Category Archives: 1987 – 1997

MY EIGHTH DECADE Pt. 3 1987-1997

EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 12, 1987– 1997 MY EIGHTH DECADE, Part 3

HE WROTE IT, THEY DID IT, HE SAVED IT; TRANSFORMING AMERICA!!

“JOE SEFEKAR’S INSPIRING STORY OF AN IMMIGRANT’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE HEALTH, WELFARE AND ARTS OF UNITED STATES.”

January 3, 1997

This storied decade began auspiciously with the celebration of our 55th Wedding Anniversary.  All of the attendees at our 50th, made their re-appearance in Florida.  We combined the wedding party with my eightieth birthday and we celebrated on Sunday, February 15 at the DoubleTree Hotel on Clearwater, Beach, Florida. We had had our 40th Anniversary at the Holiday Inn in 1982, before the change in name to the DoubleTree. My daughter Bonnie, Lee her husband, and daughters attended as did my son Bill, and his wife. It was a special event in that I was recuperating from my stroke in October 1996, I had some visages of weakness in my right leg and arm. Luckily, with extensive physical therapy, I had recovered normal usage of my arm and leg and I have continued my daily exercise regimen.

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Figures #12.36 and Figure #12.37 Celebrating and Feel Like Dancin’

On June 6, Thelma and I made a short visit to Maryland to attend graduation ceremonies of Diana was graduating from Sherwood high school in Olney, Maryland; a suburb of Washington, D.C. The celebration party was lots of fun, with members of the family attending from New Jersey, Florida and New York. The highlight of the activities was a graduation ceremony at Constitution Hall, the class of all the elegant buildings in Washington, DC. The only occurrence that marred the day was a near-calamity that we barely avoided. As we waited outside the parking garage, I was sort of surrounded by three men, one of the them, very well-dressed, in a wheelchair. One of the men dropped a key, and I, like a good Samaritan bent over to help I saw him retrieve the key, but the other men continue to look for the key. I saw there were no keys on the floor and I grew suspicious. I had heard of such instances, with the attention of the victim, was diverted by noises in conversation. I put my hand to my back wallet pocket, and I felt the hand of the man in the wheelchair, then quickly withdrawn. Luckily, he had only unbuttoned the back pocket but he hadn’t gotten my wallet. The three men disappeared quickly, and we did not impede their departure, happily that no one was hurt. It all took only about three minutes; my wife saw all this happening was nearby. She had heard the men saying, “lift up your foot”. She thought I was having trouble because of my stroke. This was a close encounter, both figuratively and literally. It was an interesting enough story that I sent it to one of the popular columnists at the Washington Post, Bob Levey. He even acknowledged my letter and sent a response note; included below

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Figure #12.38 Letter to Bob Levy, Washington Post   Figure #12.39 Congratulatory note

There were many miracles of this century – the supersonic airplanes, radio, HD television, man on the moon, etc. on Saturday, July 5, NASA announced and on Sunday, July 6, the headlines in the St. Petersburg Times read that “scientists marvel at photos from Mars”. Although people were aware that NASA had launched a Mars project, the amazement of the landing was exceeded only by the amazing photos and information being received from the Memorial station by remote control.

The Pathfinder, the Mars lander, and the vehicle (Rover) leaving the lander (by remote control from Earth) is named “Sojourner”. The sojourner is a roving vehicle, weighing 23 pounds. In the few short hours of operation it has returned clear color photographs to words, as well as accessing the chemical composition of anything it finds. It was noted that the Mars Pathfinder project was being renamed the Carl Sagan Memorial station in honor of the famed astronomer who died in December 1996.

Investing was one of the intriguing activities that I dabbled in. These are serious games and the consequences are life-threatening. The highs and lows are not manageable, Bernard Baruch, the most respected financier and presidential advisor of the 1940s said you can outwit the market with a quote from the book. The low-income people don’t have the money to “play the market”. They will think that the rest of the upper income people are “raking” in the money – in 1987 and 92, the middle-income people lost fortunes in the stock market. I kept some of his guidelines handy. Here were a few:

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Figure #12.40 “Some words to invest by”

1. Only buy stocks you have researched.
2. When the technical pattern conforms with fundamental judgment.
3. Sell quickly if the stock does not act as anticipated.
4. Try not to be overly bullish or bearish.
5. Do not over trade.
Baruch’s main approach that I kept as a constant: Remember long-term (connotations “savings”)

 

Our Social Security should not be subject to the vagaries of the stock market. What happened to the 401(k)s held by the officers and employees of Enron world company, other corporations – airlines, etc.

The last three excerpts from the blog before the “book” is printed will reference discussions about topics that’s near and dear to my heart; living among ourselves; fighting against prejudice and fanaticism. And one in particular laying bare the roots of Nazi horror and Genocide in general. This is just a few small portion of the dozens and dozens of documents and papers I have amassed dealing with the Holocaust in which my son picked up the gauntlet and carried the torch, In the book: “Light: Courage and Hope.”

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Figure #12.41 Elie Wiesel Speaking and program Eckerd College, St. Petersburg

On Thursday, November 21, 1991 we had the privilege of hearing Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel speak at Eckerd College as part of their Distinguished Speaker Series.

“How is it that one Jew was caught and another not? How is it that Jackie and I survived, while others of our age were sent to their deaths? Were they not as good, or as worthy, as me; They certainly were. Then what is the answer? As a rule, the why’s and wherefores of what had befallen us remains open questions.  One may not venture answers to such difficult questions. One may only relate…”

Jackito Handeli 115003 meet Haim Matalon 9102324. Numbers tattooed on victim’s arm for identification at the Concentration Camps.

Talking about fate- how did I, a cousin to 4 other first cousins of the Holocaust, emerge from this maelstrom of war? By a stroke of fate, my parents migrated from Salonica in 1916. They arrived in New York Harbor on September 16th, 1916, the Ships manifest is found in Chapter 1.

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Figure #12.42  50 Years Ago; the Holocaust Remembered

A 50 years Holocaust Chronology of the end of the camps, January – February 1945

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Figure #12.43  Story about the Anne Frank Legacy.

How her diary became a rallying cry for the triumph-of-the-spirit. As was quoted in the article the comment by Franz Kafka often cited, “We need the books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we love more than ourselves.” If ever there was such a book, it is Anne Frank’s Diary.

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Figure #12.44 Tremendous Power of Hate Figure #12.45 Heart of Nazi Terror

As indicated above, from 1933 to 1945, Jews from every part of Europe and representatives of over two millennia of tradition, culture and humanity was sent to Nazi death camps and forced labor camps in the end, more than 6 million Jewish men, women and children perished (of which 1 1/4 million were children).

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Figures #12.46 Copy of the Book: “Greek Jew from Salonika Remembers” Figures #12.46 and #12.47 Letter to Publisher for a copy of the book.

What also peaked my interest was a visit by my cousin Haim, who lived in northern Israel; Haifa. In 1991 during the 1st Gulf War he and his wife Yona stayed with us for over two months. We managed to talk about his experience as a Holocaust survivor at Auschwitz and his migration to Israel after War II. I will just provide you with a sampling of the 15 page document. (**More to appear in the book).

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Figures #12.48 “Haim’s Story”

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Figure #12.49  Letter to Charlie Reese

I would read Charlie Reese’s article’s on a regular basis and found them mostly timely and topical. Yet at this juncture the subject matter was more troubling on the topic that was most sensitive to me and the experiences that I had encountered during my lifetime. It was duly noted and in closing, reiterated my position: Mr. Reese, your column is your life, this letter is my life. I did follow this up with my closing sentence, “May you continue writing your column in good health.”

 

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Figure #12.50 Apr. 29, 1993 Letter to First Lady, Hillary Clinton and Figure #12.51 Accompanying Article on Steps to Universal Health Care

My concerns with healthcare began beating incessantly like a drum especially since we were requiring more regularly scheduled visits particularly with Thelma’s health issues. I fired off a letter to First Lady Hillary Clinton explaining senior citizen’s concerns with Medicare and with what the legislative action might be and attached an article that I thought handled the concerns well. Guess things really hadn’t changed because of the complexity of this problem as we are reeling in the muck and mire of universal healthcare today as well. Although there was a bit of hope that I felt 15 years later when I updated my request again to Mrs. Clinton who was then US Sen. Hillary Clinton from New York. Attached is the letter that was sent on April 10, 2008.

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Figure #12.52 Letter sent to Sen. Hillary Clinton on Health Care Issues

Chapter 12 vignette 1

1987

Patriotism is assured when there are patriots who we can count on. We do not need men who seek refuge as a plan to subjugate the people whom they call liberals in Sofia’s own parlance. It means that if you’re an average individual, who is Patriotic and your liberal (whatever that means), and you don’t want to be called unpatriotic, so you must say you’re not a liberal, which in turn makes you a patriot without being labeled a liberal.

This is the time that tries men’s souls. Are You a Sunshine patriot and/or a winter soldier? I’m a convert many times over – New York, Washington, D.C., and Palm Harbor, FL. I loved them all, and I feel like a citizen of the world. I’m a real New Yorker-born with an inborn Liberalism – with the basic work ethic, the regular family values. (After 75 years, I know I have them- and I never knew it even with my education fetish).

Gentlemen of the Legislature – you’re not playing politics, you’re talking budget.

What you’re doing is hamstringing the Florida education system and destroying the faith of our children in our governing representatives.

I looked at my teachers with awe.  They taught me the daily niceties of being tolerant of those around me. At age 10, when I came home from school, I realized, realized that my demeanor to my siblings had changed. – I said to myself why can’t I speak quietly to my family the way my teachers conducted themselves.  I received my early training at P.S. 115 in Brooklyn, New York. (P.S. standing for Public School).

I’m a volunteer at East Lake High School in Palm Harbor, FL. and there’s going to be a library in this area in part due to my efforts. I am there and doing that because of the warm feeling I have for the American Education System. I wasn’t an outstanding student but I had stick-to-itiveness. I attended summer school to add to my college credits. I received two degrees attending L.I. University and N.Y. University with a lot of help from my homemaker wife, built up our family unit. I used the GI Bill and owe no debts to the government. But I owe a debt of gratitude to Uncle Sam. Mr. Chiles – use Education as your keystone. No one can blame you for fighting for Education – win or lose – you are right. Your opponents used Education to cut the budget to the bone. You can use the Education budget to rescue the children – no one can fault you for being the true Education Governor.

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Figure #12.53 “I’m Eighty”          Figure #12.54 Closing remarks from my retirement talk at                                                      the Hirshhorn Museum

I asked for grace enough to listen to the tales of others pains.  Help me to endure them with patience. But seal my lips on my own aches and pains that are increasing, and my love of rehearsing them has become sweeter as the years go by.

 

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Figure #12.55 Henny Youngman, 70 years of Laughing

The man who made famous the line, “Take my wife, Please!” I could never understand why a man would say this. I could never utter it, I would be afraid because knowing what I have, no sooner that the words came out of my mouth there would be someone there to take my precious gift.

 

 

A philosophical discourse

1997

I always admired the great people of my times, the creative genius, artistic creators of books, music, the arts and movies. I kept track of each year some of the great people as they left this world 1997. There will be no exceptions. This year took Robert Mitchum, Lloyd Bridges, James Stewart Richard Oakley Willie J Jane, Jacques Cousteau, Stubby Kay, Burgess Meredith, Brian Keith, Red Skelton and Chris Farley just to name a few. I never spent too much time delving into the Obits but just made some mental notes and jotted them down to remember how much we owed them.

 

Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.

MY EIGHTH DECADE PT.2 1987-1997

EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 12, 1987– 1997 MY EIGHTH DECADE, Part 2

HE WROTE IT, THEY DID IT, HE SAVED IT; TRANSFORMING AMERICA!!

“JOE SEFEKAR’S INSPIRING STORY OF AN IMMIGRANT’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE HEALTH, WELFARE AND ARTS OF UNITED STATES.”

At this time in my life I had a chance to really immerse myself in some of the issues of the day; Healthcare, Social Security, government ineptitude and world affairs. I had time to philosophize and get off letters to local, state and federal officials and work on these projects with impunity. But reading was one of my fondest activities. I managed to catalog many of the articles, reports, filling my cabinets and honing in on sharpening my writer’s skills. They’re were so many opportunities to send off letters and this kept me very busy.

During this stage of my life I developed a strong affinity with not mincing words and used them in my arsenal to keep officials, newspapers at bay and act as a public ward. I certainly can’t provide you with a litany of my responses and diatribes but the next few chapters there will be some good examples. I wasn’t vindictive but tried to get straight to the point. I liked to mix humanistic approaches with humoristic approaches and found writers that did the same.

One of my favorite writers that I followed was Art Buchwald from Washington. Another I enjoyed was Mike Royko from the Midwest, out of Chicago. I was saddened to learn of his passing and managed to find sort of a Requiem of some of his highlighted columns that appeared in a May 1, 1997 editorial, “Opinion” which I’d love to share. Citing two entries, the first dealing with love: On Love, Chicago Sun-Times July 30, 1981.

“Nobody’s really sure what love is. Shrinks mess around trying to define it and just make it sound more complicated than it is. Poets, as neurotic as they are, do much better job.

I’m not sure what it is myself, except that it leaves you breathless, makes everything else seem unimportant and can cause you ecstasy, misery, and drive you crazy. And also drive you happy.

“… Now when you’re down, someone will take your hand and help you. When you’re crying, someone will dry your tears. When you’re frightened, someone will hold and reassure you. When you are alone, someone will tell you you’re not.”

The other entry interestingly enough deals with the Internet. These were his reflections 20 years ago and very insightful even today. On the Internet, Chicago Tribune November 13, 1996.

“It’s been my policy to view the Internet not as an “information highway,” but as an electric asylum filled with babbling loonies.”

Now 20 years later it’s taken on a life of its own and I would say that the information highway has taken on a life of its own but it also has taken us through a maze of twists, turns and tweets.

And trying to be a humanist I would save articles such as Ann Landers providing some insight in our day-to-day dealings with people and family. This article on “Teach Children to Love One Another,” was particularly valuable in sending a message as we were dealing with this in our own home with my son and daughter. Which is what most families appear to be going through. Bonnie and Billy when growing up as much as they got along seemed at times to have to be separated. This was specifically true on trips and not uncommon, one would be sitting in the front seat and the other in the backseat. I would like to share this with you and it maybe finds relevance in your situation.

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Figure #12.14 Teach Children to Love One Another Figure #12.15 Mike Royko Excerpts

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Figure #12.16 Art Buchwald article about “How much this country meant.”

A third article as mentioned is from Art Buchwald that I had recently came across and had particular relevance in that when he wrote this for the Bicentennial 20 years ago in 1976, his father had passed away four years earlier. My father Jack, passed away about the same time six years instead of four. My family relished taking part in the 200th Anniversary Bicentennial of the United States of America at our nation’s capital Washington. This is the commentary as he relayed it pertaining to his father. It waxed true for my Dad and for me also about what this country has granted and meant, thank you Art.

THE TRIP BACK NO. 3

The first two trips discussed in the beginning of this chapter were: our travel back to Europe as Thelma and I retraced my steps during World War II as part of the First Army Headquarters Rear Echelon. It was a wonderful trip and meant a lot to have her there. When I think about that we were just married and there had not been much of a marriage. And to have those dozens of letters from her and the dozens of letters that I sent during these three years that separated us during the start of our life together.

Second trip back wasn’t as anticipated. It was the trip up north to visit Thelma and my parents resting place as part of our religious tradition to “honor” our parents.

The third trip(s) appear to a merry-go-round of sorts as it seemed like the gift that just kept on giving. It started with the eight-day cruise to the Eastern Caribbean and Key West with our immediate family, my wife’s sister, Renee and some of our close friends that decided to join us for the fun. Then the anniversary celebration on the Anniversary Weekend at Clearwater Beach. And then culminating in a week at our ol’ honeymoon getaway down at Miami Beach with Thelma’s and my niece Sharon who lives in South Florida. The Montage unfolds: This Is How It All Started:

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Figures #12.17 and 12.18 Wedding proceedings and Photo

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Figures #12.19 Special train package and tickets to Miami Beach for Honeymoon, January 4, 1942

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Figures #12.20, Figure #12.21 and Figure #12.22 Arriving at Miami Beach and stay at Essex House

And it continued, continued and continued 50 years of marital bliss and then to visit back where it all began on our honeymoon at the Essex House. That weekend was so special as we were treated like royalty as was prearranged by my son to let them know about our exceptional occasion. It just so happened that the hotel had already planned some fireworks of their own as would you believe, the architect who designed the original edifice was there as part of the South Beach Art Deco Extravaganza. So with my niece Sharon “chaperoning us” it made for quite a Cinderella weekend.

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Revisiting our Honeymoon Haven 50 years later, January 1992. Figure #12.23 Upper left; Collins Avenue, Figure #12.24 Upper right; McAlphin Hotel; Figure #12.25 Lower Left; Essex Hotel with new facade; Figure #12.26 Lower Right getting our time-stamp and clocking in.

Some of the pictures of our weekend getaway to Miami Beach that began our life together 50 years earlier.

The cruise to “Paradise Island,” the Anniversary celebration on Clearwater Beach was stupendous and escape to our “Honeymoon Hotel” was like returning in time. Or as a take on one of the Star Trek series famous lines, “Beam us back, Scotty.” Thelma and I just beamed with all this outpouring of love and affection.

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Our 50th anniversary party Clearwater Beach, January 1992. Figure #12.27 Upper left; our granddaughter Beth giving talk, Figure #12.28 Upper right; daughter Bonnie, my son-in-law Lee and other granddaughter Diana; Figure #12.29 Lower Left; Getting ready to cut the cake; Figure #12.30 Lower Right; Just some of the guests in attendance, Thelma’s sister Renee and a few of our nieces and nephews.

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Our 50th anniversary party Clearwater Beach, January 1992. Figure #12.31 Upper left; Traditional cutting the cake in a more endearing fashion Figure #12.32 Upper right; Son, Billy, daughter, Bonnie with Thelma and me; Figure #12.33 Lower Left; A beautifully “commissioned” Anniversary commemoration, created by my daughter for our special day. Figure #12.34 Right; Article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times announcing our 50th Wedding Anniversary.

During the period of the 1990’s there were many 50 year recollections that were near and dear to me. One of the major opportunities in my life came about as a result of the G.I. Bill. It changed my life, and as the Parade edition of the St. Petersburg Times dated Sunday, August 4, 1996 so eloquently stated “It Changed The Life Of Our Nation.” As stated in the article, in 1946, millions of American veterans – matured by war, some bearing wounds, some married with children – – descended on college campuses. Some of the noteworthy beneficiaries of the G.I. Bill included George Schultz, former US Secretary of State, Johnny Carson, Wylie Selden college official, teachers, pharmacists, screenwriters, and of course doctors, lawyers. In closing, the article written by James Brady stated, ”The veterans knew the value of what a grateful country was doing for them. And it’s not an exaggeration to suggest that, for the rest of their lives, many have been giving something back. The G.I. Bill educated a warrior generation – men who ever since have been peacefully and constructively making this a better country.” Count me in on this, as its exactly what it meant to me and guided me.

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Figure 12.35 article in Parade edition of St. Petersburg Times, Sunday, August 4, 1996

So after the celebration and festivities quieted down we got back to our old routine. Thelma had her groups such as ORT and Hadassah service organizations and the Brandeis women. I continued my work with B’nai B’rith (Children of the Covenant) service organization as treasurer. We were both active in our Temple B’nai Israel located in Clearwater as well as the JWV area chapter, Jewish War Veterans and Woman’s Auxiliary.

I did manage to set my sights on another project. While working as a volunteer at the newly opened East Lake High School not far from our home in Palm Harbor, I realized there was a need for a library in this part of town. What started off as a way of having a storefront in Oldsmar in an adjacent city; became an interim library. It certainly was insufficient to meet the needs of this burgeoning community. So working with the group of local citizens I offered my services trying to get some funding state monies for this worthwhile undertaking. We applied for state funds and it was readily accepted and construction of the library began in 1994 and 1995. A follow-up to this story will appear in the next addition of excerpts from the book. Future postings will include a number of my intrusions in the world of social and human issues of our time; some of the victories and some of the not so successes.

 

Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

We are always interested in hearing comments and suggestions about how the blog could be better. Sound off below with your ideas.

 

MY EIGHTH DECADE, PT. 1, 1987-1997

EXCERPTS FROM CHAPTER 12, 1987– 1997 MY EIGHTH DECADE, Part 1

HE WROTE IT, THEY DID IT, HE SAVED IT; TRANSFORMING AMERICA!!

“JOE SEFEKAR’S INSPIRING STORY OF AN IMMIGRANT’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE HEALTH, WELFARE AND ARTS OF THE UNITED STATES.”

On February 20, 1987 I reached this milestone; my 70th birthday. I had accomplished much but still wanted to be relevant; even though I was so very lucky. There is my wife Thelma of 45 years, my son, Billy, daughter Bonnie and her family Lee, her husband, her two daughters Diana Jill and Beth Eileen were part of our immediate family; my extended family and hordes of great friends past and present.

I had been blessed with many close family friends, brothers and sisters and friends for a lifetime going back to Canarsie, the War, Thames St., Rose Street across to Long Island, Washington DC and Maryland. In the 10 years since we moved down from Maryland after my retirement from the Smithsonian so many wonderful things have taken place. I was able to grow in other areas and to be part of my wife’s golden years but I could tell there was something in the wind. Things were changing and after my retirement from my second major assignment at Ruth Eckerd Hall, PACT, I re-visited some of the highlights and few low lights and sort of plan things that I would work with Thelma to see if we can make the most of these autumn years.

THE TRIP BACK NO. 1

We were planning trips and also milestones in the foreseeable future; Our 50th wedding anniversary in 1992 and in the back of my mind I had an inkling that I would love to take Thelma and put something in the works in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of D-Day landing in Normandy. This would be a retracing of the Allied advances starting in Bristol, England where I was stationed with the First Army Rear Echelon and fighting through France, Belgium, Luxembourg and finally into Germany where victory and the final throes of Third Reich. Yes, to plan something back to Europe and have her share this with me.

So on May 18, 1994, we departed Luxembourg for French territories the first big stop was Rheims we stayed overnight, the next morning we headed toward the city. We passed an old train and 97 years that someone had painted “boxcar” on the side of the old car. The treaty signifying the end of World War I was signed here later, when Germany entered France in 1940, the French were humiliated by having to sign their surrender in the same car at the end of the war in 1945 when the German’s surrendered to Gen. Dwight David Eisenhower, Cmdr. of the Allied forces.

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Figure #12.1 1st Army Operations Europe 1944-1945 Figure #12.2 Itinerary 50 years later

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Figure #12.3 Letter to my very dear Army buddy Irv Bagatelle Figure #12.3 Describing the “Trip Back 50 Years Later.” Page 1

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Figure #12.4 Describing the “Trip Back 50 Years Later.” Page 2 Figure #12.5 Describing the “Trip Back 50 Years Later.” Page 3

THE TRIP BACK NO. 2

In the Jewish religion we perpetuate our family ties by remembering those who have pre–deceased us.

It was an Odyssey that I thought of two months ago. I had a feeling that it was time to visit our parents. On the one hand, it wasn’t a happy anticipation – they had died in 1970. On the other hand, it became a happy obsession inasmuch as we had not been to visit them since 1976, when we moved to Florida. I had decided that it would be a special trip to New Jersey, my wife’s mother had also died January 1970 – her father had died in November 1939, at a comparatively early age.

Our trip required some planning because flying to New York was the easiest part. The difficult part was convincing my brother Al to drive us to the cemeteries. It was a good effort because he is 75. I didn’t realize the energy and concentration required. I was only 77 Lol.

We flew into LaGuardia Airport Queens then to New Jersey where they lived in Lakehurst, 7 miles from Toms River, where my father, Jack Sefekar in 1917, was hurt in a truck accident while working at a munitions depot.

When I first started writing this life story I began by saying – “my parents were poor immigrants in a new land”. They were not “poor” and were not “immigrants”. They were poor in wealth, but rich in foresight and using their innate knowledge acquired through the ages. My parents were not “immigrants” despite their exchanging one physical location for another. Their journey took a logical path within the content of a “new land” in a world that their ancestors had a ready traversed. They paved the way for their offspring, and their offspring to become a permanent fixture and as the star trek manifestation proclaims, “Go forth and prosper.” Over the millennia I’ve had these opportunities to absorb my heritage, of my country and my birthright and blend and weave together into what will be the building blocks of the man I would come. My wife of 50 years played a big part in smoothing out the rough edges even though I wasn’t such a “young Turk” as I would’ve thought. And as you can see from the following guideposts I had tempered with the basics of being part of the larger community or as is bandied around an “expanded village.” But I resorted to the basic building blocks when coming face-to-face, one human being with another.

WORDS TOO LIVE BY

I’ve developed my own set of constructs that have got me through as I say in order to reach the magic number.

HOW TO REACH THE MAGIC NUMBER 

  1. A lot of patience – helps to maintain or heal a relationship.f12-x
  2. It’s helpful not to be too judgmental.
  3. Learn how to forgive.
  4. To practice compromise on a daily basis.
  5. Hold on to a sense a humor for dear life.
  6. Never give up on hope.
  7. Let love take precedence over hate.

I won’t say that I’ve been particularly successful in dealing with women but my advice to men in dealings with women that there are three. words for men to remember – “Compromise and give in.”

Figures #12.6 and #12.7 My philosophy on how to reach the “magic number.”

Funny thing happened on the way to the finish line, actually it was the starting line. The reason I mention this is that my Sonny boy when he first came down Florida 1983 would get into jogging and was inspired by the husband of one of our staff people at Ruth Eckerd Hall who left early from Arnold Bremen’s July 3 party to run in the “Midnight Madness Run” at Honeymoon Island on the Gulf of Mexico. He began in earnest running upon his arrival here and fast-forward nine years later in 1992 also partook in the fun for these midnight races and decided to make it a family affair which meant I was dragged into the fray. I had my own personal trainer, actually physician, monitoring my progress. One of the dearest friends of our family, Dr. David Kalin overseeing my progress. What made this so memorable was a few weeks later I received a letter and a plaque acknowledging I was the oldest participant in the auspicious Kiwanis Midnight Madness Run (**see attachments).

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Figures #12.8 Letter to the St. Petersburg Times on my physical triumph

1992- 1ST Gulf War, visit from my Dad’s brother’s nephew Haim and his wife Yona.  They have visited us before but with the Scud missiles reigning down on Northern Israel and the city of Haifa where they lived it was very threatening since Haim suffered from a bad heart. So for over 2 months they stayed with Thelma and myself while the war raged. While he and his wife visited I had an opportunity have him recall his harrowing story about how he survived the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It wasn’t all that easy since his English was not that good and we couldn’t speak Hebrew that well.  We settled on a mixture of Ladino the Spanish spoken in Spain back in the 1492 when our ancestors left Spain during the Inquisition and some Yiddish terms that Thelma remembered. Bill and I compiled the notes and transcribed to include the more pleasant part of the story of after being freed, how they managed to make a worthwhile rest of their lives and flourish in their new homeland of Israel (**See Attachment of Haim’s Story).

This also offered me a chance to delve into my family genealogical chart and piecing together a litany of my heritage. It got me to thinking of my visit to Salonika 10 years earlier. Also the many others that passed through this city on the Aegean Sea hundreds of years before and back to Spain eons ago . It just so happens that a book was published a few years later on just that; a “A Greek Jew From Salonika Remembers,” Which I hope to provide some reflections on.

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Figure #12.9 SEFEKAR (Seficha) Genealogical entry as best as can be determined

During this time, I began to realize how important the memoirs, recollections, writings, documents and notes that I had accumulated over the last 60 years starting back in the 1930’s and continuing up until today and hopefully beyond. What I recommend to others that are interested in tracking their own life story is to keep tabs on things that are important, interesting; making a difference in their lives and the lives of the loved ones that make it all worthwhile. The article that I’m attaching had an impact on me. It is Written by John A. Cutter entitled, “Consider Writing About Your Life’s Legacy.” He spells out important guideposts that are easy-to-follow in keeping your life story moving or a play of words, a moving life story. There are many support groups and agencies, libraries, writer’s group’s available. At this time there was the foundation called the Leibowitz Foundation that encouraged such efforts and even had a contest for those that wanted to try their hand in mind that such writing in its “National Legacy Contest.”

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Figure #12.10 John A. Cutter’s Article; “Consider writing about your Life’s Legacy.”

So I became immersed in this “Legacy” project gradually. It wasn’t a baptismal under fire. Organizing my files in little cabinets, my letters and writings, etc. It wouldn’t be for another 10 years starting in 1997 sitting down with my son and transcribing the notes into a typed format with our newly acquired personal computers (PC’s). However, let me transgress which is the first thing not to do but I will take a little editorial liberty. I’ll share a song that became near and dear to Thelma and me. We had a ritual of calling my daughter Bonnie, husband Lee and their two daughters Diana and Beth and all our relatives and friends up north when this song became popular it forged a special place in our hearts: “I just called to say I love you.”

I just called to say how much I care, I do              f12-11

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

No New Year’s Day to celebrate

No chocolate covered candy hearts to give away

No first of spring, no song to sing

In fact here’s just another ordinary day

No April rain, No flowers bloom

No wedding Saturday within the month of June

But what it is, is something true

Made up of these three words that I must say to you

I just called to say I love you

I just called to say how much I care

I just called to say I love you

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart                         f12-12

No summer’s high, No warm July

No harvest moon to light one tender August night

No autumn breeze, No falling leaves

Not even time for birds to fly to southern skies

No Libra sun, No Halloween

No giving thanks to all the Christmas joy you bring

But what it is, though old, so new

To fill your heart like no three words could ever do

I just called to say I love you

I just called to say how much I care,

I do I just called to say I love you

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart,

of my heart, of my heart.

I just called to say how much I care, I do

And I mean it from the bottom of my heart

Figure #12.11 Words to “I Just Called to Say I Love You” Figure #12.12 My hand-written lyrics of the song

Some of the material was original such as my reminiscing on taking Billy to his initial baseball game and contemplating what has transpired all these years after that first indelibly marked outing.

Letter submitted to the St. Petersburg Times

Long Time Between Innings, Circa 1992

As we walked around to the Stadium I wonder to myself, when was the first game that he and I went too? He was six, active for his age, (today call it hypertensive). He was great to everybody, and everybody thought he was great. A real boy – my problem was that I was his parent, and it’s the parents job to keep striving to make him probably the best behaved. Well, he behaved alright to everybody, which prompted me to ask him “to please treat me like a stranger”.

We arrived at Ebbets field, located in a certain borough in a certain city, with the always the throaty crowds, and we proceeded to our seats on the third base line. Not being as knowledgeable as my Little Leaguer, how did I know that third base wasn’t the most desirable location? That little miscue caused me a most active afternoon. No sooner as were seated that my charge disappeared. Where do you start looking for the champ base stealer in the league, especially when he reaches only 4 feet high and streamlined to boot.

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Figure #12.13 Ebbets Field that fateful day

I could have used the Mills Brothers taxi, as I started my way to make my way around the stadium, and looking up into the cheering faces above, everybody intent on the action on the field. As I walked and looked around Ebbets field I unbelievably heard my name called “hey Joe,” and I recognized friends I hadn’t seen in years – from the neighborhood, high school classmates and also one person I worked with. In a baseball field full of thousands of people, how could this possibly of happened. However, I had to continue on my main mission, which is to find my son. He wasn’t the type that would go to the authorities and report a lost father – so I continued my search which after my second circle around the stadium was successful.

He was in a row in the middle of the section behind first base, encircled by a group of adults, who are listening to the radio while the game was going on, my son was describing the play that was going on below, and is explaining what the announcer was saying – sort of an instant replay. I was glad to find him and I was happy to get our third base seats and enjoy the game.

Now that I remember the first game, my mind is hopscotching through the intervening years, to the last game we moved from Long Island, New York, to Washington DC, in a major career move. My son, now college-bound remained behind and the surroundings he grew up in; but the people who thought he was great, and who were happy to give him room and board. Usually children leave home to go to college – we left home some so he could go to college (and not to have to leave town). But he loved us, and after a short visit to Washington DC he decided he would openly” treat us like strangers”, so We gave him room and board, and he enrolled at the University of Maryland. We did our parental duty, and assisted through school. After he graduated, my wife and I decided to make a major life change and retired to Florida. He stayed behind in Maryland, with his many friends, who although they were not different from previous comrades, thought he was great.

Following a visit to us in Florida, he decided that this was a good a place as any to lay anchor, so he located a few miles from where we lived, got a job, with a sailboat and settled into the good Florida life. People thought he was great, and we do too, because he treated us “like strangers”.

Last week after 37 years so on his 45th birthday, I decided to take a chance and taken him to another ballgame the dream of all transplanted Floridians to see a yearly grapefruit league game. We packed a lunch including some peanuts (who had heard that they were now two dollars a bag) without reserve seats we went to see the Philadelphia Phillies and the Houston Astros. This time I got the seats right above first base, and I was the one who scooted around to third to see how things looked from my favorite baseline.

Since it was too sunny, I returned to where I sitting on the first base side, but not at the same gate as yours truly. Coming back, huffing and puffing, I realize you can’t wait 37 years to take your son to a ballgame. Thanks Florida, for making it possible, and making it a good all around the bases day; happy 45th birthday Bill.

Figure #12.14 Letter to the St. Petersburg Times “Long Time Between Innings”

 

So with Ruth Eckerd Hall behind me and plenty of time beside me I plunged into what could be called my Don Quixote attacking windmills phase. Whereby I would fire off letters on a regular basis trying to make a dent in the social issues of our time. On a not so serious note, I kept busy with keeping track of my fledgling investments system that was based on-no market plunging. And having the time to prepare my lifespan of innuendos, idiosyncrasies and nuances into an enlightened journey that spans the EPOCH of time.

And so concludes, Part one of Chapter 12; My Eighth Decade. The next installment deals with the myriad of projects; community work, building a Public Library in Palm Harbor and activities for Thelma and I at the Temple.

So many remembrances, highlights and philosophical deliberations to elaborate on. There was Thelma and my 50th Anniversary trip to our original honeymoon getaway in Miami Beach; a seven-day Western Caribbean cruise; party at the Hilton and some great family gatherings including my granddaughter Diana’s, Bat Mitzvah in Maryland when she turned 13. And of course correspondence and pronouncements with some very important people to divulge.

 

Copyright © 2016               William Sefekar

** Material will appear in book.

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