Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Let Me Call You Sweetheart: A Love Story

Let me call you 'Sweetheart,' I'm in love with you.
Let me hear you whisper that you love me too.
Keep the love-light glowing in your eyes so true.
Let me call you 'Sweetheart,' I'm in love with you.
- ©1910 by Leo Friedman. Music by Leo Friedman. Words by Beth Slater Whitson

They came from different worlds. Mary was born in the Whitechapel district of London in 1890. Her parents, Joseph and Rachel moved themselves and their five children to London from Riga, Latvia before Mary's birth. The family, which grew to include eight children, lived at 14 Princes Street (later renamed Princelet Street), a few doors away from the neighborhood synagogue. Mary grew up and was educated in London. She emigrated to Canada in 1906 at the age of 16, traveling alone across the Atlantic to join her parents and her older unmarried sisters.

Jack was born in Vilna (Vilnius), Lithuania in 1888. After losing several infants to sickness, Jack's parents, Isaac and Feyga, sought a better life for their remaining family. In 1904, Isaac and Jack traveled from Vilna to Montreal, via England and New York. Jack was just 15 when he and his father arrived in Montreal. Feyga followed, as did most of Jack's siblings. The teenager who became my grandfather apprenticed himself to a men's clothing manufacturer and worked in the clothing trade until his 80th birthday.

Mary and Jack met at a dance - one of a series of dances organized by Montreal's Jewish community. Jack did not know the dances of the day, except for the waltz. But the waltz was all he needed to woo and win Mary. They married on December 25, 1910. The new hit song, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" - released in December 1910 - became their special song. Mary and Jack brought five children into the world during the next eleven years. In time, Blanche, Joseph, Ethel, Maizie and Gertrude married, and presented Mary and Jack with ten grandchildren.

Mary and Jack 1946*
In 1946, Gertrude - my mother - married Louis, the love of her life. I entered their world in 1949; my sister, Barbara, in 1953. We lived with my grandparents until a few months after my sister was born. I was privileged to be a daily witness to the love and pride that flowed between my "Granny" and "Zaidie," a cocoon of happiness and security that encompassed and enriched the lives of us all. Our extended family remains close to this day. In the words of Cousin Marcy, "My cousins are my sisters." And I would add that my sister, Barbara, is my friend.

Mary and Jack celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on December 25, 1970. One month later, tragedy struck. Mary, who was sitting at the window of their apartment watching for my grandfather to return home, stood up awkwardly when she spotted him, and fell heavily. Her fractured hip sent her first to the hospital and later to a rehab facility. She was determined to not be an invalid. She wanted to remain Jack's wife - his partner, not his burden. She worked tirelessly at her rehab, her indomitable spirit driving her to push her failing heart beyond its limits. Mary died on February 28, 1971.

Jack 1971*
When Mary died, Jack removed her wedding ring and placed it on his own finger. He wore it as a pinkie ring for the rest of his life. My grandfather suffered a disabling stroke less than three years after he lost his life partner. He rejoined his beloved Mary on June 20, 1976 and was buried two days later, on June 22nd - my mother's birthday.

Listen! Can you hear that? "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" is playing on the Victrola. If you close your eyes and concentrate, you might see Mary and Jack, waltzing through the heavens to the melody of their special song.

*My thanks to Cousin Rubin for the 1946 picture of my grandparents, taken at my parents' wedding, and to my husband, Mike, for taking the 1971 photograph of my grandfather.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

John Henry Andrews - A Canadian Hero

On August 10th, 1944, Lance Corporal (A/Sgt.) John Henry Andrews saved my uncle's life. His heroism earned him Canada's Military Medal.

I wrote about my Uncle Moshe's brush with death in my Memorial Day post last May. The following description of the battlefield incident is taken from Neil J Stewart's book "Steel My Soldiers' Hearts".

The fighting did produce several memorable episodes for those engaged on Hill 195 that day. Sergeant John Andrews was advancing in his tank with the rest of his No. 3 Squadron comrades along the east flank of the hill, when an 88 mm shell crashed through the hull, severing fuel lines and igniting an immediate fire. The crew bailed out quickly and began creeping through the grass and weeds to a safer refuge, away from the pyre behind them. Sergeant Andrews noticed that one of his crew members, the co-driver, Moe Lutksy, was not with them. In the face of considerable enemy sniping and mortaring, he immediately crept back to the burning vehicle from which he had just escaped. There he found Lutsky, still in the tank, dangerously wounded, with both feet shot off. Andrews dug him out of his seat and slowly dragged him back to shelter and treatment, which undoubtedly saved Lutsky's life. The award of a Military Medal for Andrews was approved almost automatically.

John Henry Andrews was awarded his medal on March 17, 1945 "in recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field."

Lest We Forget To Remember

The following poem is dedicated to the memory of all who fought to defend their homes, their families and their countries.

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.