivid detail the dangers of his Navy service at Pearl Harbor during WWII.

Typical Jerry, he feels overcoming these challenges made him stronger and have contributed to his longevity and wonderful life. The fact is, Jerry’s the most positive, upbeat person I’ve ever known. (Hopefully you might meet him as I’ll spell out later.)

In a painstaking labor of love, for the past year Jerry and I thoroughly rewrote a manuscript he first began in 2008. Almost daily over the phone, we talked over needed changes at 7 am  and 11 pm. (And to lighten our load, Jerry would invariably slip in a few classic borscht belt jokes.)

On occasion, Jerry wondered if his positive nature was rubbing off on me. I joked, “For that I’m going to need blood transfusions.” The truth is I was extremely fortunate in our Tuesdays with Morrie  “lessons about life” relationship. To think, I was almost too busy to meet Jerry back in 2009.

A regular reader of my column, Jerry got my number from a mutual friend. He had just finished his manuscript and wondered if I would read it.  He was 87 and hadn’t written anything before, so, I’m embarrassed to say, I was thinking of a polite way to pass.

Just then Jerry mentioned he had spent 50 successful years as a salesman and store manager in the men’s clothing business. My late father, whom I still miss dearly, owned a men’s shop for 30 years so I couldn’t say no.

Jerry persuaded me to read his manuscript. Imagine having to break the news to an 87-year-old his life story needed a spine to connect the vignettes, tension where appropriate and humor always. Jerry took my advice like the mensch he is and kept re-writing. (Confirming “writing is rewriting.”)

I stayed in close touch and wrote columns about Jerry’s age-defying exploits of winning amateur senior singing contests, taking luxury cruise ships around the world and being the sole guest on two podcasts when he was a mere 96.  Finally, Jerry got a commitment from a publishing company for his book and asked if I’d help. The day we finally finished the rewrite, Jerry commented, “What I wrote was the cloth which you turned into a fine suit.

The “fine suit” goes back in time and chapter by chapter works it’s way to the present. But before we flashback to 1922 and Jerry’s birth, Chapter 1 is entitled “AOC And Me!” It details Jerry’s friendship with Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. (Jerry wrote her two campaign songs, and when she lovingly thanked him on  Instagram it got 1 million views in a day.)

The chapter includes their warm visit at a Bernie rally in Venice this past December and wonderful photos of the two of them together. (Meanwhile, Jerry’s on Instagram himself with 21,000 followers!)

Readers often ask if Jerry is still sharp. Besides being a voracious reader current on everything, he has 50 songs, many from Broadway musicals, he knows by heart any of which he’ll sing at a drop of a hat. (Actually, you don’t even need the hat.)

Trust me, knowing Jerry is inspiring. As AOC said, “He spreads joy and acts of kindness.”

An Angel On My Shoulder is at http://bookstore.dorrancepublishing.com/ and click on “search,” or (800)  788-7654. It’s also available at Amazon. To buy his book and meet Jerry in person, call (310) 451-5383 as he offers social distance curbside service. Jack is at jackdailypress@aol.com.