When I first met Jerry Rosenblum, he was 88. He had read my columns and wanted me to look at a memoir he had written. Ever resourceful, he found my number in the phone book and that’s how we first chatted.
Jerry’s manuscript was 450 pages and he hoped I would critique it. Jerry had no writing experience and his memoir was way too long. But, because of Jerry’s irresistible salesmanship, we met I’m forever grateful we did.
Over that weekend I read Jerry’s memoir and thus had to explain to him that it needed rewriting so as to develop a theme that would connect the vast unrelated anecdotes into a coherent story. Jerry said in an upbeat manner, “Well back to the drawing board.” That was his infectious positive spin on life.
Years later Jerry and I finally collaborated on the memoir we titled “An Angel on My Shoulder” (My First 100 Years.) The “angel part” came to me because Jerry genuinely believed an angel had looked out for him during the tragedies in his life. As for the “100 years” it was an understandable goal because his mom lived to 102 but questionable because his father passed away at 42.
Jerry did in fact celebrate his 100th birthday and even saw Al Roker of the “Today Show” congratulate him on TV. Because of Covid, Jerry’s celebration was held outside as his friends serenaded him with “Happy Birthday,” Though Jerry had lost the ability to talk, he smiled broadly and gave a beautiful “thumbs up.” (Two weeks later Jerry passed away but talk about a life well lived.)
The list of Jerry’s high integrity, accomplished and loving friends is so long it would fill them column. They include his former classmates and professors from Emeritus College, the courses of which inspired Jerry and kept him forever young. But I will mention his best friend. If I was Jerry’s biographer, Katie Miller, now 30, was his BFF and “adopted granddaughter.” As Jerry put it often, “Katie added years to my life, and life to my years.”
Because Jerry loved to sing so much, every year Katie would organize a karaoke birthday party, each year better than the next. Jerry was in heaven as he entertained the crowd and was brilliantly accompanied on the trumpet by his dear friend, Marcelo Olavarria.
While Jerry was such a life force to his friends, the reverse was also true. That brings me to Manny Colorado, Jerry’s devoted, hard-working caregiver for the last six months of his life. Because of Jerry’s essential goodness, for Manny it was far more than a job.
Born and raised in the Philippines, Manny’s indefatigable energy and upbeat demeanor made it possible that Jerry could live out his days in his own apartment and not in a lonely assisted living facility. Manny was so lovable that Jerry’s friends befriended him and maintain contact to this day.
Having spent 50 years in the men’s clothing business, Jerry was a meticulous dresser. When he was 99 and his body began to fail him, Manny always made sure that Jerry looked dapper. Manny kept the apartment spotless and the refrigerator well stocked. When I would visit Jerry, Manny sat in with us making it feel like a family gathering. And, without fail, as I would get ready to leave, Manny would put together for me a “care package” of delicious cookies and fruit, neatly packed in well sealed plastic bags.
Weather permitting, Manny would frequently take Jerry, who sat comfortably in his wheel chair, for walks down to Palisades Park to sit in the sun and watch the interesting passersby. Jerry’s appreciative friends would often contemplate, “What would we do without Manny?” Thankfully we never had to wonder or worry.
Manny and Jerry’s bond was a blessing. But well after Jerry’s passing, Manny, understandably continues to miss his dear friend. He’s also been unable to find such a rewarding, albeit difficult, job, though he continues to search. If anyone reading this knows of such a private party caregiver job in Santa Monica, trust me, Manny will seem like a God send.
Since Jerry left us, many things have changed that he would have loved. For example, he received a belated birthday card from President Biden. And, to which I say Mazel Tov, Katie and her boyfriend, Ricky, recently announced their engagement! Jerry dreamed of singing at Katie’s wedding and even bought a new suit for the joyous occasion.
Lastly, Trader’s Joe’s, Jerry’s favorite store, just opened across the street from his apartment. Some of his friends wonder if Jerry might have had a hand in these recent developments. So if, at Trader Joe’s, you happen to see an unattended shopping cart moving inexplicably, please remind Jerry how much we love and miss him.