I know little about the details of my grandfather’s life, which is ironic since he was my only grandparent still alive when I was born.
He was born in a place called Pichenidzya, Galicia, though that may be questionable since I’m unable to find a trace in any printed or online reference of a shtetl under that name or any other spelling. It’s also questionable whether he was born in 1887, since he likely falsified his age on entering the United States and fabricated it on several other occasions when there was a benefit to it. I’ve been unable so far to find his name on a ship’s manifest documenting his arrival in New York.
He was married in New York, probably in 1917, to Mary Feuerstein, though I haven’t yet been able to locate the marriage license. They had four children — three sons and a daughter. My mother is the daughter.
He worked at a variety of odd jobs — shoemaker, postal contract-station operator, and farmer are a few of the more memorable — but never had anything resembling a steady occupation.
It’s hard to get an accurate picture of my grandfather. He seems to have enjoyed having a good time, and did not enjoy the routines of work and providing for a family. My own recollections of him are of a man who enjoyed telling a good joke. Even though he had lived for decades in the U.S. by the time I remember him, his English was not good. That made it difficult for him to communicate with his grandchildren, none of whom spoke Yiddish.
He told his children the secret to his longevity was that he danced every day. And certainly, he avoided until the last two weeks of his life any debilitating illness.
He died in 1978 in Miami.