Geraldine Newman, 1919 – 2012

geraldine newman

Sad to say, but my grandmother, Gerry Newman, passed away this afternoon, May 9th, 2012, of complications resulting from being 92. Her maiden name was Geraldine Goldfeder.

Even though Grandma, or G’ma as we called her, was in poor health for a while, it still comes as a bit of a surprise and a shock to know that she is no longer with us.  I think part of my surprise comes from the fact that  G’ma was sort of an eternal figure to me, having outlived both my Mom and Dad. Every year as we went to Florida, Grandma seemed a little weaker but since her 90th birthday party, G’ma and I would joke about the preparations for her 100th.

grandma with nol and adam

Nol and I grew up with Grandma as a very regular presence in our lives. Her husband, my Grandpa Jack, died in 1970 when I was under 3 and Nol was not even 1. G’ma suffered from depression on and off after Grandpa’s death and she moved close by to where we were living so that my folks — especially my Mom — could stay in close touch with her.

When Grandma was well, she was our usual babysitter and traveled with us on many family vacations. G’ma was always baking us hamentashen, rugelach and mandelbrodt.

Her mandelbrodt (or “mandle bread” as we called it) looked nothing like the version in the Wikipedia entry. It was basically a big — I’m talking pound cake sized — chocolate chip cookie creation that was sliced into pieces sort of like a biscotti. We thought that was the best thing ever. I have her hand written recipe for it. Perhaps we’ll have some this weekend.

Grandma loved to cook us exotic (to us) dishes like chicken fricassee, goulash with dumplings and her famous chopped liver recipe, which came out for Yom Kippur break fast like clockwork.

During the summers, Nol and I would stay at G’ma’s apartment in Northport, LI for the weekend and see two or maybe four movies with her at the old ninety-nine cent Northport Cinema. It was a short walk from Grandma’s apartment and we would get candy and treats and have a great time. I can’t be sure, but I think we saw all of the “Herbie the Love Bug” movies there.

Geraldine and Jack Newman

Did you know that Grandma met my Grandfather while trying on a pair of shoes? At least that’s the story I heard. Jack was a shoe salesman, and like some story line out of Sex and the City (the Depression-Era version anyhow), Jack charmed Grandma into going out with him after getting the sale.

Or did you know that Grandma traveled to China on one of the first western tours of China? It’s true! Hard to imagine that not long after Nixon met with Mao, and the Chinese let in tourists, there was Geraldine Newman of Northport, LI hanging out on the Great Wall.

veronica and grandma

Grandma loved to travel, and when she was 88 she took a cruise with an even older friend of the Caribbean that stopped in St. Thomas while Veronica and I were honeymooning there. Naturally, we hung out during her during her shore time. Her watch broke, and she was very impressed that Veronica surprised her with a new one when it couldn’t be fixed.

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Needless to say Grandma was crazy about the kids. Her great-grand kids who called her “Grandma” from an early age. I was constantly sending her photos and cards of the kids and in her room at the hospital and nursing home she proudly displayed them.

I think G’ma moved to Century Village in West Palm Beach in the early 1990’s. From time to time as I’ve had business in Florida I would often stop in on Grandma, take her out to dinner, perhaps even subject a colleague or two to the visit.

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Grandma’s depression could be pretty debilitating, but when she was happy should could be life of the party like in this photo of her with Hum, Stephen and Nol. I seem to recall at least one event where she spent most of the night dancing with Hum, much to his wife Heather’s chagrin.

Most of all, G’ma loved to play cards. She was a big gambler, often betting as much as one penny per point of bridge or canasta. When she first moved to Century Village, she had a regular card game — and a regular mahjong game.

We played endless games of canasta with G’ma and our family when Nol and I were kids. Now, if you’re not familiar with canasta, it’s a pretty complicated game. Deuces are wild, sevens or aces can be really bad or really good, threes act as sort of a multiplier, and the whole darn game is sort of about being able to “meld”.

Anyhow, here are Nol and I learning to play this 1950’s card game when we’re like 9 or 10 and G’ma seems to be making the rules up as she went along.

“Oh,” she would say, “they’ve changed the rules. Joker canastas are now allowed.”

We were never sure who owned the rules, but we spent hours playing, talking and hanging out over this crazy game.

In my mind, I think it’s very likely that G’ma is rounding up a game right now. She’s found some ladies named Edith, Pearl and Minna and she’s getting them set on the latest rules of the game.

(More pictures of Grandma can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adamhonig/sets/72157629654521346/)

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