This entry is for Rabbi Jim Mirel to know a bit of who Mom was
>^^< peace and thank you:
Everyone loves Gerry.
Sure she married Raymond, and the TV show was called “Everyone loves Raymond”, but in our sphere, the sitcom would’ve been called “Everyone Loves Gerry”.
She was born June 19, 1924 to Martin and Lillian Cohen; a Gemini and left-handed. Eight years later, her brother Jay was born. There are stories about when Jay scribbled on the wall, but insisted Mom did it. That difference of opinion lasted generations, and was told at Thanksgiving and Passover for as long as I remember. Mom also loved her “real live doll” she had in Jay, yet she still teased him by telling him he was adopted. That “wee devil with a smile within” stayed with Gerry throughout her life. She was such a lovely and polite little girl, so how could anyone ever tell if she’d done something wrong? Well, the “tell” was when they’d find her standing in the corner.
One way that Everyone Loves Gerry manifested in her youth, was when Molotov’s niece befriended Mom, and when it was time for her to return to Russia, delegates approached Lillian and Martin to ask if they could adopt Gerry as a companion for the niece, in Russia!
Mom was always incredibly smart. As she grew up in Bridgeport, she skipped a grade. Later when the family moved to Hartford, she skipped another grade. In her High School year book, they wrote “Gerry Hit Weaver with a Bang”. Mom was gorgeous. Before she had her gorgeous white hair, she had a deep auburn mane of thick waves. Her baby blues twinkled as if she knew something you didn’t. But, if she got angry, really angry, theyd turn almost white -- time to look out. Mom was quick to laugh and quick to anger. But after the explosion, she would move on, it was the rest of us that still shook a bit.
My Mom went to RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) and lived with her Uncle Bill (the inventor) and Aunt Anna Herman in Providence. She commuted to RISD and took her standard curriculum at Brown. She was the youngest one there because of the grades she skipped, but she was popular as well, because “Everyone Loves Gerry!”. Her cousin Susan was around Jay’s age, and envied her “virtual big sister”, Gerry, and wanted to be like her. Aunt Anna was a great stabilizer in her life. With Lillian and Martin, their lives were an adventure, with Lillian singing on the radio, and Martin changing jobs frequently from theater, to art, to salesman. Some days they lived the high life and others where Mom would be asked to go to neighbors apartment for bread. But Anna gave Gerry security and constancy. Mom excelled at RISD.
After graduation, she worked at a Coat Manufacturer in Manchester CT, called Mardi Modes. They didn’t have an opening, but were so enthralled by her, they hired her to design and model coats. Yes, she was that gorgeous and talented.
She had many people courting her, but she and my Dad found one another, despite their both having been previously engaged. After the war, he saw this gorgeous redhead walking down the street with a friend, and she saw his gorgeous red convertible. He knew her friend and introductions were made. Ray asked her out twice and she refused due to prior engagements. The 3rd time, unknown to Mom, Dad had decided it would be the last time he’d ask her out. But the universe knew they should get together, because that third invite, Mom decided to say yes and break her previous date. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship and love story that lasted 52 years; until my Dad died.
One way Raymond courted her, was to rent an airplane and show off, buzzing her house and tipping the wings at her. Mom phoned the police! Ray took her unexpected places on dates. He didn’t treat her as a “goddess” with kid gloves. Perhaps this was part of the appeal. Well, this and the red convertible.
When Dad asked her to marry him, she said romantically, “Yes, but don't tell anyone”. The deed was done when their license was expiring, and they drove to upstate New York that weekend. On their way driving north, they stopped for a much welcomed Ice Cream Sundae. When they arrived, there was a Greek wedding downstairs. They needed a Minion, so they invited some of them up stairs as witnesses, and later was invited to join the reception below.
Then they went on their Honeymoon. Mom was packed for the Virginia honeymoon they planned, but somehow they ended up going to Canada. That creative whimsy earmarked how they’d have the most fun in their marriage. Infamously, Mom had an adventure where she “skiied uphill” amazing even my father.
Three years later, Jim was born. He was exactly what they hoped for, a baby boy. He was the most perfect baby ever. Sometines she tied him in a harness to a tree to keep an eye on him, that’s just being creative. They lived in an apartment on Loomis street, until three years later, they had a baby girl, Jonni. Jonni? They couldn’t find a name they both agreed on, so when the hospital told them they had to name “baby gillman” to go home, they wrote a list of names down, and the nurse chose Jonni. They called her Joann so they could use the nickname Jonni.
For the next 18 years they lived at 36 Iroquois Road, their first home, in West Hartford. Dad owned a women’s clothing store, Gillman’s, and Mom worked part time there doing most everything. Mom also volunteered to do costuming and scenery for local theater groups. She did the NYTimes double-crostic in ink, and would phone her friend Poppy Richman to discuss the hard ones. Gerry and Ray also gave great parties. In West Hartford they were looked forward to by many.
There was “Christmas in July”, and “Gillman-A-go-go”, and the infamous Luau party that had 2 shifts of guests. Infamous because of the punch. The Gillmans and the Sunkins did this one together. The theme was the luau, and Dad took real cocoanuts and halved them and hollowed them out to use as drinking cups. They decorated the outdoors with lights and lanterns. They purchased a garbage bin for the punch they made. Despite the yummy factor my father decided after another taste that there wasn't enough booze, so he added more. Dave Sunkin walked by and tasted it and decided it didn’t pack the punch it needed, and added more. This continued for a while before “shift one” showed up and the party began. As hosts, they didn’t drink much of it, but they noticed that some guests started to lean against the garage, or house, and ever so slowly would sliiiiiiiiiiiide down to the floor, legs in front of them. And there was the scandal of that one couple who were not married to each other that came out of the house dressed in some of their other half’s clothing. By this time Dave and Ray talked and figured out what happened, and despite the 2nd shift’s anticipation of the wild party antics, they didn’t make the same mistake.
As her kids grew up, she explored graphoanalysis, astrology, sculpture, soapstone carving, oil painting, joined the 100 Books Course, helped publish cookbooks, and played tennis, especially with her sister in law, Joan, who remained her true “sister” and confidante all her life. Later they moved to Farmington Woods, a condo community on a golf course. There she also became an integral part of the community.
Gerry and Ray did more traveling, going to England and Amsterdam, visiting St Martin, and taking a cruise on the Inside Passage of AK, and soon annually rented out a condo for a month or more in winter on Hutchinson Island Florida. They rented out their home to help defray some of the cost. In Florida, Gerry made fast friends that have lasted all her life. Everyone Loves Gerry!
Time passes and her son, Jim got married to Mary, and they had Gregg, who Gerry and Ray adored and babysat often. Ray became “Papa” and Gerry became “Nina” because Gregg, with his arms outstretched towards her was asking for a “banana”, but Gerry thought he was calling her “Nina”. They had fun taking him to Disney World, and Ray loved teaching him to swim in the Farmington Woods pool. Then came Andrew! More babies to “squish” and adore. Unfortunately, Jim’s job had him moving a lot so visits became less frequent.
Jonni ended up relocating to WA from CT for an engineering job at Digital. It took about one and 1/2 years for Gerry and Ray to follow. Gerry and Ray found a home in Redmond and again, were soon the house to hang out at. Gerry and Ray attracted friends of all ages, but mostly younger folk. That made Gerry particularly happy, as she always loved the energy of young and attractive people. One bit of joy, was when they moved here, they connected with Deb and Dave! Debbie was our neighbor, 2 houses down, on Iroquois Road!
In WA, Gerry started a cottage industry where she made ceramic envelopes and would locate and collect special stamps and personalize it for customers. Ray insisted it lost money, but he was always supportive in action, and would do craft shows with her, and help her sell her product to resellers. She signed her art, “GiGi”.
Ray was 8 years her senior. And in 1995 he was diagnosed with melanoma in his calf. Extreme surgery took away most of his calf, and it was hard for him to walk. Ray finally was showing his age. Although Gerry was afraid of the ocean, she almost drowned when she was a little girl, she encouraged Ray and Jonni to buy a boat since the place Jonni rented on Whidbey Island had it’s own dock. That was one of her most fine and selfless moments. She gave Ray “his legs back” and he got his “convertible” again in their boat “The Rainy Day”.
In 1999 Dad died. Mom soldiered on, partly with the help of his organizing things so well for her, but also her lust for living, and her smarts. She still had her friends who stayed in her life and she went places with them. It wasn’t until she had a fall one night that we realized her living in Redmond, while I was on the the Island, wouldn’t work out. We found her a home in Freeland, an adult community, and she moved here. Again, she found fast friends, played bridge (she was a bridge master) and she would go for night drives with her friends to DQ, and she made a home. She also became close with Kim who was also my friend. Gerry had that knack to become friends with both her kids' friends. She had that youthful spirit.
Gerry always wanted a big family. Ray said he already had 3 kids, Jim, Jonni and Gerry! So that was never realized for her. Until Jonni met Gordy. She now had the opportunity to embrace a large family with huge gatherings and many babies to “squish”. And, the extended Coale family kept having new babies for Mom to enjoy. They all invited and welcomed Gerry to every family gathering which made her so happy to have her dream of a large family come true.
Life was good again for a while, until it became evident that something was wrong. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She moved in with Jonni and Gordy for about a year, and later went to a private facility in Oak Harbor. Everyone loves Gerry! But then there were issues and she was “streeted” and then spent many years at Western State Hospital. Despite the environment, the people who worked there spent extra time with Gerry to calm her down, or walk with her, or invite her in their offices. Everyone loves Gerry -- at least those who cared enough to know her.
Finally, overmedicated, and totally unable to speak clearly, she was to be released due to budget issues. That was the turning point. At that time it seemed terrible and frightening, but it turned into a huge blessing. We found Nic and Sable’s “Bright Family Home” in Lynnwood.
At first Mom was still in great pain, and afraid, and needed to sleep in the dining room with the lights on with an aide, but with Nic’s loving ministration, Gerry was soon off most of her medicine, even the narcotics, and she slept the night through in her own room, with the lights off. She would walk and talk and engage with the other residents, and of course, she loved the good looking, young staff. Frankie the cat living there that also made it home. To Mom’s total delight, Nic and Sable had a beautiful little girl, Saron, who visited and was yet another baby to “squish” in this new family.
She loved when any of their kids, Jonathan, or Able or Saron (and soon there was a new baby girl, Amen) visited. She adored Sable’s style and beauty. And later she had the loving Howie (Hewett) as caregiver and friend. She had a new home, and yes, Everyone Loved Gerry. And her special guy was Nic! Everytime he entered the room, she’d light up. I must say it’s a toss-up as to who she lit up more for, Nic or Gordy.
Throughout this difficult journey, Gerry and I both were lucky that I had such a loving partner to help care for Mom, help drive me the long distance when she was at Western State, and who Mom grew to love and delight seeing each visit. Gordy was my “sanity check”, and she was Mom’s very special guy who knew just how to tease her and make her smile. Gordy’s constancy was probably a godsend in her ever-changing world of alzheimer’s. Gerry always did gravitate towards the good-looking men.
Despite her aphasia; the inability to speak coherently, the twinkle in her eyes never left her, and it spoke volumes, as did her smile. She also kept trying to read, even the titles on the TV. After one particularly scary hospital stay, I recall Nic telling me he was happy when she was “loud” and resistant again, as it showed her spirit was growing strong again. She found unconditional love at Bright Family Home.
On Sunday, September 2, Gerry had breakfast in the morning. I’m not sure, but I think she probably had the TV series “Peyton Place” playing on DVD. When Howie came in to feed her lunch, Gerry was unresponsive. She called Nic and they called 911. The EMTs came but it was too late.
There is a light that has gone out. There is a hole in the planet. But there are the memories she made and the life she lived and the lives she touched. I hope there is a reunion happening where she’s with her many family and friends that have passed, that’s how I like to envision her. And if there is another plane she’s gone to, I’m sure she’s making new friends still, with the twinkle of her baby blues, her sense of humor, her beauty, her wit, and her whimsy, because Everyone Loves Gerry. And so do I.
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