100!: Jerry may not have given consent for his risque baby photo but he did for his latest. Courtesy image

On Saturday my dear friend, Jerry Rosenblum, a Santa Monica resident for almost 60 years, turns 100! So many congratulations are swirling in my head but I’m going to start with … Mazel Tov!

Jerry’s late mother, Nettie, lived to 102 so his myriad of close friends, and 20,600 Instagram followers who might be singing “Happy Birthday” should add to the song’s ending “And many more!” (On Instagram, Jerry is seemingly the unofficial adopted grandfather for the Millennial and Gen Z generations.)

Sadly, because of the recent Covid surges, there won’t be a big birthday party as there has been since he turned 95 thanks to Katie Miller, his 30-year-old BFF who moved from Santa Monica to Denver a few years back. In addition to handling Jerry’s Instagram account, Katie always organized terrific Jerry birthday bashes at a local karaoke bar. Jerry would entertain his friends by singing a few of the amazing number of songs he has memorized. So, with no party this year, Jerry has been receiving birthday cards from all over the U.S. and even from foreign countries.

And given this milestone birthday it’s only fitting Jerry will receive something special from the city. (And I don’t mean a parking ticket.) The idea of Councilman Phil Brock, the Santa Monica City Council has issued a special Commendation honoring Jerry for inspiring so many with his wonderful sense of humor, positive outlook and passionate love of life. I was proud to be asked to write the copy for the Commendation. (I only hope there are no grammatical errors or typos that could be viewed for posterity.)

Phil Brock will bring the Commendation to Jerry’s apartment at 11 am on his birthday and read it to him. The “ceremony” attendees will be Jerry’s wonderful caretaker, Manny Colorado, and his devoted cousin, Jo, who flew in from Florida. Jo will video the event on her phone and we’ll put it on the Internet for Jerry’s many friends and followers so they can feel a part of his centennial birthday.

How I came to first meet Jerry, or rather, how I almost missed that golden opportunity, I hope is amusing or, at a minimum, a life lesson. Twelve years ago, when Jerry was 88, he had gotten my phone number from a mutual friend and called saying he was a big admirer of my writing. (To which I joked, “You’re the one!”) Despite the joke, Jerry wanted to meet and, if possible, have me look at his memoir in manuscript form.

I’m embarrassed to admit it but that Jerry had no writing experience and a 300 page manuscript, well, I vividly remember trying to think of a kind way to pass on his request. But when Jerry told me he had spent 50 years in the men’s clothing business and given my late father had been in the men’s clothing business 30 years, I couldn’t say no. And I’m eternally grateful I didn’t.

So I drove over to Jerry’s at the beautifully maintained Silvercrest Apartments owned by the Salvation Army on 5th street, and the moment I saw him in the lobby I was reminded of my dad. Ever dapper, Jerry was neat as a pin as was my father. And though he was ten years younger than my dad, from then on I saw Jerry as a father figure.

So I agreed to read his huge manuscript that weekend and quickly discovered his memoir needed much work. How do you tell an 88-year-old his life story has to be redone? I nervously confessed to Jerry that his manuscript wasn’t a book yet but rather a collection of unrelated stories that needed considerable rewriting to tie it all together.

Instead of being mad or even disappointed, Jerry responded enthusiastically, “Well, back to the drawing board.” Ten years later we got out the drawing board so to speak and co-wrote his memoir, “An Angel on My Shoulder.” It’s the story of how a very young Jerry turned his life’s terrible tragedies into valuable life lessons that molded his character.

Not only was I fortunate to be a friend of Jerry’s, I was also lucky to get to know his friends many of whom he met as a student at our renowned Emeritus College. It’s said you can judge a person’s life by the quality of friends they have cultivated. Locally and in Colorado, Washington and New York, Jerry’s are a diverse group of extraordinary people with big hearts, and a profound admiration and love for the soon-to-be centenarian and proud recipient of the Santa Monica City Council Commendation, Jerome Rosenblum.

Jerry’s memoir, “An Angel On My Shoulder,” is available on Amazon but also in our library. (I just hope, like the Commendation, there aren’t any typos in posterity in that either.)

Due to a management decision, starting March 12, Laughing Matters has been cut back to every other Friday. Jack is at: facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and jackdailypress@aol.com