(Eulogy, by his son Dr. Ronald Weissman)
Often when my dad would walk into a room that was already occupied with a group of people his greeting would be “I suppose you are all wondering why I invited you here today” Well we are here today because Izzy Weissman touched each of us in some way…… The jokes and words are his as I remember him telling me.
My dad was born in Brooklyn in 1917, a fact that he says saved
his father, because our grandfather David didn’t have to fight in WWI,
because he was the breadwinner for a family with at least two children.
Eventually, there were a total of 4 Weissman children. He had two sisters
Gert and Francie, and a brother Paul…and by all standards their family
was financially poor. To earn money for his family Izzy went to work at
an early age.
|When he was 10 or 12 he became a paper boy for the Brooklyn
Eagle and excelled at signing up new subscribers which earned him money
for his family and won him many contests for prizes like Thanksgiving Turkeys,
and trips to Washington DC. He shook hands with Herbert Hoover and several
years later with Franklin Roosevelt during trips he won to the white house.
He beat out hundreds if not thousands of other newsboys…. He remained a
life long Roosevelt fan.
Izzy played violin in a school boy competition at Carnegie Hall and my grandfather said he didn’t win because the judges were prejudiced. He did win 2nd place. He also had a short career as a golden gloves boxer. I think there was confusion, in both cases… He probably played violin like a boxer and boxed like a violinist. Either way, neither of these was a big career move for him…and he knew it. He attended college for a semester or two but dropped out because he needed to go to work to help support his family.
In 1939, 2 years prior to WWII my dad enlisted in Citizens Military Training camp which prepared him as an officer. He was sent to Iceland as part of the Lend Lease program and was a commanding officer of a night fighter squadron protecting British shipping in the North Atlantic against U-boats and Messerschmitts. He was in the Army Air Corps which became today’s Air Force. At this time his mom died and as a 23 year old officer all alone in Iceland he could not be spared to return home and so he could not attend his mothers funeral and though he was heart broken he told me he had to do his duty. He was a member of the Greatest Generation.
When we officially entered the war, Izzy was sent to the pacific theatre
and was in the Philippines, Manila, Palawan, and New Guinea. By the
end of the war he achieved the rank of Lieutenant Colonel which was quite
an accomplishment for a Jewish kid from Brooklyn. Though he got married
in 1940, and was basically away for 5 years, my sister Linda was born in
1944… He actually did come home on leave during the war. This prompted
a joke My dad loved to tell about the solder who comes home after being
away two years to find his wife 6 months pregnant and asks the doctor
if that was possible. Yes replies the doctor it called a grudge pregnancy…..someone
had it in for you…. This isn’t me, I’m channeling my father….
My dad told me about his three near death experiences in the Pacific. He was in a transport plane over the jungle in New Guinea and they could not find the narrow airstrip to land. They were running out of gas and it was getting dark, he had his parachute on ready to jump poised at the door when the pilot spotted the field at the last moment…..On Palawan they were each in personal pup tents and Japanese soldiers would sneak into camp every night and hack a poor American soldier to death with a machete. After a couple of sleepless nights they finally strengthened the perimeter and where able to prevent any further attacks. Finally, my father’s favorite story was how he got up one morning and a bullet ripped through his pillow where his head had been a moment before… The bullet came from a gun that a chaplain’s orderly was cleaning and had discharged accidently. My father told me he wondered what a chaplain was doing with a gun?
My father told the story of how, when the war was over and he was waiting to be shipped back home, they played a lot of poker. He cleaned out most of the Air Corps officers of the Pacific fleet. He sent my mother over $10,000 in cash that he won waiting to be shipped home. A building bought in 1945 for $10,000 would be worth millions today. Mom saved that money so he could start a business.
Surely WWII had a profound effect on his direction and his thoughts for the rest of his life. He used to get dressed in his uniform every month when we were kids and go to reserve meetings at Mitchell Field on Long Island. Even 50 years after the war he used to joke “ You remember WWII….it was in all the news papers” He also claimed to have coined the expression “Chicken out” . One last story he would often tell. When he was in basic training he was waiting in line at the mess hall to get dinner when someone threw his hat into a trash can… As he was picking through the trash for his hat an officer said “hey Weissman get back in line, you’re no better than the rest of us!” That was my dads sense of humor sort of British and dry…
Besides playing poker while waiting to be shipped back after the war, the military provided training programs to reintroduce the returning airmen into the work force. My dad took a course in chicken farming. When he got back home,he went in uniform with my uncle Irving to look at a chicken farm for sale. The owner saw this fine young officer and set him straight. He said to him “young man you don’t want to go into chicken farming. Go into real estate.
I always thought my dad went into real estate right after the war. Yesterday I was informed that my dad was the base commander from 1945-1947 at the Camp Springs Army Airbase outside of Washington DC. Today that base is called Andrews Air Force Base.
Back in Brooklyn, dad went into the real estate business with Joe Russo who remained his partner for over 40 years. They bought brownstones for $7,000 fixed them up and resold them for $13,000.. Their timing was a little off. Today the same buildings are selling for millions. During the early 1950’s My dad also worked as a rental agent for Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. Fred used to call my dad Colonel Weissman. One day Fred marches a 10 year old Donald dressed in a New York Military Academy uniform before my dad and says “Colonel Weissman this kid is a disciplinary problem. Would you please talk to him” My dad said he was flabbergasted, speechless, and not particularly helpful…
As his career progressed he became more involved with real estate development starting I Weissman and Company, Weissman, Russo and Company, Jodore Realty, and Midland Funding Corp. Their first office was at 1075 Bergen Street near the corner of Nostrand. Back then real estate closings were all cash and one day during a closing, armed men entered the office, put guns to their heads, tied them up and stole all the cash. It was time to leave the old neighborhood and they moved to Flatbush Ave where they remained until the end of their careers.
In 1962 my dad built the East Hampton House a resort Hotel in
East Hampton on Long Island and enjoyed the many celebrities who stayed
there. He regaled us with stories of Eva Gabor, Danny Kay, Henry Kissinger,
Woody Allen and Diane Keaton who rented an entire floor during the shooting
of the famous Annie Hall scene where Woody tries to lure a live lobster
from behind the refrigerator with a cup of melted butter.
He also built a shopping plaza in Amagansett which included the Post Office and IGA supermarket. One of his partners was Beatle Paul McCartney’s father in law Lee Eastman.
During this time period my dad had an experience that surely impacted his view of life. One morning about 1 am he got a call and left the house. When he came back at 6 or 7 in the morning he told us that a lawyer named Albert Mittleman who worked in my dad’s office and lived in Levittown had been shot to death along with his wife, by his nephew, who then threw Molotov cocktails around the house and shot himself. They needed my dad to identify the bodies outside the burned house. I remember seeing my dad so visibly shaken it scared me. Sadly, my dad’s younger brother Paul would also fall victim to a crazed gunman some 20 years later.
In 1974 he and Joe Built two big projects, Palm Beach Villas in Florida and Village Townhouses in East Hampton. In 1978 he and my mom moved down to Palm Beach permanently. My dad helped complete and market Beau Vois Condominium where they finally settled. His career was over. He was the condo president for 13 years and was succeeded by my uncle Irving. My dad was also the president of Temple Beth Kodesh and member of the temple’s choir.
Izzy always took care of his father, David when we were growing up and throughout our grandpa’s life. My grandfather never owned a car, never owned a house or apartment and had no possessions that we ever saw. My dad would drive Grandpa David from Brooklyn to our house on Long Island and he often stayed with us when we were growing up. My dad moved grandpa to Florida so he could take care of him, and he saw his father almost everyday. My grandfather lived to 103 ½ and was in good health mentally and physically until he slipped and fell down and banged his head. He was gone in a day. That was the first time I saw my dad cry. The second time was when his younger brother Paul was murdered.
So what was Izzy Weissman like:
He loved loved loved the Brooklyn Dodgers. His real estate office was near Ebbetts Field and he and Joe Russo had many of the early Dodgers as clients because besides selling buildings and renting apartments, Joe did tax returns for them. He knew Duke Snyder, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campinella, and Jackie Robinson and many other Dodger greats. He took me into the dugout when I was a kid and got me a ball signed by all the 1954 players. I have no idea where that ball is and I’m sure I used it like a regular ball to play with and ruined it 50 years ago.
He loved my mother and they were never apart…
My dad loved Music. He always was singing songs.
He loved Gilbert and Sullivan’s the Pirates of Penzance, HMS Pinafore, and Mikado. … He taught me and all his grandsons Modern Major General amongst other complex ditties he loved to sing. He loved Broadway musicals and took us to see the original Broadway casts. He would buy the original Broadway cast record album for a show when he ordered the tickets and then every night at dinner we would listen until we all knew the songs and would sing them together, Izzy leading. Then we would see the shows and it would be magic. We saw My Fair Lady, Camelot, Music Man, Fiorello, Oliver, Fiddler on the Roof… He took us to see the older shows too at the Westbury Music Fair.. Damn Yankees, Guys and Dolls, Carousel, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun….
He liked Billy Joel too. Especially, Only the Good Die Young…
He loved watching the Mets and the Jets. He loved Joe Namath. He loved Arnold Palmer and was in Arnies Army. Jack Nichlas not so much. He took me to a golf tournament when I was probably 7 or 8 and dragged me around following Arnie. I hated it.
He loved golf, but wasn’t very good at it. Izzy practiced golf
when he was younger and took me to Frank Weber’s driving range on Jericho
Turnpike in Syosset when I was a kid…As he got older he accepted his lack
of skill, stopped practicing, and just played for the joy of the game.
He played with my uncle Irving 4 times a week, walked the course was a member of Lake Worth Golf Club and was a lousy Avid golfer who just played for fun… Go figure....
At the end of every round he would say a variation of “It’s better to finish on this side of the turf, or it’s better to be looking down at the daisies than up at them. He also liked to say when he played golf he had a nice walk…….spoiled
He also used to say “ If I can’t take it with me I’m not going”
He liked licorice and peanuts with raisins… Shanghi Noodles, clams casino, Michelobe beer, watching golf and football. He loved Ford cars, owned Ford stock since 1952 and initially thought the Edsell was a cool car.
He liked to screw around with words and would say “Do you have any flim
for the camera?… He’d say hit that ball down the midlo or the milder, but
he wouldn’t say middle!! He would say when you take a showva use
He liked the words obstreperous and recalcitrant and always used the word beverage instead of drink, just to annoy us kids….
He made up and taught us an Italian song. La Bicha lee laganja,
la menza la lutana, sizalegoo manella , face me la jella… That’s not Italian.
He made up funny phrases. He called me Ron Boy Ron Joy apple head and peanut boy. He made up a song for my sister Beverly when she was dating called“ You’re a nice guy but your not the one” He made up a song for everyone of my sister Beverly’s friends based on scrambling their names to a variety of tunes.
In restaurants he would harmonize with the singers and waiters
at other peoples tables when they sang happy birthday to a stranger, embarrassed
we children would say’” Dad” as we cringed under the table…
He loved to say “This year your mom and I are going to take a trip around the world….Next year we are going someplace else…
He was politically astute, well read, up on current events, read the NY Times from cover to cover everyday, and got an honorary degree from Columbia University based on his life experience. Not bad for a kid from Brooklyn.
My father was always interested in politics. He started out as a Democrat but became a Republican in the Ronald Regan Era. He liked Adali Stevenson over Eisenhower and in 1956 he made the introductory speech endorsing Stevenson at the national convention of the American Veterans’ Committee. Both my sister Linda and I remember as kids our dad practicing his speech in front of a mirror. “Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, it is time for a change” My dad beat Obama by 50 years….
It’s ironic than someone who loved to twist and turn words, and hold forth on so many subjects, was ultimately robbed of his ability to speak.
Rather than dwell on what my father had lost, my sisters and I chose
to focus on what was left of our father and the fact that he was still
alive after having suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage 12 years ago.
Having spoken to our friends and family we now see that others saw
him as a shell of his former vibrant self and a tragic figure. He was hindered,
but he found joy in what was left in his life. He had the strength to fight
to stay alive. I would often question him over the years and ask
if he was happy to be alive. He nodded his head yes, sure. It was hard
to maintain his dignity but he learned to accept his limited capacity and
adapt. He became a lefty. He replaced golf with watching CNN and Fox News.
Speaking of Fox, My mom and dad were friends with Bill Oreilly’s parents,
and Bill told me he painted my parents house when he was in college.
My dad enjoyed good food, he loved visits from his grand and great grand children who made time in their busy lives for him. His intellect was intact and he read the paper everyday. He became a master driver of his motorized chair and until the last few months, rode down the elevator daily and tooled around the parking lot and ventured out to the South Ocean blvd. in earlier years. He participated in family events like bar mitzvahs and weddings and holiday parties. He loved eating in restaurants.
On the subject of death he used to say that “I don’t mind dying as long as everyone goes in the right order.” “ But, we have to play the hand we are dealt.”
As the end was drawing near my dad indicated to us that he was comfortable with what was happening to him. He was not afraid and was in no pain. He knew we would take care of mommy and that she would be safe. He had no regrets, didn’t want us to worry about him, and he loved all of us very much. HE PUT MY SISTERS AND I INTO A STATE OF GRACE…
When he passed away, we were all with him, my mom, my sisters, my aunt Martha and the women who took care of my father and mother all these years. My dad was hooked up to a monitor that showed his heart beat and blood pressure and other vital signs. Even though my dad was unconscious when these wonderful Jamaican woman performed an impromptu gospel concert for him and us, as they sang I could see his heat rate go from 135 to 154. A few minutes later his blood pressure, breathing and heart rate slowly and peacefully went to zero as we all hugged him, my mom holding his hand. This year they would have been married 70 years…
From the bottom of our hearts our family would like to thank the Weinberg family for every moment they have spent, all these years in every way they could helping my mother and father. They included my parents in every holiday party and every event from Thanksgiving, to Passover, to Christmas, to mothers day, to the great superbowl parties they threw. They filled in for us here in Florida more times than we filled in for ourselves. They carried on a tradition from when we were children growing up spending the holidays together on Long Island. They sustained the family link for my parents and sustained them like only family can. Aunt Martha and Uncle Irving your love and support of my parents has always endeared you to our hearts. Richard, Steven, Donald and Larry, your support and love has bound us to you forever. Janie, Keri, Carmen, and Marty you have included the Weissman family as your family and we have always been appreciative and aware of your concern and understanding for us and our parents. Donald, thanks for documenting my parent’s activities, I have saved every photo you have sent me over the years and love you for taking the time. Janie, thank you for all the medical advice, concern, and love. We always knew we could get the straight information from you and we cherished and valued your council. I’m sure you know how much my father loved you all and relished the time he spent with you and your beautiful children. Go Duke!!
Now we need to thank Beverly Ashman and her crew Cynthia, Marlene, and Lorna. Over the last 12 years Beverly has taken care of my parents in everyway possible. My father trusted her, she made him feel safe and he loved her very much. She provided him with friendship and loving care and encouraged him. I’m sure she was a major factor in keeping him alive all these extra years. I know she will miss Izzy every day and he’ll miss her too.
We’d like to thank you all for coming today… My father would have appreciated seeing all of you here…although… he would have liked to see a larger crowd…But when you are 92 , so many of your friends are gone and the ones who are still with us can’t drive anymore…….
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