Schiller Family History

Schiller Family History and 2020 Reunion

Morris

Table of Contents (click on the TOC line below to go to the desired section ... or scroll through the whole site)

Introduction

The Schiller Family Reunion and History represents all descendants of Simon Szydlo and Rachel Leah Posner.  Simon first came to the US in 1903 and subsequently brought his family to join him over the next two years.   The story of this family can be summed up in the words of one descendant, also named Simon Schiller, adored grandson of this couple. Now in his eighties and living part-time in Hingham MA and part-time in Florida, he recently proclaimed, ”Look how far this family has come!

Simon and Rachel's children are Morris, Mary, Abe, Bessie, Hy, and Ike.  This reunion and history includes descendants of all six branches.

In addition to this history we have available an ancestry.com Schiller Family Reunion Tree, which includes all 190 family members and a side tree including some of the Posners.  For access to this tree, contact John Schiller at pghdad@mac.com  We also have a separate photo gallery that can be found  by clicking the following button.

Note from John Schiller:  The assembly of the family tree and all this history began with work done by my mother, Alice Schiller, in the 1970's.  I continued that work for years, and eventually turned it over to my son, Zak.  Zak discovered Ancestry.Com, and expanded and deepened the work to include a tree with over 9000 people across many inter-related families.  That tree includes nearly 2000 individual pictures and more than 33,000 supporting records.  From there he created the subset tree of the Schillers - ie, the Schiller Family Reunion Tree. And with the help and encouragement of my cousin, Henrietta Davis, we also created this website containing stories from many of you that are helping to bring to life our family history.  We hope this document will continue to be expanded as more family members provide stories and memories.  Please send your stories to me at: pghdad@mac.com

Note from Henrietta Davis: This project began for me when my son Daniel Bock told me he was taking his daughters Ada and Hazel to Ellis Island and he wanted to know how to search for their relatives—including the Schiller family. I realized then how little I knew. Dan began searching on the Internet, offering me tidbits of what he learned and that soon ignited my curiosity. Then I remembered that John’s father Byron had done a family history and then, cleaning out a random box of old stored papers, to my surprise I found tucked away , the history that Edith Kelman Jeffrey, Rachel Leah’s great niece, had written for her mother Malkah in the 1980s( at the bottom of this page). Miraculously I found Edie’s phone number on the Internet, called her and I was able to ask her so many questions and include her in this project. Once I found John and we called Millie Lan and Simon Schiller and others, we heard so many colorful stories, we knew we had to share them.

What John and I first thought of as just filling out the family tree, has turned into a collection of wry and heartwarming accounts of Schiller family joys and tragedies and a family memoir so appropriate for these times. Our ancestors were immigrants who left turmoil and repression in Eastern Europe — and just in time to avoid the worst. Simon and Rachel Leah sought hope in America, put down roots, planted seeds and soon our family members became upstanding and in many cases outstanding members of American society. We were so fortunate!


Some Fun Facts

o  Simon and Rachel had 6 Gen1 children - Morris was born in 1890, Ike was born in 1907 - 17 years apart 
o  Those 6 children had 16 Gen2 children - the first cousins, including my father. Sara (daughter of Morris) was the first - born in 1913. Nancy Schiller Schlesinger (daughter of Ike) was born in 1946 - 33 years apart
o  Those 16 children had 32 Gen3 children - including Henrietta and me
o  Those 32 children had 45 Gen4 children - including my kids
o  And those 45 children had 22 Gen5 children - so far. These are my grandchildren.
o  The latest descendant to be born - as far as I know - is Asher Melaved - just a few weeks ago - great-great-grandson of Morris Schiller (see his tree below and follow the line: Morris-Mildred-Richard-Marisa-Asher)

o  The total number of members of the Rachel and Simon Schiller Family is 190, including Rachel and Simon.
o  There are a total of 113 blood direct descendants of Rachel and Simon
o There are an additional 8 children who are descendants of married -in spouses - ie, step-children and their children.
o There are 67 married-in spouses, including 6 second spouses. I know this number is slightly low.

o  Only descendants of Morris and Mary have 5th generation members
o  The Mary descendants are the most prolific

You can see a summary chart of the descendants of Rachel and Simon Schiller immediately below.

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Reunion Plans - Deferred

UPDATED March 11, 2020

Our reunion was scheduled to be held in Cambridge, Massachusetts, from Friday April 10 until Sunday April 12.   Due to the wide spread of Coronavirus in the US - as of now - March 11 - we have officially postponed our face to face reunion - for  a time to be determined.

A Little Bit of History - Simon Schiller and Ruchl Posner

  • Ruchl Schiller

Simon Schiller and Ruchl Posner were born the same year, 1871, in Poland and were married at the age of 17 in 1888. Simon was one of a number of children – possibly 10 and 3 or 4 of his siblings ultimately came to the U.S. Rachel was a twin, though the other twin died at birth. She had at least one older sister, Esther Chaya, who died about 1925 in Poland. Four or 5 of Esther Chaya Kirschbaum’s children came to the U.S.

These two families- the Schillers and the Posners – were mischpucha- the Yiddish word meaning family, as in extended family. They were so close that another Posner, Esther’s daughter Fannie, married another Schiller, Simon’s brother Max. You would always see Fannie at Rachel Leah’s house or with Mary or Bessie.

In 1902, at the age of 32, Simon came to the U.S. At the time he was listed on immigration forms as a “trader.” By the 1920’s he’d traded his way into owning many bakeries – some in Brookline and in Boston. Supporting the mischpucha, he hired many family members including his daughter Mary and son-in-law Harry. He also witnessed Esther Chai’s daughter Malkah naturalization, in another sign that he took responsibility for the extended family.

Rachel came to the U.S. three years after Simon with five children two of whom Morris and Mary went back to Europe temporarily. (More on this below.) While Simon “traded,” Rachel Leah presided over the family at home, hosting innumerable family gatherings including weekly visits with her sons after they married. After Simon died in 1931 at the age of 60, Rachel Leah lived at 12 Abbot Street in Dorchester in a 7-room apartment in a 6-unit building, a kind of grand side-by-side building built at the turn of the century. It had high steps and wide front porch and was walking distance to Franklin Field where the nearby Jewish men and women strolled and socialized. Rachel died in 1947, 16 years after Simon.


What did we learn from ancestry documents?

Simon Szydlo came to North America on 31 March 1902, on the ship Lake Superior, arriving in St. John's, New Brunswick Canada.  The passenger manifest says he is from Plock. Plock is a polish town about 60 miles WNW of Warsaw. Plock is also a Gubernia, which was a Russia administrative subdivison, sort of like a state. Usually, there is an outgoing manifest from the departure city and an incoming list from the arrival city. We've only been able to find the arrival manifest (St. Johns). Through a great website for European Jewish Ancestry research called JewishGen.org. we've found a couple of records for Simon and Rachel Schiller. If you search for Symcha Szydlo, you'll find an index record indicating that he married Ruchl Pozner in Ciechanow, Poland (20 miles from Plock) in 1888. You'll also find another index record indicating that he was born June 7, 1870 in Plonsk, Poland (Plonsk is a different town than Plock, they're close though 29 miles). You'll also see that his parents are listed as Berek Szydlo (age 27, b. 1844 in Kosimeny - don't know where that is) and Basia Miller (age 23).  Additional searching through this site and enabled us to extend the Schiller/Szydlo tree beyond Berek and Basia, to their parents. Berek's father was Iciek Szydlo (b. 1801) and mother was Peysa. Basia's father was Mosiek and mother was Ruchla. Berek and Basia were married August 16, 1865 in Plonsk. He was 21 and she was 19.

Below is the ship manifest, on arrival in Canada.  Simon is listed on line 12.  A few days later - April 3 - Simon enters the USA.  In 1905, Simon's wife, Rachel, and their 5 children born in Poland, reached New York.  Rachel and three of the children entered the USA.  Morris and Mary went back to Europe.  More later.  In the meantime, welcome to America!

Lake Superio Manifest

Chronology of the Schillers coming to America, based on available documentation.

1902

o March 18 – Simon Schiller departs Liverpool, England on the S.S. Lake Superior
o March 30 – The S.S. Lake Superior arrives in St. John, New Brunswick and becomes stuck on a reef in harbor
o March 31 - Simon Schiller disembarks in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada.  Lists previous residence as Plock, Poland.  Relative listed as uncle (unknown name) at 315 Harrison Ave.  In possession of $5.  Simon is listed as a tailor
o April 3 - Enters the USA and travels to Boston from Canada via the railroad

1905

o July 21 – Rachel (Rochel), Morris (Moische), Mary (Malke), Abe (Abram), Pesse (Bessie), and Chaim (Hyman) departs Hamburg, Germany on the S.S. Bulgaria in steerage
o August 5 - Rachel (Rochel), Morris (Moische/Masche), Mary (Malke), Abe (Abram), Bessie (Pesse), and Hyman (Chaim) arrive in New York City, New York, USA.   Lists previous residence as Ciechanow, Poland.  Relative listed as husband/father Simche Shidloff at 29 Salem St., Boston, MA.  In possession of $45.  Morris is listed as a shoemaker.  Mary (Malke) is listed “in hospital”.  Record for Aliens Held indicate family was deferred on August 5
o August 9 – Rehearing for admittance
o August 20 – Rest of family is admitted
o August 25 – Morris/Mary leave on the S.S. Batavia

1906

o March 6 – Morris departs Liverpool, England on the S.S. Ivernia o March 16 – Morris arrives in Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  Lists previous residence as London (3 months).  Relative listed as father Simon Shidloff at 29 Salem St., Boston, MA.  Morris is listed as a machinist.  In possession of $7

1907

o July 15 - Mary Levy crosses from Canada to US through Niagara Falls, New York, USA.  Lists “see Malka Schidloff” card

1908

o June 19 - Simon Schiller files petition for naturalization through the USDC Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  Lists place of foreign residence as Poland, Russia.  Emigrated from Liverpool, England and arrived in St. John, New Brunswick and then to Boston, Massachusetts via railroad.  Entered under the name Symche Szydlo on April 3, 1902.  Listed occupation as a clerk.   Current residence was 43 Rose St., Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  Lists all children on naturalization form

1909

o June 21 – Simon Schiller is naturalized through the USDC Boston, Massachusetts, USA

1943

o January 18 - Mary Levy (nee Schiller) files petition for naturalization through the USDC Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  Lists place of foreign residence as Ciechanow, Poland.  Emigrated from Liverpool, England.  Entered under the name Molly Schidloff on July 1907

Evolution of the name "Schiller"

In all the Polish records its Szydlo. Simon's passenger list used Shidlo. Schidloff was used for a lot of the early records including the passenger lists (Hamburg and NYC) for Rachel and her children when they came in 1905, Simon's naturalization forms (1908), the 1910 census, Morris' marriage record (1912), Mary's marriage record (1913), and the Boston city directory until 1914. After 1915, they were listed as Schiller in the Boston directory, Abraham's marriage record (1915), the 1920 census, Bessie's marriage record (1928). Simon's grave from 1931 is listed as Shiller (though I think that is a typo on the website). Shidlow was also used somewhere in there, but we cannot find the particular record. Also, the names of the family members were anglicized based on their listings on their passenger lists and Polish records:

Symcha = Simon

Rochel = Ruchl, Rachel, or sometimes Rose. 

Moische/Masche/Moszek Lejb = Morris

Malke = Mary

Abram/Abram Izrajel = Abraham - nicknamed Abe

Pesse = Bessie

Chaim = Hyman - nicknamed Hy

Isaac (MA birth record and 1910 census) = Irving - nicknamed Ike

Family Branches

The following are the 6 branches of the Simon Szydlo family, and notes that we've gathered from different family members.

Morris Schiller 1890-1966

Morris
Morris Schiller 1 copy

Morris was born on 15 July, 1890 in Ciechanow Poland - the oldest of the Schiller siblings. He came to the US on the ship Bulgaria, from Hamburg Germany to New York, initially on 5 August, 1905 with his mother, Rachel, his 4 siblings - Mary, Abe, Bessie and Hy. I say initially, because he was sent back to Europe with his sister, Mary, by his father, Simon, because Mary's entrance in the US was refused at this time due to an eye disease. Morris later re-entered the US, having sailed back to the US on the ship Ivernia, arriving in Boston from Liverpool England on March 16, 1906.

Morris married Rose Krinsky on 30 May, 1911.  They had three children - Sara (1913), Mildred (1915) and Byron (1920).  


Story and some memories.

The first of these memories by John Schiller, with some help from cousin Richard Shuman. 

Morris was my grandfather. As I recall, he was a gentle man. He died when I was 15 – seems like a long time ago, so my memories are somewhat limited – mostly around Sunday and holidays together. My grandfather never talked about the old country or about life growing up in the US – and I never asked. Grandpa came to this country with his mother and 4 siblings, first in 1905. As family lore has it, his sister, Mary had an eye disease (likely trachoma) so the powers that be at Ellis Island denied her entrance into the US. Simon, Morris’ father, then sent Morris and Mary back to England (not sure to be with whom). The story gets a little bit soft here – as Barbara Schiller Schmertzler recalled that Simon then bought tickets for Morris and Mary to go to Canada where Simon met them and ushered them through Niagra Falls back into he US. Other data suggests that Morris returned to the US in 1906, while Mary didn’t come back until 1907. There’s more about this story in the Mary Schiller section.

Grandpa was a vest maker – in fact I still have two vests he made for me. He also had a business partnership with Jacob Brown. Through internet research, I've discovered that during the early 1920's Morris was on the board of the Boston - Beacon Hill Credit Union, where he was also the treasurer. There is a story that I have heard that Morris owned a number of properties on Beacon Hill during this time and that he lost them during the Depression. I also learned that Morris and Rose were early members - and possibly trustees - of the Vilna Shul on Beacon Hill. Their names are carved into the marble walls of the shul. A word about my grandmother, Rose. She was big woman – it seemed to me towering over Grandpa. She made the best apple pies – period. And for those of us that are participating in the Seder/Family Reunion, you will enjoy her gefilte fish recipe, made by her grandson, Richard Shuman, using the bowl in which she made her fish.

I have early memories of visiting my grandparents at Nantasket during the summers. I've learned that other siblings of Morris lived in the Nantasket area too. Most of my memories of my grandparents were of visiting them at their apartment on Kilsyth Road in Brighton, where they lived. My father would drive us there, it seems like every Sunday, where we’d either visit there, or bring them to our house or to my cousins, the Shumans, where we’d spend the afternoon. It’s funny the things you remember and associate with someone. When we spent our Sunday afternoons at Grandpa and Grandma’s house, Grandpa would always be sitting in his green velvet chair. It was soft and had strings – like tzitzis from a tallis – hanging all around bottom of the chair. That chair now lives in Richard Shuman’s house – in memory of Grandpa. Morris died in 1966 at age 76 while Rose lived until her 98th year. Hope I have her genes.

I mentioned earlier that my strongest memories of my grandfather included the holidays. My mother always hosted the holiday events and dinners at our house. These dinners would always include my grandparents, and cousins from both sides of our family and some lucky non-family guests – sometimes more than 20 at our dinner table. Like so many other family gatherings – there would be a cacophony of conversations as we sat around the dinner table and tried to get a word into the discussion. One of the strongest memories of these events was, first, my grandfather leading the Seder with his heavy yarmulke, and then after he died, my dad with that yarmulke would lead the Seder. I now have that yarmulke.


Sara Schiller

My aunt, Dr. Sara Schiller was an accomplished researcher in Bio-Chemistry, graduating from Simmons College, and then getting her Masters and PhD from Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, OH. The early part of her career was spent in Chicago, doing research at La Rabida Hospital, as part of the University of Illinois, working under Dr. Alfred Dorfman. She later moved to NYC and became a full professor at New York Medical College. While I have a vague memory of visiting Aunt Sara in Chicago, I recall many car trips to NYC where she lived on the Upper East Side – and we’d stay at her apartment. Aunt Sara never married. When she retired, she moved back to the Boston area - where she lived in Belmont, and volunteered at the Belmont Public Library until her death in 2003 at age 90.


Byron Schiller

My father, Byron Schiller, along with his sisters Mildred and Sara, grew up in Dorchester - in the same neighborhood and the same time as Barbara Walters, Leonard Nimoy and Leonard Bernstein. He attended Boston Latin School where he met my Uncle Bert, whose sister, Alice Kaufman, became my mother. He used to tell me he’d walk miles and miles to school in the snow, after delivering his morning newspapers. Never did know if that was true – or just a story that so many of us heard from our parents who grew up during that era. My parents were high school sweethearts who met through my father’s schoolmate – and subsequently my Uncle Bert Kaufman. I am told that during the 1930’s, my father used to chauffeur my mother's father, when he became too debilitated with ALS. While Byron was a freshman at Massachusetts State College in 1940, he subsequently attended the University of Illinois in Ceramic Engineering, in the class of 1943. My father served in the Army Airforce as a Captain during WW II, where he was stationed in the UK, running a maintenance team for bombers. His nickname was “Moldy” – not sure why, but it must have been a good story. He enlisted on 2 Sept, 1942. He returned from WW II to marry my mother in 1945 and finish school in Illinois.  Apparently, Dad was a pretty good poker player because, I am told, he won the money for my mother's wedding ring in a poker game!

Dad joined with my mother's family in running the family business - the Boston Stove Foundry Company, located in Reading, MA - where he was the primary engineer and designer of the company’s stoves. Boston Stove seemed like the center of our lives – intrinsic to our family history. My grandmother, cousin, and uncle – all on my mother’s side of the family - and my father all worked there in one capacity or the other.  Just as a sidebar - my grandmother became the first woman president of a manufacturing plant in the US, taking over when my grandfather died of ALS.  The decision to do that has sustained and supported our family even to today.  Growing up, my brother, Allen, and I, along with all our cousins, had various jobs there – from filing to answering the phones, to driving tow motors, to working on the fabrication lines. Boston Stove was closed down in 1984, ending one chapter in our lives and beginning another. My father mostly retired – with my parents spending half time in Florida in a golf community in Boynton Beach, enjoying time with friends and cousins – especially Bea Davis and Billy Schiller. Mom died early, in her 70’s and Dad passed away a number of years later, at age 80.

Dad and Mom had two children - Allen (1948) and John (1951) - ie, me. We grew up in Belmont and both of us went to Browne and Nichols School in Cambridge MA for high school. As children, we also went to Camp Monomoy on Cape Cod – where we know that other Schiller family members also went to camp. As I look back at our time growing up in the suburbs of Boston in the 50’s and 60’s, life seemed indeed like life on Ozzie and Harriet – or Leave it to Beaver. Mom was the center of our daily household – and Dad went off to work each day at the factory. Sadly now – in retrospect - not many stories of the family history were shared.

My brother, Allen Schiller graduated from Bucknell University, spent time in the family business but eventually joined the yacht brokerage business, where he actively continues today, traveling the world for his clients. He married (1982) Barbara Melluzzo, a now retired school teacher, where they live in Marblehead MA, and raised one son, Jeffrey Schiller (1984). Jeff, a Wake Forest graduate, and a commercial director at Gartner, married (2011) Lauren Grove, a senior business analyst at Takeda Pharmaceuticals. They live in Winchester, MA and have two children - Claire (2015) and Drew (2018).

John Schiller (that’s me!) graduated from University of Pennsylvania and then Carnegie Mellon's Business School, after which I worked in the IT field for nearly 40 years. I started out in the early 70's with a number of software start-ups in Pittsburgh, PA, just as software, as a separate business was being formulated.  The last of company I joined was IBM - which led him to a 25 year career, where I eventually retired as a former director in 2013. Today Denise and I still live in Pittsburgh, but travel worldwide and in the US (especially back and forth to Boston and Cape Cod), with camera in hand – feeding my passion for photography. I married (1981) Denise, a former technical writer, and now a varied artist and a creative non-fiction writer, and we raised three children – Zachary (1985), Jessica (1988) and Jacob (1990) – all three of whom went to Tufts!  Zak, a research analyst at Mass Biologics in Hyde Park, MA, married (2015) Edith Butterworth, a structural engineer at HNTB in Boston, and have two girls, Eve (2016) and Rose (2018). They live in Arlington, MA. Jessica, a director at Wellframe, a digital healthcare management company in Boston, married (2017) Dave Bader, a software developer at Iora Health, a healthcare provider, and have one daughter, Frances (2019). They live in Medford, MA. Jacob married (2019) Diana Goodman, an occupational therapist, lives in Pittsburgh and is currently studying for his PhD in Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh.

In preparation for this family history, I found a wedding album from my parents' wedding.  Those pictures are shared in our family gallery.  One such picture includes a wonderful photo the family matriarch - Rachel Leah Posner.  

Byron and Alice's Wedding - (r-l)  Billy Ike, Ruchl, Morris, Abe, Rose, Bike, Sisi

Identifying this picture generated a series of memories from Edith Jeffrey and Millie Lan in email exchanges from March 13-16, 2020: 

Edith recalls: My only memory of Rachel Leah is when she was ill, lying in bed in the house on Abbot street. My parents referred to her as “the meema”— meaning, I think, my mother’s aunt.

Millie Lan: (not Mildred Schiller Shuman) A gorgeous picture. I remember my grandmother went to the Beauty Parlor that day and had her hair done, they put in a blue rinse.

Just realized I was at this wedding, 1946!  [John's note: actually it was 1945 - December 22, to be exact!]

Edith Jeffrey: Rachel looks wonderful, a little like Fanny, I think.


Mildred Schiller Shuman

The Following memories written by Richard Shuman

Mildred (nee Schidloff) Schiller was born in the Beacon Hill section of Boston on April 22, 1915, living at 99 Myrtle Street. Millie grew up with her older sister Sara and younger brother Byron and attended both elementary and high school in Boston. As was often the case during the 1920’s and 1930’s the family moved several times, which was somewhat dependent on the changing economic climate. In the latter part of the 1920’s the family moved from Beacon Hill to an apartment at 510 Washington Street in Dorchester (now the home of the Dorchester Court House).

After high school Millie worked at a number of health care offices, including the Faulkner Hospital in Jamaica Plain. She loved to travel around New England and New York on both weekends and vacations with a small group of companions who became the source of many lifelong friends. She met her future husband, Nathan (Nat) Shuman through their mutual friends, Winnie and Sam Sharff. But soon after meeting WWII would intrude into their lives as Nat enlisted for duty in the Army Air Corps, stationed at Drew Field, in Tampa, Florida. After slightly less than 2 years and the wars conclusion, he left the Medic Corp as a sergeant first class and returned to Boston and his future bride. Nat and Millie married on December 26, 1946. But where to live? With so many veterans returning from the war and new families being formed, apartments were at a premium. Fortunately Grace Kaufman (Byron’s mother-in-law) knew the owner of an apartment complex on Sidlaw Road in Brighton. There was, though, one condition – NO CHILDREN. Throwing caution to the wind, Mildred gave birth to Richard in 1948 and Debra in 1953. On the birth of Debra, Grandma Rose proclaimed that Nat “was now a family man!”

They continued to live in Brighton until October, 1955 when they purchased their first home in Waltham, for a $5.00 down payment (but that’s another story)! Millie was primarily chief cook, bottle washer, landscaper, and mother to her children, while Nat is remember as both an entrepreneur and a raconteur – first owning several gas stations in the Dorchester section of Boston with his father Harry, then starting a vending machine business, and finally acquiring a tavern (The Hitching Post) in the Mission Hill area of Boston. They traveled to Europe several times both before and after retiring. They also loved staying at many of the large resorts in what was then known as the Borscht Belt, particularly the Nevele in Ellenville, New York.

After raising their children and seeing them successfully leave the nest they retired to Boca Raton, Florida in the 1980’s. Florida was not Millie’s first choice, as she was moving away from her life-long home in Boston. But over their many wonderful years in Florida she grew to love the warm climate, reconnecting with old friends and making many new acquaintances. Nat sadly passed away in 1994 from thyroid cancer at the age of 77. Millie remained in Florida until 2004, when she decided to move back to her children and her beloved Boston. She died later that same year at the age of 90 – a life well lived.

Mary Schiller 1894-1950

GrMaMary
Mary copy

By Henrietta J. Davis, the oldest daughter of Beatrice Levy Davis

1905: Arriving in New York but Then Turned Away…

Mary was the second of the six children of Simon Schiller and Rachel Leah Posner Schiller. The first of two daughters, Mary was born in 1894 in Poland and lived the first 11 years of her life there. Simon left Poland in 1902 when Mary was 8 and somehow he secured passage and permission for his family to join him in the US in 1905. My great grandmother Rachel Leah left behind her sister with whom she was close—Esther Chaya- and brought five Schiller children with her from England through Liverpool to New York on the S.S. Bulgaria where they sailed in steerage. Morris was the oldest at 15. At 11 years old, Mary was the second oldest. As official documents show, the family was held up for two weeks in some kind of quarantine when they arrived in August in New York. Mary was suspected of having a virulent eye disease called trachoma that had been a problem in Europe, particularly Italy. After two weeks, the Bubbe- Rachel Leah, with 10-year -old Abe, 6-year-old Bessie and 4 -year -old Hy were allowed to enter the country. They may have lived then on Salem St. in the North End of Boston (Irving/Ike was yet to be born.) Morris, the (presumably) dutiful and responsible older brother at the grand age of 15, accompanied Mary back across the Atlantic to England.

That must have been a sad day for the family. It’s always been a mystery what happened to these youngsters after Mary was rejected for entry. We know that they went to England. I now know that we had relatives there with whom they may have sheltered. How did they contact them? What did they do there?. We know (through DNA testing!) that Simon’s uncle and aunt with a surname of Meller lived there. Just recently we have been contacted by Harvey Meller, a relative who now lives in the Edgware district of London, not far from Golders Green where many Jews settled. He is a descendant of the Mellers. I’d like to meet him.

(Sidebar about Auntie Fannie Kirschbaum Schiller) Mary’s permission to enter the country, revoked because of the suspected eye disease, did not go to waste. Rachel’s sister Esther’s daughter, and my great grandmother’s niece -Fannie Kirschbaum- was able to use Mary’s papers-who knows how?—and she entered the country. There she met Simon’s younger brother Max and married him! Fannie, already Rachel’s niece, was now also her sister-in-law. Fannie lived to be over 100 and was a presence in the family. and I remember her well, the tiny white haired very older woman, with tightly curled wh hair. She often sat quietly at family occasions. She was widowed young, when Max died. There are many stories about her and also about her sister Miriam. Miriam told those stories to her daughter Edith Kelman Jeffrey.(see her notes in the website.) It’s interesting to note that Fannie had a diagnosis of fatal heart disease. She also had many miscarriages and was not expected to live long. In the 1930s she went back to Europe for treatment. I guess her treatment was a success because as far as I know she lived longer than any other family member, living past one hundred years.)

My Illegal Grandmother

Mary Here’s one of our best family stories:. A year after Mary’s rejection at Ellis Island-in 1905- Morris came back but Mary did not arrive in this country for another year. The story goes that she snuck in, walking through the porous Canadian border at Niagara Falls. And there is drama here—it is said that people brought her clothes to look American! She seems to have entered as an “illegal alien,” as some people now describe such unfortunate, but brave people today! Mary was not naturalized for decades, though her mother andsiblings were automatically naturalized with their father Simon.

1920’s Mary Marries Harry and Moves to Coney Island

The next time we pick up Mary’s story in the 1920’s and 1930’s she has married my grandfather Harry Julius Levy whose family lived in Coney Island. I suspect the families knew each other from the old country- in Checkenova, Poland- but have not yet been able to confirm this. Mary moved to live in Coney Island to be with Harry and the Levy family. Mary’s 5 years younger sister Bessie, with whom she was very close, was very sad. Bessie traveled from Dorchester to Coney Island frequently to see Mary and help her as Mary’s children were being born. First there was Saul, then Moe and finally my mother Beatrice. Sometime when the children were young, Harry fell ill with Multiple Sclerosis.

Moving to Dorchester Because of Illness

When the illness got bad, Mary and the rest of the family needed help and came to live in Dorchester, MA on Abbott Street, Dorchester with Rachel Leah and (eventually) Bessie’s family. Together, they rented a 7-room apartment in a 6- unit side by side duplex (It looked like the house I live in now, but had a very large set of stairs to climb to enter.). When they first came, Simon got Harry a job in one of his bakeries, maybe in Brookline and for a while he was able to work. Unfortunately that phase did not last long and Mary had to go to work to support the family. Great grandfather Simon died at age 60 in 1931. Harry was at home and ill and brother Morris became the patriarch of the family, a role that can be readily seen in the old family photos. Mary worked for her brother Morris, who was a vestmaker and also a property owner. (Morris visited with the Abbot Street relatives weekly I hear, was very generous and was treated royally by his mother Rachel Leah.)

Mary’s Burden

Imagine what life was like for Mary, Harry, and their children as they lived with relatives and leaned on them for moral support during Harry’s illness! The family shared an apartment with the Bubbe and as noted,at times with Bessie’s family. He became a bed-ridden invalid when my mother was in elementary school, later spending years in at the Jewish Memorial Hospital. Harry died in 1940, about ten years after they moved back to Dorchester from Coney Island. I don’t know much about him, though my mother said he wrote poetry! Many people have described my grandmother’s life as being very difficult. First she worked and tried to care for Harry at home, but that got to be too much. She had to put him in nursing home care and then spent hours commuting by public transportation to see him, as well as working. Beatrice, my mother especially criticized her grandmother – the Bubbe-- as being cold to her daughter Mary who worked so hard. My mother often said that she felt Rachel Leah only cared about her sons and grandsons and she herself, Beatrice, felt demeaned, being called “the girl,” in Yiddish. An alternate version of this story, supplied by Millie is that the Bubbe was criticizing my mother, who the Bubbe felt did not helped out enough. That sounds like it could have happened. Think of other young girls you know, maybe not yet ready or willing to help out when they are young. Could this have been my mother?

Mary’s Health

Harry died in 1940, at the beginning of the war years, about the time Saul and Moe went off to serve their country. Though Harry’s illness would have been enough for the family to cope with Mary herself had poor health. I knew she died at 56 of a heart attack in 1950, about 10 years after Harry, but I just learned from Millie Lan that she had had many heart attacks, but always came back well from the hospital. With her final heart attack she was in the hospital, and expected to survive but unexpectedly did not make it. Learning of her death was traumatic for her dear sister Bessie who was inconsolable when she heard, crying for days.

Mary’s Legacy

Living On Mary lives on in the names of many Schiller decendants. My sister Mary, cousin Mara Levy Kahn, Myra Schiller. As for Harry, a few of us are named for him including me. With initials H and J- for Henrietta Jane. Mary is also dearly remembered for her sweet temperament, called by Mille the Yiddish word, Tenta. Everything I’ve ever heard about her is sweet. My mother missed her greatly.

My Personal Remembrance

I was assigned to write about Simon and Rachel’s oldest daughter Mary. Maya Angelou has said people tend to remember others by how they made you feel. And such is the case for me, when remembering my grandmother, Mary Schiller Levy. Mary died in 1950 when I was only 5 ½, and my mother Beatrice was pregnant with my sister (now named Mary Davis). My brother Michael had just turned three. I have no clear memories of her. Instead I remember Grandma Mary as a warm and loving presence and tend to think I spent hours with my arms around her legs for protection when I was little.

I just learned from cousin Millie Lan that in addition to being warm, Mary was funny. I never knew that but Millie said that when sent off to bed in the chilly apartment on Abbott Street, Dorchester, Mary would dress up in her coat and scarf and say to everyone, “I’m off to Alaska!” She was only going to the cold bedroom in the back of the house! She was very short-no female in the family seemed ever to be over 5 feet- and from pictures I saw she had a pretty jazzy coat.


Beatrice Levy Davis

My mother was a very complicated person, especially for her own children. She was a funny, gregarious and talented woman who was rarely sweet and often quite the opposite. Frequently the center of attention, she enjoyed being the wryest and most sharp and sarcastic person in the room. Her grandchildren loved that about her and though she could be terribly harsh with them. To this day she is a mythic character in our family — presenting Grandma Bea.

In her own words...Beatrice Levy's Auto-Biography:

PARDON ME!

B.H.C.LEVY © 1938 age 17

On Monday, February fourteenth of nineteen hundred twenty-one, Coney Island, New York received one of its largest snow storms of that winter. During this heavy snowfall the Levy household received a stormy little Valentine and called it Beatrice, after the tiny bundle’s great-grandmother.

So there I lay on a bed on the second floor of 2851 West 24th Street, bawling my head off and Ma and Pop beaming proudly at their third offspring, their first daughter and only daughter, and their youngest child. In another part of the house, two little boys, one not quite five and the other, six, sat meditating about the rumpus.

As most infants have a habit of doing, I followed the custom and grew. According to Ma I was the worst and wildest child she had and would rather have had ten boys than one girl.

One day Ma was busy giving the boys lunch and she had put me in the high-chair. It was a cross between a high-chair and a rocking chair. This contraption was usually in the rocking chair form to satisfy my continuous crave for action. At this particular time I was seated in it in the high-chair form, banging away at the tray with a huge spoon and howling grandly to my heart’s content. But this was not enough; I wanted to rock; so I shook vigorously, this way, that way, this way and bang!

The boys continued eating their lunch, nothing would disturb them, but Ma came running and picked up the pieces. I had broken my beautiful chair but what was worse, Baby had knocked out her two teeth, right in front and probably will never get them back. Ma cried over those poor little teeth while she wiped and soothed my bleeding mouth. When Pop got home that night, the dear, old boy was most unhappy to think his baby girl would go toothless for life. Oh my, such thoughts, ho hummm-m-m.

A few weeks after this horrible incident, at the tender age of eight months, I started walking or should I say falling with walking to change the monotony. I fell over everything that would not get out of her highness’s way. Naturally, this included falling up stairs and falling down stairs, banging into doors simply because I did not want to open them. No, I just shut my eyes and just smacked right into it; if it opened, all good and well; if it didn’t, well then I just let out a lusty wail and Ma opened it for her highness.

As has been disclosed, I was quite a barbarian and of course, to keep up appearances, I did not start to say anything that could apply to any language known until about a year after I got on my feet and decided that perhaps it would be better to call “Ma” instead of howling and getting delayed service.

About this time somehow or other her highness contracted double pneumonia; but that was too tame for me so I got myself a good crop of measles on top of that. Dear Dr. Camp, who died about five years ago, pulled me through by putting me on cakes of ice, thereby freezing the measles and curing the pneumonia. This lasted about two months. Following this I developed a beautiful case of whooping cough that kept me going for three months and isolating me from the whole neighborhood because of its severity.

Having sold the house we lived in, we moved next door to the two family house where my cousin lived. Being a very friendly little youngster, I thought that perhaps dear, cousin Charlotte would not mind if I played with her toys. I would let her play with mine; that is, all but my broom. Well, Charlotte scratched and Beatrice kicked and I believe it was as good as anything you would have seen in Madison Square Garden. During the skirmish, my precious broom was broken and Charlotte went crying to her mother and I went, mouth puckered up, cheeks blown out, eyes glaring, to Ma.

Sometime later we moved to East Boston where I started school in the Plummer School. Not long after I began the first grade, I became seriously ill. I was rushed to the hospital on the advice of Dr. Friedman, a baby specialist, where it was discovered, I had ruptured appendix and peritonitis. There, I was operated on five times, taking out my appendix and also extracting a rib because of the accumulation of pus in that region. Something like Adam, only he didn’t become a woman. As I was believed to be dying, my paternal grandfather, may he rest in peace, prayed for me and gave me a Hebrew name meaning “long life,” which in English is Harriet or Claire. No one seemed to know which I would like so they forgot about it. A few years ago, I adopted both as my own. Owing to the graciousness and kindness of my doctor and nurse, Miss Shean, who is now a head nurse at the Boston City Hospital, I was discharged three months later.

Dorchester became my next residence and I resumed school at the Atherton where I scarcely appeared before nine o’clock and very often after nine.

About this time, Pop became ill and has been an invalid since, leaving Ma to work which she, poor, old girl, has been doing since.

After a struggle, I finally reached the fourth grade which brought me to the Christopher Gibson School where I became quite a scholar, never receiving a 3 which is a C in high school language. Well, that is not exactly. I was promised a 4 in conduct because I kept my tongue wagging unceasingly, conversing with a great big brute of an Italian boy, who always brought me licorice after lunch. Beside me sat a blonde, plump little girl, who loved to giggle, so Beatrice thought that was a lot of fun, to giggle and talk and eat; but it seems that my fifth grade teacher thought quite the contrary and promised me a red 4. I behaved as well as I could but that was not well enough. Of well, let it slide.

Around the neighborhood I was considered quite a tom-boy; especially when I displayed my famous “wind-mill.” That was swinging my arm around, and smashing my opponent square in the teeth; but I got over getting myself in scraps just to display the wind-mill. It didn’t get me anywhere. So what?

Being a brain child, I thought I could brave the intellect of Girls’ Latin School; but I just couldn’t. Ceasar and I couldn’t get along so Beatrice went right along and flunked Latin. So, I up and leaves Girls’ Latin School after two years of hard study. Well, not exactly hard study but enough to satisfy my thirst for learning.

Leaving Latin School sent me to the Jeremiah E. Burke High School where I am today.

It almost hurts to think that where this huge building stands was a vast field where we kids used to play. There was soft earth to make “bunnies” to play “aggies” in; and there were swell trees that we could climb; and there were little hills where we could coast in the winter; but now there stands a structure where all you get is misery from lessons and classes ---On my!

When I entered here I was sent to the Annex on Elm Hill Avenue where I spent one of the best years of my schooling. There were just we freshmen and it was just like one of those little red school houses where we all knew each other. Those activities will never be forgotten.

The past held incidents tragic and amusing; the present holds incidents tragic and amusing, and the future will hold incidents tragic and amusing, but there is a question which will put the Life Scale out of balance. That seems a bit pessimistic and not in keeping with the way I talk life; so Beatrice Harriet Claire Levy hereby pledges herself to the Life-long Optimistic Association. Time marches on!

Dan Bock's Memories of Beatrice Levy Davis (1921 to 2013), daughter of Mary Schiller Levy.  Dan Bock is Beatrice's grandson.

I was born in 1979 and grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts. My grandfather Ralph, Grandma Bea's husband, died when I was 3. Grandma moved into a two-bedroom condo on the 10th floor of a high-rise in Chestnut Hill, a 20-minute drive from our home, and we saw her regularly. She lived there until she died in 2013.

Grandma was the matriarch of a family that was notably close given our geographic distance. Her three children and seven grandchildren lived in many parts of the country, but all of us saw each other regularly at Thanksgiving, Passover, weddings, bar mitzvahs, other occasions.

Grandma was known as gruff and short-tempered. She loved every one of her many descendants, but treated her grandchildren differently from each other. We frequently discussed which one of us was her favorite. I remember feeling great pride when, by consensus, that title was passed from my cousin Adam to me sometime in the 1990s.

She lived to 92 years old, and made it clear that was more than a full life for her. We went on a cruise to celebrate her 80th birthday and she learned that there was a man on the same cruise celebrating his 90th birthday. Of the idea that anyone could live that long, she said, "That's disgusting". About five years later, I had to forcibly remove a bag of cookies from Grandma's possession (on the orders of my mother), due to a diet she had been put on against her will. She scowled at me. I said, "Grandma, we just want you to live a long and healthy life." She said, "Hasn't it been long enough?"

And a musical memory from Mary Martha to Ben about Bea

The day my mother died, my then Fort Collins rabbi, Ben Newman, happened to be in Boston and came to the nursing home in Chestnut Hill. He sang her a Yiddish lullaby that soothed her. Aunt Henrietta was there and might remember the name of the lullaby. It calmed her that last day. Very moving for all of us. I will always be grateful to Rabbi Ben for that.


Saul Solomon Levy

What follows is just the beginning of a wonderful, thoughtful, at times humorous, at other times poignant, and most certainly engaging memoir of a colorful character, Saul Levy, written by his son, Larry Levy.   To read the whole memoir, click on the link at the end of this intro for "the rest of the story!"

Saul Solomon Levy was a character, alternately and all-at-once both larger and smaller than life:

• Loud and loving (I first typed “loud but” because the loudness sometimes smothered the loving and forced friends and family away).

• Small in stature and insecure yet buoyed and maybe burdened all his life by the big dreams he chased (but rarely caught).

• Mentally sharp, especially in math, and very well read but academically unmotivated, even intellectually indolent (thus blunting his business and social ambitions). • A fierce competitor who never quit in the face of failure (which, sadly, he often faced) and a painfully hard worker who all but begged for a heart attack when he was still in his 50s.

• A gambler, in business as well as at the card table and racetrack (where he found challenge, distraction, maybe solace until he died in the stands waiting for a horse race to start).

• The best and worst of fathers (whose talent as a baseball player and insecurities as a man saw him invest both too much and not enough in a son (me) and daughter (Mara).

• Stubborn and loyal - except when the stubbornness overwhelmed the loyalty as when he abandoned another daughter (Joyce) whom Mara and I never knew existed until we were in college.

I’ll return to a more conventional narrative but Saul was a great storyteller, addicted to embellishment and as desirous of applause as he was deficient at picking up at social cues (aka annoying or even angering his “audience” of family, friends and colleagues). Which makes me wonder how he would tell his own story. I also want to say that my sisters Mara and Joyce undoubtedly have different memories and feelings – in fact, they may know the “true truth” better than I do -- and nothing in here is meant to contradict, criticize or marginalize anything in their hearts and minds. But, as they say, I digress…


Maurice Leo Levy

Thoughts from Harry Levy

• Moe was not just a casual singer. Back in 1939 (?) he was scheduled to appear on the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. A big deal at the time. However, his appearance was cancelled by the Blizzard of ’39 and the rest is musical history.

• Moe was at one time the Scoutmaster of Troop 18 in Revere. No one looked better in shorts and tall socks than my father.

• Moe was not a kitchen maven. He could only cook one dish, Salami & Eggs. He did make it better than anyone, and thankfully he taught us his culinary secrets. No one is allowed to eat Salami & Eggs anymore. Just because.

• Moe was adamant about our last name. Lehvy, not Leavy. He always told the story of his being in elementary school in New York, where he lived for a time. The teacher called the roll and when she got to his name she said “Maurice Leavy.” He did not answer and would not answer until she pronounced it the correct way, Lehvy. Calm down New Yorkers. Lehvy is the proper pronunciation. Ever hear of a Tax Leavy? Didn’t think so. Neither did Moe.

• Moe was not handy in the house. Did not know one tool from the other. Could neither solve nor fix any household problem. He did not have many shortcomings. This was one. He was and is forgiven.

• Moe never told us about the Coconut Grove fire. Too hard a memory. We did not find out until journalist Paul Benzaquin came to the house to interview my father about the fire for a book he was writing. Then, we found out everything. And I do mean everything. A shocking story for us as kids. Interestingly, every year in November, on the anniversary of the fire, Moe would have an emotionally awful day. As he got older, we were always worried that he would suffer more than the simple pain of that terrible memory.

• Moe taught me two simple words that made his marriage to my mother the success that it was. “Yes, dear” were words that he uttered more times than I can remember. Sometimes, I wish that I learned his lesson better.

• Moe rarely became angry. He was truly a mild mannered person. I can only think of a very few times in my life. But when he did, it was a very good idea to give him a wide berth. The good part was that his anger lasted only a very short time. Lucky for us as kids!

And, that’s my Dad.

We loved him then and still love him now.


From Bonnie Miller Levy - "My fondest memories of my father-in-law Moe were always centered around his singing. He sang with the post office choir which traveled (I believe) to nursing homes and senior housing to entertain the residents. I remember him singing “Heard it through the Grapevine” where the choir members all wore some kind of grape suits and had choreography for the song. But my favorite was of Moe singing at our wedding when he sang “If I were a Rich Man” complete with rattled goose sounds. We actually have it recorded on vhs tape courtesy of a friend who videoed our wedding.”  

From Henrietta Davis — Moe’s talents rubbed off on his grandson Lucas who has trained as an opera singer. His second cousin, Larry’s son Sam, now about to be a medical resident, originally went to college to study opera singing. And my mother Beatrice sang with a very dedicated Jewish choral group, the Mayflower Chorus, who once sang at Boston Symphony Hall with the Boston Pops and Arthur Fiedler. Moe was also a film extra and appeared in “The Thomas Crowne Affair,” amongst other Boston- based films.

Abraham Schiller 1895-1965

abe and Bobby copy
ABE -update2

Abe Schiller was the third child of Ruchal and Simon. He apparently met Jenny Rabinovitz when they were both in their teens and hastily married. He moved out of the family home then, but the story goes that he went home to his mother shortly after that and told his mother Rachel Leah that he want to come home. She reportedly sharply retorted, “Go back to your wife!” And that’s what he did. Simon and Rachel’s first grandchild was Florence born in 1916. Three more children were born. In all they are Florence Schiller Ryack, William Schiller, Robert Schiller and Barbara Schiller (Schmertzler) Osborne.


Barbara Schiller Osborne

This is a story from Barbara Schiller Osborne, shared with Rita Ryack who passed it on to Susan Schiller Goldberg (Ike Schiller’s daughter), who then sent it to Zak Schiller (Morris Schiller’s great-grandson). Rita is Florence and Leon Ryack’s daughter, and Florence is sister to Bill Schiller, Bob Schiller and Barbara Schiller Osborne. Their parents are Abe and Jenny Schiller. From an April 15, 2019 email – from Rita to Sue and then passed on to Zak. The story was labeled From Barbara PT 1

A trip down memory lane except that I have Mother and Dad’s addresses from their marriage certificate! Mother was living at 12 Genesee St in the west end. Dad at 515 Harrison Ave. which I understood to be near Boston City Hospital. Mother often referred to herself as a West Ender so I suspect the emphasis in the article about East Boston refers largely to Chelsea and environs. Mother said that her lengthy walk to school passed many streets with American Indian names such as Genesee street.

On to the tale of Max the Tailor. Max was a brother to Grandpa’s father Simon Schiller. He was married to Fannie who was evidently in delicate health. Expecting that she would not live much longer, Max brought her sister to help with the household and developed a passion for her. She found sanctuary from his advances with Mother and Dad. Fannie meanwhile, lay near her death and the community in which these Jews lived, maybe Dedham or someplace similar, silenced the Sunday church bells in respect, a gesture which impressed the family. Fannie recovered and Max died young of a heart attack. I think the sister married but I always found this story entertaining as did Mother.

In reply to your question about Grandpa Abe’s father’s [Simon] occupation, I find him listed as a Trader on Dad’s school certificate of 1909. Elsewhere, I found a reference to his owning a tailor’s supply shool and I know he and his sons were the owners of a baker which suffered during the depression but did produce the first loaves of sliced white bread. Grandpa left the baker to his siblings and started working as a salesman for William  Bloom and Company, ultimately, as I assume you know, inheriting a large share of the business with the responsibility of keeping the two Bloom sons with a steady income, enhanced by serious Gin Rummy games. Dad bought them out after the war, expecting Robert and Willing to join him. Thy were both unhappy after a short period of time and Bob studied law at night school. When Dad joined J. P Stevens, it was a release for them both. Billy was able to re-establish himself in nuclear engineering at Quincy shipyard and Bob opened his firm as a patent attorney. Dad and Mother went to live in New York In an elegant apartment at the Brevoort on 5th Avenue. Everybody prospered, Hooray. I think I have exhausted my material but will add more anecodotes as I remember them. Love to Port and you too, Barbara.

From Rita Ryack to Sue Schiller Goldberg on April 15, 2019 and then passed on to Zak – originally came from Barbara Schiller Osborne. The story was labeled From Barbara PT 2 .  (NOTE: The information below seems to provide some credibility or at least reinforcement to that fact that Mary Schiller arrived at Ellis Island with eye issues and was sent back to Poland with Morris Schiller, and then later illegally entered the US.)

So, to the story Mary and Morris and their adventures courtesy of the immigration authorities - On arrival, Mary, about four or five years old, was refused entry, perhaps something like an eye infection trachoma but am uncertain of the particulars. Clearly, she could not be sent back to Poland alone. Imagine the heartlessness. Morris, the eldest, probably fourteen or so, was chosen to take her back. The next part of the tale is that our grandfather Simon bought them return tickets, through Canada, met them with appropriate American clothes and entered the U.S. illegally. This was all revealed when Mary died many years later and no death certificate could be issued since there was no record of her existence. So we have an illegal alien as part of the family lore.

Abe and Jennie were married September 14,1915 and, according to Grandma, Jennie Schiller née Rabinovitz had eloped because Abe's father considered Jennie unsuitable, firstly as the daughter of a cap maker and, additionally, as too skinny. She showed him! By the time Bobby Schiller, son of Jennie and Abe was born, she was seriously zuftig having been plied with lots of nourishing beer to facilitate nursing. Time took care of that. She described to me scrubbing all the floors on a daily basis and, of course, dressing the three children in white stockings and dresses. For a while, they seemed to prosper, owned a sporty big car and employing a maid, but the depression changed things and I, helpfully, arrived, [joining] Florence, William, Robert in1929 just in time to add to the family.

Meanwhile, both boys were suffering from broken bones of some sort and Mother had to borrow money to pay for a taxi home to the chaos. Bobby, always impulsive, toppled off of a ladder on the back porch of their apartment, fracturing his arms. I don't know if this was the event that preceded my arrival but it was typical.  Billy managed to injure himself regularly, as well. Florence stood apart from all this and I remember her disdain when she would alert Mother to yet another fight between the boys. I thought all of this was interesting and normal for a large family as my parents must have as well since discipline had to do with arriving for dinner with clean hands and proper clothing and keeping me from kicking Bobby under the table. (I know I'm rambling or free associating but one thing reminds me of another so bear with me).

Among the papers , I found a note suggesting that Florence might have been named for Frohm Escovitz who was Grandma's grandfather, the miller from Vilna, who died of a leg injury after a tree fell on him. However, the note continues to point out that it is possible that his name might have been Sholem Nathan and that Frohm was the father of Mother's father. Anyway, Florence's Yiddish name, spelled creatively, was Frohma Gutta, probably Fruma or Frumma meaning pious and good, appropriately as it happened. This information was all supplied by Grandma so she did her best but accuracy isn't guaranteed.

Grandpa's father was named Simon Mordecai Schidloff, changed to Schiller June 3, 1915. He was a theater enthusiast and was responsible for the choice of Schiller as well as naming the grandchildren William, Byron, Beatrice, Florence etc. I've not been able to fully understand the marriage to Rose Posner who seemed to me to reside in the kitchen, devoid of interest in anything other than providing food and shelter to her sons, daughters being second class citizens. Maybe it was an arranged marriage. Maybe I'm unfair. Her lot was to serve, at any rate she never evidenced the slightest interest in me as a child so I didn't know her at all.

To continue in this vein - Simon Mordecai had four siblings; Max, a tailor; Zovel Shedlow, occupation unknown; Toba, who wrote Jewish plays [interesting, no?] This merits research! I believe there is also a peddler somewhere in our ancestry! and a sister who seems nameless except for her married name of Rosenstein. So much for Dad's family tree. But, I might add that Simon died fairly young of heart disease which led Grandpa and his brothers to all anticipate a similar fate. Sometime, I will get around to a gossipy tale starring Max the tailor, courtesy of Grandma but, enough now. So ciao bella, Auntie Barbara otherwise known as Basha Szydlo.

(Rita Ryack, the source of this section tells us about Simon's interest in theatre.  She, herself, is renowned in the theatre industry as an award-winning costume designer.)


Florence Schiller Ryack

And this is from an email from Rita to Zak on April 16, as a follow up to the emails above. It’s Rita’s recollection of family life growing up in the Abe Schiller Clan.

Our family - possibly with the exception of great-uncle Morris, whom I don’t remember well, and my mother, who was quite refined, were loving and boisterous, argumentative, and prone to pontification. Abe and Jennie had a wonderful summer house in Nantasket Beach where all the Aunts and Uncles stayed or visited, and all the cousins still miss it (and romanticize it) and wish we had all kept it. It overlooked the ocean and Boston light. I remember a lot of card playing - bridge, pinochle for the uncles, canasta for the ladies. Jennie was a wonderful cook, and there were big, loud family meals. Uncle Hy and Aunt Sadie were distinctively fat. Hy was gruff and smoked cigars. He was in the AC business...  Gramma always had candy for the ladies in the house, and a huge freezer in the beach house pantry, with ice cream. We ate lobster - often. It was the happiest place for all 8 cousins.

Jennie had 2 sisters - one, Sarah, died as a child - from scarlet fever, I think-maybe influenza. The other sister was Annie - we knew her as Tante. Barbara told me she was nuts. She crocheted beautifully - both sisters were talented knitters. Her married name was Goodman. She had 2 kids - Sidney and Laura (Lolly). Sid was a taxi driver who carried a gun. Lolly was into cats and a particular spiritual guru who had many followers in Boston in the ’60’s. Lolly was a very nice woman, and died when a car crashed through the plate glass restaurant where she was eating lunch!

Sidney and Uncle Billy got into all kinds of trouble when they were kids. Barbara told me that one day they decided that she needed to learn to shoot a gun. Billy shot a hole in the wall. They weren’t afraid that they might have killed Barbara; they were very afraid that Gramma Jenny would be furious about the hole in the wall. She did come in, and said, as she often did when the boys were fighting, “OK. who died?” I have pictures of them at Passover that I’ll send along when I dig them up. Billy joined the army. He was an engineer and an army lifer, and an “expert” in all things. A real character

Abe traveled to NY a lot for business. My recollection is that he kept a suite at the Waldorf for awhile. He and Jennie did live in the Brevoort for a bit. I recall the shock and noise of NY compared to Brookline. We all went to the theatre a lot - the family loved it, and here I am. Abe was very expansive and flamboyant (custom shirts, cufflinks, mohair suits) and Jennie was always beautifully dressed, as was my mother. Barbara went to the Museum School (as I did - after Brandeis, before Yale drama School-later), and was a deeply talented artist, very smart, tough, articulate, original, funny. They were all funny. Bobby became a patent attorney- his two kids are Robbie and Heidi - Heidi is a lawyer, and Rob was able to retire as a start up success. He lives in Cambridge and on the Vineyard.

I spent a lot of time fleamarketing with Billy and Freda (née Kushner)- Freda called it “schmaying,” pronounced “Shmy-ing.” I loved treasure hunting with them . They were both active, enthusiastic collectors of all kinds of stuff- books, stamps, postcards, costume jewelry, depression glass, old prints, and much more. We really had fun! They were serious Scrabble players. I remember a particular argument about the word “het.” All the grandparents’ generation played cards- bridge, canasta, and pinochle for Abe. The grandchildren loved just playing with the cards. Grandma Jennie and I played gin and casino. She was terrifically strategic, and always won. Barbara was an extraordinary artist; we were close, and she encouraged and inspired my own artistic misadventures. My parents loved the theatre, symphony, etc - and passed that down.

Amy, Barbara’s daughter, is also an artist, and lives in Newton. Michael, Barbara’s son, is a master of the Universe, and who teaches business at Yale.  Had dinner with him in NY last week. His 2 boys are well on the way to becoming masters of the universe themselves - they are adorable. Michael and Kuni are big adventure travelers. I love those trips, too - but I don’t see any treks in my future. We all love cats.

Billy’s son Eric lives in Tampa - he owns a bar, and is retired Merchant Marine. His sister Myra, lives in NY - I think - none of us knows.

A varied , interesting, outspoken group. And that’s my Schiller family portrait!


William "Willy" Schiller

While we don't yet have many stories of Billy Schiller, and we are not sure who wrote this (Eric or Myra) this obituary certainly helps to paint a wonderful pictures.  William "Willy" Schiller, age 89, passed away on Friday, February 13th 2009. He was born in Brookline, Mass. on May 17th 1919. His father was a woolen Merchant and his mother a homemaker. He was an honor student at Brookline High in physics, chemistry and math. He graduated in 5 years and always said he took the 5th year because he was having so much fun. The family summered in Nantasket Beach and he worked on the Nantasket steamboats shoveling coal for passage in the summers while he took courses at Boston Latin School. He graduated from Lowell Textile Institute in 1940. The great love at this point in his life was a red '35 Ford V8 coupe with wire wheels of which he spoke fondly for the next 70 years.

He was employed at the Naval Shipyard in Boston as an electrical engineer when WWII broke out. The Army offered him a commission with an offer to work on a secret project. But, like many of his generation, he enlisted as a private. He was a sergeant in an ordinance division when he was again recruited for what turned out to be the Manhattan Project. He served at Harvard University, MIT, Yale University, Alamagordo, NM, Wendover, UT, where he was injured in the crash landing of a B-24, and Tinian Island in the Pacific as a member of the 509th composite bomb group. He can be seen on some historic newsreels standing under the nose of the B-29 'Enola Gay'. He is named in the book "Jewish War Heroes of WWII".

After the war he remained in the Army working in Texas on a project to fit nuclear weapons on captured German V-2 rockets. He left active duty for the Army Reserve and married Freda Kushner in 1948. They settled in Nantasket Beach. He worked briefly in the woolen business and then went to work at Bethlehem Steel Shipbuilding Corporation in Quincy as a nuclear engineer working for Admiral Hyman Rickover whom he affectionately referred to as "the old man". He worked on the USS Bainbridge and the USS Long Beach while at Quincy and is a "plank owner" of both of those vessels. He often remarked that this was one of the most satisfying periods of his life because of the groundbreaking work that his group did in the furtherance of nuclear naval propulsion.

He was a Mason, and a founding member of Synagogue Beth Am in Hingham. In 1980, retired from the Army Reserve as a Lt. Colonel, he and mother moved to Palm Beach Gardens in Florida to be nearer their grandchildren. Willy never took a backward step from anyone or anything. He enjoyed building and repairing things in his workshop and worked long days for his son Eric in Tampa in his shop up until the end. He also enjoyed his orchard, the summer breeze on his front porch in Hull, driving powerful convertibles much too fast, large caliber weapons, Harley Davidsons, airplanes of all kinds and collecting postage stamps, coins and art. Most importantly he took great care of and pride in his wife and children.

Dad was a family man, a patriot, a gentleman, a soldier, a scholar, a good friend to his friends and a man's man in the truest sense of the words.


Willy Schiller had two children.  Eric and Myra.  Eric currently operates a pirate-themed bar, Gaspar's Grotto, in Tampa.  He serves on the historical commission in his neighborhood, Ybor City, and prior to that he had a long career as a supertanker captain.  Eric details the story of his life in a self-published book available on Amazon.  His sister, Myra, has had a career in the theatre industry in New York. 


Robert Schiller

[From his obituary]  Bob was born in Cambridge, MA. He attended Brookline High School and was a 1943 graduate of the University of Massachusetts, studying math, physics and chemistry. In both high school and college he was a member of the swimming team, becoming particularly accomplished as a springboard diver. Upon graduation from college, he enlisted in the US Navy, serving as a Lieutenant during World War II while stationed in the Philippines.

In 1951 he graduated from Boston College Law School, first in his class. After working briefly in the general practice of law, he joined the nascent Polaroid Corporation, where he was able to combine his science background with the law, becoming one of its in-house patent attorneys. In the early 1960s, he left Polaroid for Epsco Inc., of Westwood, MA, an early startup technology company, as Patent Counsel. In the late 1960s, Bob entered private patent practice, first, with Rosen & Schiller in Chestnut Hill, MA, then, for more than 20 years, as partner in the firm he co-founded, Schiller & Pandiscio, in Waltham, MA. In 1990, he became Of Counsel at the Boston firm, Gaston & Snow, and a couple of years later, until his retirement in 2002, at Lappin & Kusmer. For many years, Bob was an Adjunct Professor of patent law at Boston College Law School.

Bob married Phyllis Mamber, his wife of 67 years, in 1947. The couple raised their two children, Rob and Heidi, in Brookline and Newton, MA. For the last seven years, he and Phyllis lived at the retirement community Orchard Cove in Canton, MA. His three siblings, Florence Ryack, William Schiller, and Barbara Osborne predeceased him. He is survived by his wife Phyllis; his son Robert J. Schiller Jr. and his wife Susan Jensen; his daughter Heidi Schiller and her husband Fletcher Blanchard; and his three grandchildren, Benjamin Schiller, Harry Schiller, and Ruby Schiller.


Bessie Schiller 1899-1983

Bessie
Bessie

Bessie was the fourth child of Rachel Leah and Simon and arrived in the U.S. when she was only four-years-old. She was devoted to her sister Mary and missed her very much when Mary went to Coney Island to live with her husband Harry. After Bessie married Philip and had her own children, she remained close to Mary, living with Mary and her family and the Bubbe at 12 Abbot Street in one large but, crowded apartment. For me, Henrietta, I remember her for her sweetness, her loyalty to her niece Beatrice(my mother),for how very short she was—even for a Schiller, and her special gravelly laugh which was easily and frequently provoked.


Mildred Joan Davis Lan

Millie has provided a whole series of remembrances.

Millie shared this wonderful story of how her parents - Bessie Schiller and Philip Davis - met.

My mother arrived in this country when she was about three years old. A short time after she developed “rickets,” a childhood disease due to malnutrition. I doubt if my grandmother knew very much about nutrition for children. My mother was a sickly child for a few years. She attended the Abraham Lincoln elementary school in the South End of Boston and an understanding nurse visited her at home and somehow must have explained the importance of a good diet for a growing child to my grandmother. My grandfather(Simon) doted on this sickly child, his only daughter at home now. Mary, the oldest had married and moved to Coney Island, NY so it was just Bessie and the boys before they married and left home.

Simon bought her lovely clothes as she grew older and was considered of marriageable age. As the story goes, one day my grandfather was sitting on a park bench in Franklin Park, Dorchester when he met another gentleman, my paternal grandfather, Jacob. They had both come to this country not long ago. They spoke about their children. Simon’s daughter and Jacob’s son. Simon owned a bakery on Cypress St, Brookline Village. Jacob owned a Tailor Shop on Erie St, Dorchester. Years later my mother told me that my father came to the bakery. Simon had encouraged this and my mother added several pastries to his purchase. He was Philip, Jacob's eldest son, oldest of six and this was how my mother and father met in the bakery for the first time. When they were married my grandfather left a large bag of bagels and rolls on their doorstep every Sunday morning for them to enjoy.

And in another email on Feb 22, 2020, at 8:31 PM, Millie Lan wrote:

This is the story I heard. My Uncle Morris owned some property on Washington St, next to Columbia Rd. My grandparents, parents and Uncle Ike all lived in one of the apartments 95 Washington St. I was born when they lived there December 1929 in the Evangeline Booth hospital and brought home there. I was told that my grandfather died when I was two years old so I am not sure if he died in 1931 or 32 since I was born at the end of 1929, a depression baby! We moved when I was three but I have a brief memory of living there and my mother taking me across the street to the drugstore for ice cream. I even remember my grandma bringing down my doll carriage, I wish I could remember my grandfather but it’s very vague. We moved, my parents and I, to Ellington St., Dorchester and my grandmother moved to 12 Abbot St. with Ike. My Aunt Mary (Tentie) moved with them and her three children. They had a large seven room apartment, four bedrooms. After a while, her husband, my Uncle Harry, was at the Jewish Hospital in Roxbury and tried to live at home a few times unsuccessfully.

To get back to my Uncle Morris. This is what we heard and I remember: he lost one or two apartment houses during the depression and this may be another reason they moved from Washington St., but while they lived there my grandma made friends with Mrs. Seletsky who was Barbara Walters’s grandma. Barbara Walters was born in September of 1929 at the same hospital where I was born, and the same Dr. Troupan delivered both of us—this is my one claim to fame. It’s all true, I read it in her autobiography, but this is not about me! Grandma and Mrs. Seletsky lived next to each other in the apartment building at 95 Washington St. While I lived at Washington St., they were building the Jeremiah E. Burke high school that your Mom (HD’s mom, Beatrice) and I attended years later. I got carried away here, ask John if he know anything more about his grandfather, my Uncle Morris who I remember so well. He visited my grandmother in Abbot St. the most. PS: Don’t quote me but I think Lou Walters owned the Latin Quarter here in Boston, before the family moved to California, and was Seletsky before he changed their name to Walters.

... and then she continued

My life changed when my brother was born on August 6, 1935, a very hot summer day. From that time on things were different. I no longer had my mother to myself, and I didn’t get the sister I was looking forward to. I believe my mother thought she was having a girl, no one suggested it could possibly be a boy. I picked out a name for her, Shirley Louise, it was Shirley Temple’s time and I was a big fan. Shirley became Sidney and they kept the L, let me select a male name with L. My brother became Sidney Leonard.

I grew up believing both my mother and father were born in this country or maybe I just assumed this. I remember that occasionally my father would say, “Your mother wasn’t born here,” and things that seemed strange at the time, smiling when he said them as though it was a secret. One time I asked my mother when her birthday was and she didn’t answer right away. Another time on my birthday I asked again. This was December 21st and she said- It’s the 25th.I was so excited, I loved Christmas. I said, ”Your birthday is Christmas.” From that time on we celebrated her birthday on Christmas. I can’t imagine how painful it must have been for her. I believe at that time she did not know her actual birthdate.

How ironic that the person who this was supposed to be hidden from knew all along and could not care less that his wife was a few years older and born in Europe instead of being born here. Today it is laughable, but it was very serious all these years ago.

When it all came out years later I clearly recall my mother telling me, “My father made me do it.”

And there were repercussions, she had to deal with in the later years which affected her life. It was a hasty decision which was not well thought out that time. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for her. I wonder now if she could have acknowledged this and say I am few years older than your father, I was not born here and my actual birthday is in September. But she was not responsible as she was a good obedient daughter and did as she was told. It was not her decision and these were the days when children did what they were told with no discussion. I do believe my grandfather thought it was a good decision at the time, if he could have only seen into the future and the grief it cost my mother.

My parents settled into a typical family life. We lived at 44 Ellington Street, Dorchester. It was a single house converted into a small apartment where we lived and several rooms were rented out on the third floor. The landlady was a sweet Italian woman who we referred to as Mrs. Thomasey. She kept the most beautiful flower garden in a big front yard. I still remember the pansies and violets she picked for me making a bouquet. She had a granddaughter named Alice.who lived with her. Alice’s mother was an actress who traveled frequently. I loved story of Alice in Wonderland and my father took me to see the movie.

We said goodbye to Mrs. Thomasey and her daughter Alice, and the lovely garden and back yard, when my brother was a year old. I also said goodbye to a friend I still have today after all these years, Bonnie, after all these years, a friend I still have today. She was the little red haired five-year-old who moved next door when I just turned four. We were inseparable, loved movies, dolls and the tea parties my mother used to make for us- for me with my collection of dolls. Friday afternoons when she had finished her preparations for Friday night dinner and my brother was taking his nap.

We moved to 70 Erie Street where we had more room, a larger backyard complete with three large sugar pear trees. They were the envy of the neighborhood. When the hurricane of 1938 struck, all the neighbors grabbed their largest pots to gather up the pears.

At Erie St., my father set up a makeshift table and chairs in the backyard every August for my brother’s birthday.

We lived next door to a grocery story on one side and a club for teenagers on the other. It was a comfortable happy neighborhood, everybody knew everybody, no secrets, we were all in the same boat. We were only a few streets away from Ellington St. so Rosie and I were old enough to visit back and forth.

My father was in business with a mysterious gentleman who my mother referred to as Eichenwald, his last name. Eichenwald lived in Roxbury on Humboldt street with his wife and two children. They were in business together for several years before they broke up. I have no idea what happened. They sold household supplies and what was referred to as dry goods. My father continued on his own but it was very difficult. He didn’t own a car or drive so he would load up two tremendous suitcases every day and start his trek to a streetcar, changing to the subway and multiple buses to a different area each day. He would travel to Revere, Malden, Medford, one day, then Cambridge, Chelsea etc. Every day was a different area and on Sundays it was his collections day. When he went locally to Roxbury, etc., my mother was happy that he allowed me to accompany him.

My father was a reader and loved movies, especially westerns. Occasionally on a Tuesday night he would see a double feature at the Franklin Park theatre. He was also an avid reader. Years later I remember him reading The Godfather. His second love was “Poker.” Sunday was his poker night with Bennie, Pat and Nicky over Bennie Packer’s house. There were times when they got so carried away it went on until the wee hours. One time he didn’t get home until way after midnight. My mother was so angry she locked him out so he just sat on the porch on the rocking chair until she let him in. I remember she was so angry because my brother and I were both ill and she was worn out caring for us. As I look back at my father’s life I wonder if he had been born at a different time would he have become a different person? He only had an eighth- grade education which was probably common at the time. Only his two younger brothers finished high school and only one continued on but I know that he loved books and was a hard worker.

My mother enjoyed bingo and also played poker on a smaller scale. Some winter evenings my grandparents who lived within walking distance came over and we had a nightly poker game when my brother was asleep, pennies only, with a kitty that we could borrow from. These are one of my best memories. Our door was always open and people walked in the evenings to visit when they felt like it, such a different time.

We attended elementary school until lunchtime when we were sent home for lunch for one hour. Lunch was then dinner and dinner in the evening was supper. That was how we lived then, everyone did. My mother would cook a big dinner for my brother and me, usually a meat or chicken dish. My favorite was broiled baby lamb chops, baked potato and peas or carrots, chocolate or tapioca pudding for dessert. In the evening, it was always dairy. Of course, we were kosher, everyone was then. When we arrived home from school at three thirty we enjoyed chocolate cupcakes with whipped cream inside from Drake’s Bakery in Roxbury. My mother would make the trek there while we were back in school and surprise us when we got home. Can you imagine life like that today? Women just stayed home, shopped, did housework and looked after their families. Their lives were all mapped out for them. They never had a chance to look beyond. How sad.

Now I was blessed with two exceptional aunts. My Aunt Mary, who I called Tentie, was my mother’s sister, who lived an unusual life for the times which we have discussed earlier. It was difficult. She struggled to bring up three children all on her own. (Mary Schiller Levy’s husband Harry was ill with MS and became an invalid.) Yet she managed and never lost her sense of humor, always showing kindness and generosity to all who knew her, blessed with so many talents, without a doubt, a superb cook and baker. Her sponge cake was the envy of Abbot Street. There were nights when she wasn’t able to sleep and I would wake and hear her beating the egg yolks. Somehow, it was a comforting feeling and I went back to sleep looking forward to a large slice of that cake the next day. Tentie, Mary Levy died October 19th 1950.

My Aunt Esther, my father’s only sister, also was unusual, a wonderful person. She opened her own business. She was a hairdresser and beautician and had a beauty salon and made a success of it. She was also a buyer for a department store in Boston, had employed three women in the salon, so she was able to manage both positions for a while. She had been born in Lithuania, the oldest child and only daughter. My grandmother remained there with her until my grandfather sent a message tom come to the US. I remember she was very smart – too much for my grandfather who believed a woman’s place was in the home. They often clashed and she left home as soon as she could, living in Florida and New York. She married later in life, and had her first child, a son, when she was in her forties; she died when he was just two days old in January 1940. I was just ten. I never forgot that she bought me my first doll. And curled my hair when I was a Flower Girl for Cousin Lily’s wedding.

I lost both Aunts much too early.

I have more to write about the women of Abbot St. where the Bubbe, Mary and her family, and my mother Bessie and her family lived for so many years. (note from Henrietta- Millie plans to write about the tragedy of the Cocoanut Grove fire. Moe and his first wife Jean Teitel were in that devastating nightclub fire. She was separated from Moe in the fire, and Moe and Ike and Saul searched for her and ultimately found her in a morgue. The family was gathered at Abbot street and heard the terrible news together.)

And here are more email exchanges.

From: Millie Joan Lan 

Sent: January 26, 2020 at 8:04 PM

Hi, This is Millie (Joan) probably better if I continue to use Millie, my birth name here. I can assure you it is absolutely not true that my grandmother [Ruchel Posner Schiller]. Invited only the sons for dinner. Think this rumor got started because she catered to her sons. They were very important to her, not to say she disliked her daughters-in-laws. She just preferred the sons. In old Jewish families, boys were more important. That is just the way it was.

From Millie Davis Lan to Henrietta in another email:

I remember Barbara Schiller Schmertzler. She, Edith Ann Haimes and I were all about a year and a half apart. Edith Ann is the oldest at 90 to be 91 in May. Barbara was born February 1929 and I was born December 1929. I remember my mother telling me we were all close in age. When we were small my uncles picked me up to play with them in Nantasket. I lost touch with them later in life but I know that Barbara was divorced from Alvin Schmertzler and remarried to Louis Osborne later. I had heard that my uncle Abe married Jennie when he was seventeen years old and needed his parents’ consent. I don't know if it’s fair to judge my grandmother now. She had many grandchildren so may have seemed uninvolved. It's true that she seemed to prefer the boys to girls. Lots of anecdotes back this up. I’m reminded of so much now, may write more later. Just one or two things I remember, trivia really. Florence's name was Florence Gertrude which matches her Jewish name. My mother told me lots of little things which come back to me now. Isn't it interesting that his sister Tibel (Toby) was interested in theatre like my grandfather. Makes me wonder why they were not closer, seems like they didn't see each other much.

More of Millie’s Remembrances to come

Millie has more remembrances to write about, particularly about the life of the three women who lived together at 12 Abbot Street in the 1930’s and 1940’s: the Bubbe (Ruchel), Mary and Bessie and other family members. That house was the center of family activity for many years, including the very sad gathering after the Cocoanut Grove fire, the sudden death in 1950 of Mary Schiller Levy. Millie recounts that when she was growing up the women shared the household tasks. The Bubbe did the cleaning, Bessie did the shopping, and Mary, who was a wonderful cook did the cooking. She said that they were all good cooks, but that Rachel Leah cooked the most simply and that Mary was the best, though Bessie was very good. You can read above about Mary’s very special sponge cake.


Sidney Davis

I spent my formative years growing up in the Dorchester section of Boston, a large swatch of land with a predominant Jewish population centered between Roxbury and Mattapan. The main artery was Blue Hill Avenue and the streets surrounding the Avenue were dotted with multi-family and apartment housing. While my sister, Mildred, has earlier memories, my first recollection was living on Erie Street, about five blocks from the Avenue and its access to Franklin Park. In the retail world you might term Erie Street as a one hundred per cent location, easy walking distance to a drug store (we did not call them pharmacies in those days) a delicatessen, butcher and green grocer. My paternal grandfather had a tailor shop on the street (although l do not have any recall of its existence). Evenings I would walk to the store and purchase the Daily Record, the main feature was the listing of the Para mutual number. A 5 cent bet would bring a $30 return if you hit the first three numbers exact order.

The street's biggest attraction was Eagerman’s Bagel Bakery, five doors down from our two family home. They made the best bagels! Cars would line up Saturday night for a dozen priced at 60 cents. The bagel dough was boiled in scalding salt water and then placed on paddles and inserted into a very hot bee hive shaped oven. They also produced sugar coated donuts, my favorite was lemon filled and it remains so today. Our neighbors included the Rodman family, son Don would open a Ford agency across from Gillette Stadium and become one of the city’s leading philanthropists. (As a Patriot season ticket holder I would use his parking facility) and then there was the Adelson family. Sheldon Adelson became a casino tycoon, one of the richest men in the world. His father drove a taxi, his mother had a knitting shop and sister Gloria went to school with my sister. Another Erie Street inhabitant, although before my time, was Theodore White, author and historian known for his coverage of the 1960 election, The Making of the President.

My mother, Bessie, kept a kosher home, multiple sets of dishes and flatware, all of which would be packed away and changed during Passover. Later in life they spent the Passover week in Millis, MA in what can loosely be termed Jewish campsites. They were among their people and looked forward to the yearly reunions. My mother was a homemaker who knew how to stretch a dollar and my father, Philip, a salesman, much like a Fuller Brush man. He had several routes where he would take orders for household items, often hard to get during the War years. Somewhere in the early 40’s we moved to 12 Abbot Street to live with my grandmother and aunt. My uncle Irving (Ike) had moved out of the seven room home so there was plenty of space, my grandmother (we called her Booba) was along in years and my aunt Mary (we called her Tenti) had what was then termed a “bad heart”. My Booba only spoke Yiddish, which served me in good stead many years later when I attended trade shows in Frankfurt.

Lot’s of memories…The G & G Delicatessen on Blue Hill Avenue was the gathering place for the jewish clan; a corned beef sandwich, sour pickle, a piece of kishka and a Hire’s root beer! What could be bad! On the eve of election night politicians from across the state would make their final pitch, Douglas MacArthur drove down the Avenue after the War and in 1948, when Israel declared its statehood, there was an impromptu parade with hundreds chanting, “Jewish state in ’48 , Palestine in ‘49”. I had a brief stay at Boston Latin School, they forgot to tell me I had to learn Latin, and attended Roxbury Memorial High School (for boys). We were separated from the girls by a door and the penalty of death. One of my school mates at Memorial was Al Kelman, whom I later learned was a distant cousin. My Booba died in the late 40’s and my aunt, Mary, a few years later. She was a nice lady and my mother’s closest friend.

Lot’s of memories…My Booba always looked forward to Sunday mornings when one of more of my uncles would visit. My cousin Bea and husband Ralph lived around the corner on Blue Hill Avenue and my sister would often baby sit their first born, Henrietta, or as we called her in the day “Honey Jane”. I remember the sadness in the house when my cousin Moe lost his wife Jean at the Cocoanut Grove fire that claimed the lives of 492 souls. We lived in a six family house and I recall a grand piano in what I guess you would call the living room. Have no idea what happened to the piano but it was partially replaced with a Dumont television. This was great as we did not have to visit the neighbors to see Milton Berle on Tuesday nights.

I entered Boston University in 1954 as a commuter student majoring in journalism. Spending money was earned working for a kosher butcher, picking up and delivering cleaning from students in their dorms and working at Paragon Park in Nantasket during the summer. Transportation was a 1941 Dodge which I purchased for $150. It needed a paint job so one summer afternoon my friend and I purchased some black paint and covered our cars. During my junior year at BU there was a requirement for an internship. Marlene, my girl friend at the time (later my wife) had a friend who worked at the Jewish Philanthropies in Boston where they ran an employment center. She learned of a company looking for an intern that had the name Publication in its title…that is all I needed to know, I applied with the company that, at the time, published regional newspapers for the apparel trade. I was hired at $1 per hour, duties included bundling newspapers for delivery, working the dark room developing film and, on occasion, writing a story about a local dress shop opening or closing. Fifty seven years later I retired from what had evolved into a hundred person publishing and trade show business with offices on both coasts. My title was Group Publisher.

Graduating from Boston University I joined the army reserves and in August, 1958 was sent to Fort Dix for basic training. One week into my service (labor day) I had an appendix attack and within a few hours was recuperating from surgery in an army hospital. The good news is that I was recycled and then sent to Fort Gordon GA for signal school training where I met a lifelong friend. Bob Morris and I have visited each other for the past 61 years; Boston, Cape Cod, Chicago, Scottsdale, Sanibel Island, Las Vegas we have done it all.

During my Holiday leave Marlene and I were married, December 23, 1958 at the Aperion Plaza in Roxbury. Not much time for a honeymoon but we spent the duration of my leave in New York City at the Hotel Taft. The following week I was riding a bus to Augusta, Georgia and two more months of signal Corp training. My MOS (military skill) was “radio relay operator”, basically I set up the mobile radio and it was a three man operation, one man carried the radio, one set it up and the third did the actual operation, hopefully there have been some improvements!

I started full time what was then Larkin Publications at $65 per week. Our office was located at 99 Chauncy Street, in the heart of Boston’s garment district. At the time Boston was the ladies sportswear fashion capital. We lived in a third floor walk-up apartment building off Commonwealth Avenue on Ransom Road. $85 per month included a parking spot in back of the building. It was during this period that our older Daughter, Lynne Robin, was born followed by our first major purchase, a small cape home in Randolph where many of our friends had located. Susan Beth came along in 1964 and a few years later we moved into a larger home in the same town. We joined the Temple and Marlene became quite active as the head of the Youth Group as one of the largest in New England. Business-wise the company expanded from a small group of newspapers to the first national newspaper (MODERN RETAILER) for the growing discount store movement. We then entered the trade show market in New York City and became the largest apparel exhibition in the US (National Fashion and Boutique Show) and eventually opened, or acquired, seven magazines in the apparel, fashion jewelry, education and record and musical instrument markets.

My mother, passed in May, 1983 and my father, who was paralyzed by a massive stroke, left us July 1984.

Somewhere in the mix I had brief encounters with Schiller cousins; Both Larry Levy and Henrietta did some free-lance writing for my company. I bumped into Larry’s father, Saul, on a New York street in the apparel district and I talked with cousin Byron outside the Flume restaurant on Cape Cod. I can also recall visiting my Uncles’ Abraham and Irving in Nantasket, and if memory serves, Cousin Bea in Nantasket on my tenth birthday, August 6th the day we dropped the first atomic bomb.

Present Day….Marlene and I are retired on Cape Cod (Mashpee). We purchased a weekend condo in 1987 and in 2004 moved into a larger unit in the same complex in preparation for retirement. I retired May, 2013 at the age of 78 and moved here permanently. I always enjoyed sports, more as an observer than participant, and remain active with the Boston Braves Historical Association (BBHA) and the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR). One mission of SABR is to author biographies of every major league player regardless of their time spent in the big leagues. To-date I have written three biographies of former Boston Braves players and I am still active in the music industry, administering an essay scholarship program for music students. In twenty years we have awarded $400,000 in scholarship funds and matching music products to students and their school music programs. For many years I served on the Board of Visitors for Berklee College of Music and I am the Vice Chairman for the Mashpee town Americans Disability Committee.

Daughter Lynne graduated University of Rhode Island School of Nursing and has worked for the past 37 years at Boston Medical Center in the Cardiac Care intensive Unit and most recently in a clinical setting reducing her hours as she sold her home in Needham and moved to Pocasset on the Cape with husband Joe Murray. Her son Jeffrey is a graduate of Needham High School and Bentley University. Since graduation he has worked in the marketing and corporate sales department for the Kraft Sport Group, or as we know it, the New England Patriots.

Daughter Susan graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and has been in the insurance and claims management field. She lives in Dedham with husband Eddie and her 17 year old daughter, Victoria, a junior in high school who plans to make a career in the early education field.

Additional Thoughts from Sid about growing up as a Simon Szydlo Schiller descendant, captured in an email to John Schiller on March 15, 2020,

Regarding my parents... Frankly they had pretty quiet lives….we did not own a car so transportation , vacations and interaction with my uncles were somewhat limited. We were probably closer to relatives on my father’s side only because they lived much closer to us . There is another factor in that there is a wide age range between the siblings and their siblings. Uncle Morris was born in 1890 and Uncle Irving in 1907 a seventeen year span. So too was there a large time gap between the cousins. Your aunt Sara (my first cousin) was born in 1913, I was born in 1935, a twenty two year difference. I guess I am pointing out that even though we were first cousins in many instances we did not have much in common. My Uncle Hy’s children were closest in age to my sister and me and Ike’s kids were younger, other than that Morris, Mary, Abe’s were considerably older…Not sure what all this means except we were separated both by distance and age groupings….

In any event here’s a few more random recollections….My uncle Morris made me a winter jacket (I know his specialty was vests) but this was a red and black checkered jacket with a green lining…..When my elder daughter was born Hy’s wife (Sadie?) visited Marlene at our apartment in Brighton and brought Lynne a very pretty party dress…We would visit my uncle Abe in Nantasket probably once each season and my cousin Billy would pick us up and after the visit take us back to Dorchester (made for a pretty long day for Billy!) Of all the cousins we were closest to cousin Bea (she had a great sense of humor). Again, there was an age gap, nine years older than my sister and almost 15 years older than me….

Hyman Schiller 1901-1985

Hy
Hy

Chaim (Hy) Schiller was the fifth child of Rachel Leah and Simon Schiller. There is a remarkable document posted in Ancestry recording his birth in Poland. Hy came to the U.S. at the age of four, the youngest of the children who came with Rachel Leah. Hy married Sadie Berger and they had two children, Edith Ann and Simon, named for his grandfather. Hy was in the heating and ventilation business, long ago, and was very successful. Hy and Sadie hosted many relatives at their lovely home in Nantasket with a view of the ocean.


Simon Schiller

A multitude of stories by Simon Schiller...

I have decided to write some stories that you may not know. These are things I remember and others that were told to me. Some are certainly true. Others may be bubbe meises. When all of the stories come together I’m sure our common story will be a true one.

First of all…

Thanks to Czar Nicholas for making life so miserable for Jews in Poland that Simcha Szydlo decided to leave Sarbivo.

The First Business

When my grandfather Simcha first came to this country he was in the tailors trimming business. He sold tailors goods like buttons and linings for men’s suits.

The Bakeries

After that business, Simcha decided to buy the Ferguson Bakery from Jaky (or Jakie) Umshiet. There were 20 bakers in three stores somewhere around Boston. Grandfather Simcha wanted a cash not a credit business. My father Hyman (Hy) Schiller started to work in the bakery when he was 18 years old. Even though he had been admitted to MIT my dad worked to help support the family. This must have been about 1920. That was when they sold a pie for 25 cents that cost 30 cents to make. They also made 300 dozen donuts a day. Had they just made donuts the business might have been a success. My Uncle Abe left the bakery business to take a paying job and begin his career in woolens.

Dr. Irving Schiller

Uncle Irving William (Ike), my father’s younger brother, left Boston Latin High School rather abruptly but continued his academic career at Tufts Medical School. He interned at Boston City Hospital. During WWll, Ike was a Captain in the Sixteenth Medical Regiment of the US Army. Uncle Ike told me he became an allergist because he did not like dealing with sick people!

Our roots in Poland

My father’s birth certificate shows that Grandfather Simon lived in Sarbivo, a town six miles from Ciechenow. Marge and I went to Poland in 1989 and found my father’s birth certificate. The trip happened because good friend Ralph Kelley (a former Episcopal Priest) and his wife Jane Magruder Watkins wanted us to see where the family had lived. The four of us started in Warsaw, found an English-speaking guide and traveled to Ciechenow. We found Chaim’s (Hyman) birth certificate in City Hall.

The four of us met with the Mayor of the city and visited the desecrated Jewish Cemetery filled with unmarked graves. The Mayor showed us a plan to memorialize the dead. I tried to get funding for the renovation and memorial by applying to a German holocaust fund but was rejected in a letter from Beatrice Wizeacker, the wife of the President of Germany. Then I looked to find funding by reaching out to United States Holocaust survivors from Ciechenow. Those who responded did not believe the Poles would do anything and did not want to donate. I finally gave up.

The Apple of her Eye

We all lived in Dorchester (Da-chest-a), Massachusetts, near my Grandmother Rachel Leah Posner Szydlow. Our house was a two family on Walcott Street with my mother’s older sister Rebecca and husband Morris Levanthal on the top floor along with their sons Robert, Norman and Eddie and daughter Dorothy. My Bubba lived with her two daughters Mary and Bessie on Abbot Street. On weekends my father would bring me along to visit his Mother. The Bubba always had hugs, kisses and a special kind of cookies with marshmallows. She saved them for me. I remember always feeling very special with my Grandmother Rachel.

The Schiller Family Torah

After he emigrated to the United States Simcha Szydlow had a Torah written in Poland. It was originally given to the Woodrow Avenue shul in Dorchester. Uncle Abe Schiller was the founding Vice President of Temple Sini in Brookline. He asked for and was given the family Torah for the new Temple. When I was Bar Mitzvahed in February 1946 I read the passage “Vayedaber Adonai el-Moshe” from our family Torah. Rabbi Cohon told me the name Simcha Zwidlow was carved into one of the wooden scrolls.

In 1996 I was at Temple Sinai with family and friends to celebrate the 50th anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah. Rabbi Waldorf said that the Schiller Torah had been stolen and had never been recovered. We do not know where our Torah is now but we do know how to identify it from the carvings on the scroll.

Perhaps with our combined SCHILLER-POWER the missing Torah will be recovered.

Rybernian

Leon Ryack’s brother, Eddie, was a friend of Leonard Bernstein’s. The two young men developed their own language. They called it Rybernian. The language is mentioned in some of the Bernstein biographies! Maybe someone in the family has more information or can give us some words or phrases in Rybernian.  For more information on Rybernian, Eddie Ryack and Leonard Bernstein, see:  https://music.fas.harvard.edu/Oja-ShelemayBernsteinJSAM.pdf

04600

This is the zip code in Ciechenow. I have a baseball cap with this number and I’ll wear it when I see all of you.

My Family

My sister is Edith Ann Schiller Haimes. She and her husband Albert have three children Robert, Howard, and Joanne. Edie and Albert live in Boca Raton, Florida and both are 92 years old. My wife of 62 years is Marjorie Ruth Shain Schiller, PhD. We have two sons, Michael HG Schiller and Andrew Harry David Schiller. Our two grandchildren are Sarah Isabel (named for both great-grandmothers) and Maxwell Daniel (named after his maternal great-grandfather.) They are twins entering their Junior year at Wellesley High School. My daughter-in-law, Susan Westmoreland, is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine specializing in pathology.

More about me

I majored in business at Northeastern University. Four months after I graduated, I went to Brookline Town Hall and was drafted into the United States Navy in 1952. I spent twenty-one months in the service; sixteen months of my time in the Navy was spent at sea on the USS Northampton. We sailed all over the world stopping at Rio de Janeiro, Oslo, Cannes, Toulon, Casablanca, Guantanamo, Trinidad and probably a few more that I have forgotten.

My passion...

...Is boating. I’ve owned 12 sailboats and 10 power boats. My Dad bought me my first sailboat when I was eleven. I got in and just started to sail. No lessons. Marge and I bought our first sailboat right after Michael was born in 1959. We won trophies with that beautiful Herishoff “S” boat. .

When we moved to a house in Scituate from an apartment in Brookline we joined the Satuit Boat Club. This year I’m the oldest member of the club and I still drive from Hingham to sit by the water and smoke a cigar. Now I own a 16 foot Cape Cod Mercury. I’m saving the sail boat for Sarah and Max.

Contributing to the Community

I’m proud to have been a director of the Jewish Family and Children’s service in Boston and also a member of the loan committee for the Jewish Vocational Service. For many years I served on the Board of our Hillsboro Beach Florida condominium but now I am retired from all committee meetings.

My Career

After leaving the Navy I went into business at HG Schiller and Company, refrigeration contractors and engineers. I retired at age thirty – seven.

The Family Curse

I have osteoarthritis. So does my Sister and so did my Father, Hymen George. The moral of this story is take good care of your health!

Finally

We are all very lucky to be Ashkenazi Jews. We are some of the brightest people in the world and I am so proud of my bright and loving family especially Marge, Michael, Andy, Susan, Max, Sarah And my sister, niece, nephews, cousins, uncles, aunts and all of you.

Simon Schiller, March 2020


Edith Ann Haimes

Joanne Haimes shared a summary of her family and some warm recollections.

Edith Ann Schiller married Albert Irwin Haimes on June 26, 1949 at Temple Sinai in Brookline, Massachusetts. They moved to Newton to raise their children, Robert, Howard and Joanne. Albert studied engineering at MIT before being drafted into the service in the late 1940s. He served in the Army Counter Intelligence Corps and after returning to civilian life, finished his degree at Boston University and met Edith Ann. Edith studied at Boston University, New York University and University of Florida earning a degree in psychology. Edith always had a passion for painting, art and design - beginning with studies at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts school as a child. She continued to paint while raising her children and has passed her love of the arts on to them.

After their marriage, Albert worked with his father-in-law in Hy's HVAC business and continued in the business long after Hy retired. Hy and Sadie lived close by and were a constant and loving presence in their grandchildren's lives. There were lots of family games - Gin Rummy, Mahjong, Bridge, and one that came straight from Hy - something he called Maishy Paishy. Sadie always had delicious candy, and shoes to match her bag. Hy often had a cigar and he always had something funny to say:

"The boy stood on the burning deck 
eating peanuts by the peck
his pants they were a burning wreck
and so he wore his sister's."

In the early 1980s Edith and Albert began to split their time between Newton, MA and Boca Raton, FL to spend winters near Hy and Sadie who had moved to Fort Lauderdale. Edith and Albert now live full time at Sinai Residences of Boca Raton - a continuing care community on the campus of the Jewish Federation of Palm Beach County.

Robert studied engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and is an AeroAstro researcher at MIT. Robert lives in Swampscott, MA. Howard studied economics and fine arts at Bowdoin College, is a building contractor in New York City and lives in Phippsburg, Maine. I (Joanne) studied general science and fine arts at Brandeis University and worked in the investment advisory business as a technical graphic designer in Boston. I am currently splitting my time between Brookline, MA and Deerfield Beach, FL.

Irving Schiller 1907-1972

Ike
Ike-2

Irving (Ike) Schiller was the sixth and youngest of the Schiller children. He was the only child of Simon and Rachel born in the United States, and the first in the family to go to college, though it must have been about the same time that his niece Sara, Morris’s daughter, was also in college.  Ike became a doctor—a specialist in allergies – who published extensively in his field. He was the whole family’s allergy doctor and quite a family favorite. For a long time Ike lived with his mother and the other relatives at Abbot Street. He was with the rest of the family when they learned that Moe’s first wife Jean had died in the Cocoanut Grove fire. In the 1940s, Ike married Barbara Green, who everyone called Kayo. They had two children, the youngest of Simon and Rachel’s grandchildren- Susan and Nancy.

Ike had a sterling medical career as captured in this obituary.

Ike - Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology obit

Susan Schiller Goldberg and Nancy Schiller Schlesinger

Sue Schiller Goldberg, Ike and Kayo's oldest daughter shared a few memories and an update on who’s who in Ike’s family:

As a young girl Nancy Schiller Schlesinger (Buzzy then) and I would visit Uncle Hy and Aunt Sadie. I remember that Sadie had a candy drawer filled with jumbo Hershey bars! She always made sure we got our share. We use to love to visit! Because of the age difference I really did not get to spend time with my first cousins. I remember Uncle Abe and Aunt Jenny visiting when they were in from NYC. Abe was very dashing. I remember many family members stopping by our house in Newton for allergy shots! I also remember uncle Morris making Ike a beautiful vest. Sad to say I have no memory of my aunts but I vaguely remember Ralph Davis. I also remember Saul Levy stopping by when he was in town. I’ve met Larry Levy and actually attended a Seder at his house 16-17 years ago.

Unfortunately my dad passed away when [my daughter] Debi was only two years old but he adored her. We lived in NY and were only a one hour shuttle flight away from Boston’s Logan airport. One day Debi and I were coming home from the park and as we approached our apartment I saw my Dad sitting on a bench. I couldn’t believe my eyes. He said he wanted to see Debi so he took a cab to Logan took the shuttle and boom he was there. He stayed for an hour and flew back to Boston. Of course the shuttle was probably $20 and no reservation necessary. Those were the days!

A bit more about the family. My sister Nancy attended Colby Sawyer College and then went into the Training Program with Federated Stores becoming one of the youngest managers at Filene’s in Chestnut Hill. Several years later she and her husband Bob moved to NYC. Once in NYC she took up a hobby, jewelry making. This little“ hobby “turned into Nancy & Risa . Their jewelry was carried in most hi end department stores throughout the country. Unfortunately our Dad who passed away all too young was not around to see Nancy’s success.

I too married and moved to NY with my husband Steve. We have lived in Merrick, Long Island for the past 45 years . Five years ago we bought an apartment in Boca Raton so we could see our kids and play golf. I graduated from Boston University in June’66 and married in August’66. I went into social work for several years and then discovered the business world. I’ve been actively involved in the real estate business as it relates to site selection and lease negotiations for several large Optical Retailers.

Steve and I have one daughter, Debi Schiller Gross. Debi graduated from Emerson College and returned to NYC to pursue a career in the Talent Agency business. She met her husband Bill Gross and moved to Hallandale Beach, Florida. They have two beautiful daughters, Jessie age 13 and Kala age 12. They currently live in Davie, Florida. Bill is originally from Montreal. His family moved to Florida when Bill was 12. Bill graduated from Amherst College and got his Law degree from University of Miami. Jessie and Kayla attend the University School in Davie and go to Camp Laurel South in Casco, Maine.

Larry Levy's Complete Memoir of Saul Levy

Saul Solomon Levy was a character, alternately and all-at-once both larger and smaller than life:

• Loud and loving (I first typed “loud but” because the loudness sometimes smothered the loving and forced friends and family away).

• Small in stature and insecure yet buoyed and maybe burdened all his life by the big dreams he chased (but rarely caught).

• Mentally sharp, especially in math, and very well read but academically unmotivated, even intellectually indolent (thus blunting his business and social ambitions).

• A fierce competitor who never quit in the face of failure (which, sadly, he often faced) and a painfully hard worker who all but begged for a heart attack when he was still in his 50s.

• A gambler, in business as well as at the card table and racetrack (where he found challenge, distraction, maybe solace until he died in the stands waiting for a horse race to start).

• The best and worst of fathers (whose talent as a baseball player and insecurities as a man saw him invest both too much and not enough in a son (me) and daughter (Mara). • Stubborn and loyal - except when the stubbornness overwhelmed the loyalty as when he abandoned another daughter (Joyce) whom Mara and I never knew existed until we were in college.

I’ll return to a more conventional narrative but Saul was a great storyteller, addicted to embellishment and as desirous of applause as he was deficient at picking up at social cues (aka annoying or even angering his “audience” of family, friends and colleagues). Which makes me wonder how he would tell his own story. I also want to say that my sisters Mara and Joyce undoubtedly have different memories and feelings – in fact, they may know the “true truth” better than I do -- and nothing in here is meant to contradict, criticize or marginalize anything in their hearts and minds. But, as they say, I digress…

As far as I know… (I’ll frequently repeat some such qualifier when I can’t clearly remember what I was told or be certain that what I “know” is true. And I’m truly eager for help in filling the gaps of memory and accuracy.) Saul was born September 4, 1914, in Coney Island, NY. His Hebrew named was Shlomo Zulman (sic). He told me that when he was very young his parents Harry and Mary moved back and forth a few times between Brooklyn to the Boston area. As for life during that period, I’ve learned that it was very hard. Harry had MS and they moved around in search of expert medical care. Harry was in and out of hospitals and eventually was admitted to a long-term care facility in the Boston area. Mary worked to support the family and the children – Saul and his younger siblings Maurice (Moe) and Beatrice (Bea) – all but raised themselves with help from various aunts and uncles. As one of my cousins said, “If they were tough and pugnacious people, it was shaped by a difficult childhood with an absent father figure.” The only story I remember Saul telling about these times has him crawling under a table to listen to the singing and conversation when an important cantor named Yossele Rosenblatt came to visit. (I need to check with the Levy side of the family to see if he was a relative.) Harry and Mary moved back to Boston area permanently while he was still a kid. Saul told me about delivering pastries (I’m sure he mentioned jelly donuts) before school on his bicycle from one of several bakeries his grandfather Simon owned and his father apparently worked when he could, this one where they lived in East Boston. They were among the few Jews in the neighborhood. Occasionally, I recall him saying, the Italian kids would chase him on his deliveries or after school shouting anti-Semitic epithets. He said he attended McKay Junior HS, named after the clipper ship creator, and he wrote (I don’t remember if it was regularly or one article) for the school newspaper. Even though, initially, he wanted me to go to law school instead of into journalism, he was always very proud of my newspaper career and, as with baseball, lived vicariously through my “exploits.” Interestingly, in the few years before his death in Florida in 1981, he returned to writing through a course for seniors and produced some intriguing stories, especially an account of a tragic event that would figure prominently in family history.

I know he loved to play baseball, which he did competitively until he was nearly 30, including a stint on what he described as a semi-pro team ($8 to catch a doubleheader) that once toured prisons throughout New England. He also attended Boston Latin School, the prestigious secondary school where his math skills were thought to presage a career in engineering. He attended classes with Joe Kennedy Jr, JFK’s brother who died in a WWII bomber experiment. Dad, who thought his classmate Joe was a good guy, came to hate Joe Sr. for his anti-Semitism, so much so that he wouldn’t vote for JFK for president so many years later. A pivotal event in Saul’s life came in 10th grade. More than once, Saul told a story about quitting school because he wasn’t allowed to play baseball. The reason, according to my father, was that a math teacher failed him on a major exam because – even though he got every question right – he didn’t show the work. He did it all in his head. I actually believe the story. He was brilliant at computation and, as I indicated in the introduction, stubborn as hell. And when the school wouldn’t let him play as a result of the grade, he supposedly quit. Frankly, while that may have played a role, I also suspect that either his father’s inability to earn a living or the Depression, which started with the stock market crash of 1929, figured into the decision. Regardless of the primary motivation, Saul, like millions of other young men of that era, left school at the age of 16 and sought work to help support his family. He never went back to school, not for an equivalency or higher education, even with the golden ticket of the GI Bill. It meant that an enormous potential was left untapped. It’s something that he knew and talked about from time to time, especially when I was struggling academically (and even threatened with being kicked off the baseball team myself). And, I believe, that losing his dreams of being a professional so young, would haunt him his whole life.

Aside from playing semi-pro baseball and driving a cab, I don’t know much about his life in Boston the 1930s and early 40s. Some important stuff that I do know I didn’t find out until 1968 during the four-hour ride from Long Island to Boston where I was to attend BU on a baseball scholarship. During the ride he reminisced about the high points of his life and the family’s, some of which are recounted above. He even told me about his pool shark days, including when he was beat up by two guys for hustling them – something I saw him do, taking guys to the cleaners at the pool table, even when he was much older. Yes, he was that good. His favorite gambit was to beat someone by, say, 50 balls in a 100-ball match for minor stakes. After a few such beatings, with relatively little money changing hands, he would offer to raise the stakes and play the mark left-handed with a 50-ball head start. When he would win again, the guy would say I can’t believe you can shoot just as well with your left hand. One night Saul apparently couldn’t resist: “You played with me all night and never noticed I am left handed?” I guess the guy had no sense of humor because he broke my father’s arm with a pool cue. He also had his nose broken by a guy who was upset at being taken for quite a bit of money in gin rummy, another game in which Saul excelled because of his memory and math skills (even if his “marks” didn’t appreciate them).

My father drove a cab in Boston until he was drafted into the Navy in 1943 or 1944. (The cab-driving gene, as well as military service, skipped me but both emerged in one of my sons.) Saul’s most memorable night in the cab was a nightmare for our family. It was the night of the Cocoanut Grove nightclub fire. At the end of his shift Saul was supposed to meet Moe and his young wife Jean at this famous nightclub in the Bay Village section of Boston. On the way to the ‘Grove, Saul noticed dozens of emergency vehicles screaming and flashing in the opposite direction. Soon he could smell the acrid smoke, then see it. He wasn’t able to get much closer. I can’t seem to find the article my father wrote for his class now – I’m sure it will turn up – and I know I’m leaving out some significant detail, so I won’t go on much longer with this. But what I do recall is that Moe got separated from Jean, but somehow made it out alive from the over-packed club with its ultra-flammable decor. (The club owner would go to prison for manslaughter in connection with violating fire codes.) They couldn’t find Jean. And with so much chaos and victims taken to so many hospitals, Saul and Moe and other family members weren’t sure for hours whether she survived. My father, Moe and cousin Ike Schiller, a doctor, tracked down where she might be. And they found her – in the morgue. She was one of 492 people to perish by fire, smoke or trampling. She was also pregnant. To this day relatives still remember, only a month after Jean’s funeral, the sight and sound of him sobbing uncontrollably at the wedding of his sister Bea. And for many years after, Moe used to tell his story at an annual event at the site on the anniversary of one of the worst fires U.S. history.

Saul’s short story about the fire many years later wasn’t the first time I’d heard about the tragedy. My dad had talked about it many times, as he did during our ride to Boston during which he repeated a number of family tales. But every time I impatiently said, “Dad I’ve heard all these stories,” he kept telling me to shut up and listen. And finally, a couple of hours into the trip, he threw his pitcher-son a curve. He told me that in 1937 he married a woman named Celia. “What???” I said. “Wait a second!!! That’s not right…” My mother was named Celia and I’d always been told Saul and she met in Florida during WWII – not 1930s – and that they married in 1948. And all that was true. Saul met my mother while he was on shore leave from the Miami-based destroyer escort on the hunt for German U-boats trying to enter the Caribbean. (He was an early radar operator and instructor.) And they did marry after the war. So what’s with marrying Celia in 1937? To make a novel-esque story much shorter, it turns out that Saul eventually would marry two Celias. And yes, he was married to Celia One when he met Celia Two. I’ve heard different versions about his first marriage but most of them confirm he never loved her – they were friends for years – and that he was often miserable. Bea once told me that Saul was “tricked” into marrying Celia One by telling him she was pregnant. (Whether Celia One believed it or not, it wasn’t true.) I’ve also recently learned that in 1942 Celia lost a child in pregnancy, possibly a stillbirth. My father never told me that he had lost a child. I can understand how that could affect a relationship that wasn’t strong to begin with. Then, in what was described as the proverbial “love at first sight,” the married Saul met the single Celia Number Two at a dance for Jewish servicemen. My mother told a story about that first night: While Saul was walking her home, my father used the N-word to describe some black men they passed. I was always shocked to hear this because he was about the most racially tolerant man I knew. I remember how he excoriated my JV football teammates when someone spray painted “Kill the N----s” on the visiting locker room wall, and how proud he was to have hired a black man for the critical job of shipping manager for his business. As the story goes, my mother turned to him, “I will not spend another second with a man who talks like that!” He apologized profusely, said he didn’t really think like that (and whatever else he could think of to recoup the nascent relationship). He grew up in racist neighborhoods where people casually tossed off racially and ethnically disparaging epithets. He probably “didn’t mean anything by it.” Well whatever he said, she apparently forgave him. With the war and a hustling city as a backdrop, they dated for a while on his leaves – until she found out he was married. (It was her sister, my Aunt Edith, who found out: She met a guy from Boston and said her sister was dating someone from up there. The guy asked who and, amazingly (but truthfully) he knew Saul and spilled the Boston beans. Then Celia Two supposedly cut him off cold. “I don’t want to see you unless you are single.” Saul said he would go to Boston on his next extended leave (or maybe right after he was mustered out?) and break the news to Celia One, that he was in love and was going to leave her. Apparently, however, he lost his nerve. Not only that, he got her pregnant – and thus Joyce Karen Levy entered the world nine months later. And it would be 23 years later, on the ride to Boston, that I would hear for the first time the stunning news: I had a second sister I’d never met.

It was a helluva ride to think of it. At one point, as we skirted New Haven harbor on I-95, he suddenly swerved across two lanes of traffic to access the off-ramp. “It’s my ship!” he said almost shaking. “What are you talking about?” I asked. “There, at the dock, that’s my ship from the war.” I said “no way” but it was true. Nearly 25 years after the war, when it should have been dismantled for scrap or sold to a third-world ally, his destroyer escort had been re-outfitted as a naval reserve training ship. We literally knocked on the guard’s hut by the gangplank, and after my father explained what he’d just told me, the captain (or executive officer) took us on a tour. Which, really, my father led. He was especially animated when he saw the place where the “secret” craps and card games were played. He later explained that he ran the ship’s small store and acted as an unofficial bookmaker on the ship, including placing bets and acquiring contraband mostly for the officers. In fact (assuming it was fact) he said he was once arrested (Bidenesque?) one night for being AWOL when he was on an “unofficial” errand for the captain. The two made a deal that my father would get only light punishment but more privileges in exchange for keeping his mouth shut about why he was off the ship.

After the War, during the “transition” from Celia to Celia, he went to work as a salesman for an uncle or cousin (again, help please) in the textile business – what he would do in some form for the rest of his life. Saul was, by all account, a great salesman. (He apparently passed some of this along in his DNA: My sister sells real estate and has sold kitchenware and I, well, in my second career at Hofstra, I sell funders on research and engagement projects.) I recall that his brother Maurice – my Uncle Mo – also went on the road for the same relative. My father used to tease Mo for hoarding his food and expense money instead of enjoying a little luxury or R&R while away from home. “He was so cheap!” He felt Mo also wasn’t willing to take any risks to get ahead, eventually leaving sales for the secure salary and pension and predictable schedule of the postal service. When things were bad in our home financially, which they often were, my mother used to chide dad that “the post office doesn’t look so bad now, does it Saul?” (I have two compelling memories of Mo, who, along with his children (my cousins Harry and Laurence), I didn’t see much of, perhaps because many relatives ostracized Saul after the divorce and his brother’s family remained close to Celia One. The first is that Mo had a fabulous voice, which, talking about DNA, was passed down to his grandson Lucas, a professional opera singer, my son Sam, who was accepted by a collegiate conservatory and my Aunt Bea, who performed as an amateur chorus member in some big-time venues. The second “Moe memory” was that he had an Actor’s equity card as an extra, an avocation that began when he was selected for a razor blade commercial in which he attested that he got hundreds of shaves from the same blade. Anyway, my father stayed on the road. And my sister Mara and I share dozens of letters that my father wrote Celia Two during his travels from one town to another, from textile mills and tailors’ showrooms. In his fairly elegant penmanship and on embossed letterhead from hotels long gone, they capture the aspirations and frustrations of a generation seeking a better civilian life. They also capture his love for Celia Two – his “dearest” and “darling” Cyl. As he was still married, she rarely responded but she kept them – why, I never asked her but I am grateful she did. By all accounts, the divorce was “messy.” I’m sure there are other versions, but what I was told (propaganda?) was that Celia One was very bitter and made achieving a divorce settlement and life after it difficult. I was told that she would not allow my father to see his daughter Joyce unless she was present or it was otherwise supervised and that he couldn’t take her from the home. Again, I don’t know if this was true. But he did not see Joyce often as a young girl. (His moving to New York to be with Cyl didn’t make contact easier.) Saul did send regular support checks – at least for a time. There is a disputed story about all this. One version (and I just don’t remember where I heard this) has Joyce intercepting checks and not telling her mother. Another version (which doesn’t necessarily negate the first) is that, once things got ugly and he had started another family, he withheld payments. And that is why he wasn’t allowed visits. The person who would know for certain, Celia One, is no longer with us, but I will try to clear this up with Joyce. She is the real victim in all this. Unfortunately, after my father married Celia Two in 1948 and she gave birth to me in 1950 where they lived now in New York City, Saul decided to cut himself off from Joyce (and some other “disapprovers” in the family) completely. I may have the timeline wrong, as well as other details, but I guess the “last straw” for him was when Celia One had him arrested during a visit to Boston for failing to pay court-ordered child support and alimony. Whatever the truth, the sad reality was that from the time Joyce was five in 1950, Saul only talked to Joyce twice – when she was 13 and 18, I recall, and only on the phone. And that it would be more than 30 years before they would see each other again – the same day he would meet her son and first grandson, Christopher. The reunion was suggested by Joyce when she called to tell me she’d given birth, and at first Saul resisted it. But a couple of months later, when our entire family was in Boston for a wedding, he relented and accompanied me to Joyce and her husband Eddie’s suburban home. It was an emotional, if uncomfortable, coming together – they didn’t look at each other for more than a half hour – until after she finished changing and swaddling Christopher, looked Saul in the eye and said, “Would you like to hold your grandson?” He did. And in the literally passing of one generation to another (and from another), a terrible wound finally began to heal. A wound for both Saul and Joyce. For six months he got to enjoy at least the start of a new relationship with daughter and grandson. He got to close a disgraceful chapter in his life, the abandonment of a daughter. And then, before the relationship had a chance to truly flower – before grandson and grandfather could get to know each other -- Saul died in Miami. Ironically, in the years following Saul’s death in 1981 at 66, my mother -- the woman who “broke up her parents’ marriage -- became very close to Joyce. Another woman named Celia became her surrogate mother.

Before I leave this era I want to share one seemingly far-fetched story, but one confirmed by my mother, grew out of Saul’s gambling life and neighborhood ties in the Boston area. Apparently he ran with the Baker Brothers, as they were called. Basically, they were street thugs who eventually made a business of gambling and other criminal enterprises. Beyond neighborhood loyalties, Saul was valued by them for his knowledge of horses and his math skills that allowed him to compute odds and payoffs for horse races. He often hinted mischievously that in the ‘30s he worked on the edges of a bookmaking and numbers. Well, according to the story, after the war the Bakers asked Saul if he would like to help run a casino in Cuba! He knew Havana a little because his ship sometimes docked there on its patrols. Saul and Cyl were flown down – he hated flying and got sick on the way – where they were wined and dined and presented with a pretty lucrative offer. When my father and mother-to-be returned to New York, he asked her what she thought. Cyl’s “famous” reply was this: “Saul, it’s them or me…” He chose her and returned to the road selling “rags,” as he sometimes called the fabric which he carried in swatches in his leather sample bag. PS: On another trip with me to Boston, we heard a radio anchor announce that there had been a “mob hit” on one Charlie Baker in a Boston alley. He went on to tell me stories from the ‘hood that ended with him saying of Charley Baker’s bullet-riddled body, “I guess that could have been me.”

Saul’s move to New York, where Cyl had lived most of her life, was supposed to be a fresh start – he even changed the pronunciation of his name to Lee-vee, not Leh-vee as most of his family did. He eventually went to work for Jess Ward Co, a textile sales firm, and did very well. I was born in August 1950, Mara in December 1953. And as I approached school age, my parents opted for the wider open, lt NY suburb of Valley Stream in 1955, into a new split level that he doted on (although when I “came of age” I did the lawn mowing). The dining room table, which we only used for the occasional “company,” was always covered by a jigsaw puzzle in process. He loved to fish with some of the men in the neighborhood, which was filled with veterans who had bought their first home on the GI Bill and were taking their first steps up the economic ladder. Some owned businesses, some would – including some who would be very successful (measured the by progression of increasingly expensive cars in the driveways, a symbol of the growing gap between the haves and not yets). I still have a memory of rows of striped bass on the sidewalk as they unloaded the catch from the car to divvy up. He also, as mentioned, loved to go to the horse track, trotters at Roosevelt Raceway, flats at Aqueduct and Belmont and a trip up to Saratoga in the summer. His regular day to “play the ponies” was Saturday morning. Supposedly, he would budget a certain amount of money for the first two races, including the Daily Double, and if he lost it all, he went home. If he won, he stayed. Occasionally, he would come home with a big roll of cash and we would all go out to a “fancy” restaurant. I suspect, however, that he lost more than we were told. I’m sure he gambled on the road, mostly card games. One thing he loved to do on the road was stay at hotels where the Major League players quartered when they visited. He would bring me back autographs, including Hank Aaron’s. He loved athletes, although I sometimes sensed a resentment over all the money they made. He told a funny story of his occasional meetings with Muhammad Ali, whose agent was in the same building where he eventually located his own business. Ali’s limo was double-parked in the loading zone outside his textile office. My father went to the driver and said, “Hey, you better move it.” The driver said, “This is the champ’s car.” Saul father said, “I don’t care who the hell’s it is, I have a shipment to unload.” At that point Ali came out and asked what all the fuss was about. When my father saw who it was, he supposedly said, “Nothing champ, I was just asking if I could wash your car.” Ali (who knew better) laughed and they schmoozed awhile. He got the Greatest’s autograph for me too.

On Long Island, both Saul and Cyl were devoted to our little Reform synagogue. They founded it with a group of neighbors who weren’t happy with the larger temples. It started in basements with Friday night potluck dinners, rotating from family to family. Eventually, the group grew and leased, then bought, a former bank and village hall building. I have many memories but I’ll limit them to a couple directly involving my father (and not all of them pleasant). Saul ran the bingo game, which drew hundreds of people from the community and was Temple Judea’s principle funding source beyond family dues. Like I said, he knew how to run a gambling operation. My sister and I loved going to down the hall and playing the cards and helping out. (I once won a $75 jackpot, which was confiscated during one of our frequent periods of austerity to buy equipment for Boy Scout camp.) I know for sure that, when he ran short, he sometimes borrowed money from the canvas bag stuffed into his bedroom closet, but both he and mom were insistent that they replaced it with the next pay check. (I am ashamed to admit that as a kid I occasionally filched a quarter to go bowling.) Saul became president of the Men’s Club, organizing a lot of events, including the annual holiday (either Memorial Day, July 4 or Labor Day, not sure). He would show up early to build a big charcoal fire and start the day cooking up a big cast iron pan of eggs, kippers and onions. Until various ailments slowed him down, he would star in the picnic softball game. He also was chair of the membership committee and helped the congregation grow to nearly 100 families. But he also was part of the congregation’s disintegration. He was an insecure man, as I said, and seemed to feel threatened both by anything new (at least socially) or by someone disagreeing with him. And he would respond sometimes pugnaciously. I remember being embarrassed by his loud harrumphing during a sermon he didn’t like, probably one that advocated support for draft counseling in the synagogue or opposition to Vietnam War. He vehemently objected to a rock and roll service that delighted most of the congregation, especially kids. I remember after a vote by the board of trustees to allow the draft counseling – I was in the building attending Hebrew School that night -- he wouldn’t let go, scurrying from person to person, getting louder and louder. Nobody wanted to talk to him. As sad as it was embarrassing. I saw stuff like this a lot. He couldn’t (or didn’t want to) help himself, even as it alienated him from friends and family alike. I also remember that he “stiffed” two brothers in law on substantial loans, not paying one back for years and another not at all. He could be proud of his relatives’ successes even as he was resentful.

But Saul certainly doted on me. I could do very little wrong (even when I did wrong). He often contradicted or countermanded punishment meted out by mother. (When she was head of the temple religious school, she said I could not miss Sunday classes – even if it meant missing my beloved baseball. In an “epic” confrontation, before a “big” game, my father told me to play baseball. And I did. (She was angry for years.) But the fuel for my father’s extra affection for me was baseball. I eventually became really good, to be honest, and he got great pleasure from teaching me and rooting for me. But, as always, he overdid it to the point where I even told him, more than once (shame on me) to shut up and stay away. It wasn’t the baseball, the coaching part hat I absorbed like the proverbial sponge. The more I learned at higher levels, the more I realized how much he knew. It was the bragging. Even in restaurants, after I’d pitched a great game, he would be talking loudly – supposedly but not really to us – loud enough so everyone within a few tables could hear how many strikeouts and hits I’d tallied. I know a lot of young men would have killed to have that attention, and I did (and still do) love attention, but it was just too much. So I often recoiled and sometimes nastily. He once named me MVP on a synagogue basketball team and I refused to go up on the stage to accept. Not that I didn’t deserve it – I’d had a very good year in a league that didn’t allow varsity or JV-level (aka good) players. But because I thought everybody would think I got the prize because I was his son. And because, at some level, I sensed that the intensity of his affections had little to do with me. He was reliving his youth – no that’s not accurate, he was living a youth he never had. (Not to speak for her, I also think my sister Mara suffered from a lack of attention which she very much deserved for her own accomplishments.) But as I said, he was the best and worst of fathers, with sometimes the best and worst of outcomes. And I’m pretty sure that his advocacy for me with the Boston University baseball coach had a lot to do with me getting into the school – which played at a level, frankly, a bit above my baseball skills, and whose academics were WAY above my C-level HS grades. Like he did with textiles, he sold me spectacularly.

I apologize for rambling on like this and for the inconsistent quality of the prose, and ‘I’ll try to wrap up soon.

My father’s ambitions hustled him to leave Jess Ward, which had given us a comfortable suburban life until I was about 10, and start his own business. Simon Textiles was its first name, a nod to his grandfather, the patriarch who came over from the “old country” to become a very successful businessman. Then it became LaMara – after, yes, Larry and Mara. But mostly it could be spelled B-U-S-T. He was always in debt. He often waited until the third notice to pay the mortgage, the last before foreclosure. But he worked like a dog, in the office lugging around heavy rolls of fabric and outside where he still made sales trips around the region. I often went into the city to help out on Saturdays (until baseball took precedence, of course) and every once in a while I went on the road with him. I do remember visiting Baltimore – where he once was robbed at gunpoint – where he visited an old customer. They got into an argument during which my father had to admit – in front of me, the customer insisted – that he had tried to pull the wool (literally) over his eyes by misrepresenting the quality of a shipment. I felt angry and sad at the same time. He was embarrassed and sounded disappointed in himself. He never quite said why he did it, but did say he was sorry I had to see that. (The customer, who was close enough to Saul that he actually had attended my Bar Mitzvah, said it should be a lesson for me about honor.) I guess he was getting desperate. On the way home we actually talked about Willy Loman. But mostly it was a long, quiet ride. I don’t want you to think he was a total loser in business or relationships. Hardly. He had friends who swore by him – who put up with his peccadillos and stood with him during tough times – even that customer in Baltimore. Saul did have some good years (though heavily leveraged) but eventually he ran out of capital, temperament or the skills sets to run a bigger business. And he sank toward bankruptcy. But in the end God took care of the business. In 1965 (I think), he had a “walking coronary” and was forced to wind down the business. (Again I may be messing up the timeline but I think this captures the gist of it.) I remember he would kill time by coming to all my high school baseball and football practices (driving me and some of my team mates nuts). One of the highlights of his life (and I guess mine) was coming up to Boston in 1972 to see me pitch -- twice -- in Fenway Park where BU was allowed to play several games. Once he drove up to New Hampshire to see me pitch against UNH, an awful performance that climaxed when I was thrown out of the game for cursing out the ump. He followed me into the locker room and after some back and forth about what happened, he said, “I was talking to the scouts who came to see you.” (Saul always liked to hang around the backstop or in the stands with college and major league scouts.) The week before I’d pitched the best game of my college “career,” beating one of the best teams in the northeast. So for the first time the scouts were curious. “They said you have a major league curveball, but a high school temperament. They could fix that but they couldn’t fix your high school fastball.” We both laughed. I never for a second believed I had what it took to be a pro ball player. And I now realize that we shared more traits than I realized growing up. But I always knew that I learned a lot from him, from what to do and what not to do – like cursing out an umpire with MLB scouts in the stands! Eventually, around 1975 he had a big heart attack that sidelined him for months.

During this period, Saul and Cyl used to sell textiles at flea markets, doing a brisk business, so they put more time into that. And eventually, with Saul reduced to what amounted to a sales and shipping assistant, it was my mother who opened a store in Queens. He was never resentful, worked as hard as he could, and once said, “You know, in another time, your mother could have been the boss of a really big company.”

But my father’s health did not improve much and in 1979 (I could be off a year) they moved to Florida, where he enjoyed a resurgence in more than the physical. After being awakened in the middle of the night, Saul formed a civic group that advocated against excessive train noise (long story) and actually succeeded in forcing the Florida East Coast Central RR trains to stop blaring its horns for blocks at a time in the middle of night, as they hurtled past condos. (Amazingly just yesterday as I write, I got a call from a reporter in Washington for a story he was writing on the suburbs and the virus, and he remembered that we met in Florida many years ago when he was covering my father!) Saul even appeared on the Miami version of Good Morning America as the” Little Man Who Could.” And after he died on May 30, 1981, from a “widow-maker” heart attack -- appropriately, as he waited with a friend for a race to go off at Calder Racetrack in Miami -- I was shocked to see dozens of local officials and civic leaders at the funeral. Shocked and touched: That in the last years of his life, he achieved the sort of public respect from others that so often eluded him. That a man who often was ignored or told to quiet down at temple board or civic meetings, who saw so many doors shut in his face by people who didn’t want to hear from him, had earned the ear of so many “shakers and movers.”

More important – most important -- on the day he was buried, there was the recognition – the relief -- of reconciliation: Someone else was at the funeral who, six months or even 30 years earlier, would never have been there. Would never have wanted to be there: His once-abandoned daughter Joyce, who sat in the front pew with Cyl, Mara and me. Who prayed with us for his immortal soul. If it’s true that “man plans, God laughs,” then maybe it’s also true that “man screws up, God forgives.” Who knows. But what I think it’s fair to say is, that for all the tsouris in his life, Saul Solomon Levy died a happy man.


The Posner Family - a part of the Mischpucha

This section is about the Posner/Kirschbaum relatives of the Schillers. It is written by Edie Kelman Jeffrey, a Posner descendant, connected to Ruchl Schiller through her mother, Miriam (Manya)Kirschbaum Kelman. The ancestry chart below will help you visualize some of these relationships. Ruchl's sister, Esther, married Yitzak Kirszenbaum and they had 10 children. And interestingly, one of the children - Fanny - married Max Schiller, Simon Schiller's brother!

Although the Posner Family are not direct descendants on the Schiller side - they are linked by Ruchl and Esther and our common Posner ancestors - Beryl and Malka Posner, Ruchl and Esther's parents. In America, the Posners’ uncle and aunt, Simon and Ruchl, cared for these young people and were thoroughly connected to them, helping with personal matters, employment, naturalization and probably other things. The Posners were part of the Simon Schiller mishpucha in Dorchester.

In this section, we first read about Manya and what she did when she got to America. Following that is a beautifully written document written by her daughter Edie in 1985 as birthday gift to her mother, Manya, entitled “Miriam in Poland.” This document is also a gift to all descendants of the Posners, giving us a view back to our relatives’ lives in Poland.

There are many other Kirschbaum nieces and nephews of Ruchl worthy of our attention, including some who were involved with the founding of the state of Israel. But more on that at a later time.

Esther Posner Family

We've also gathered quite a lengthy family history from Edith Kelman Jeffrey from her mother Miriyam Kirzsenbaum Kelman - further below.  But before that, a few short memories about her mother, Miryam Kirszenbaum, Miryam's sister Fanny Kirschbaum, and Fanny's husband, Max Szydlo - Simon Szydlo Schiller's brother.

And to keep some of this straight - Esther Chai Posner, the sister of Ruchl Posner (Simon Szydlo's spouse) and mother of Fanny, is the mother-in-law of Simon's brother, Max. One generation of one family married into another generation of the other family. Got that?

Miriam (Manya) Kirschbaum Kelman in the U.S.A.

My mother Manya’s sister Fanny Schiller and her husband Max had a tailor shop in Medfield for many years, from before World War One. When Fanny brought my mother to America around 1920 it was to help in their household. Fanny had had miscarriages and had been told that she had to stay in bed to avoid miscarrying. My mother lived in Medfield with Fanny and Max for about 8 years, helping, especially when Fanny had to stay in bed during a pregnancy. One of my mother’s tasks was to take a live chicken by streetcar from Medfield to Millis, a nearby town where there were Jewish farmers and more important, a ritual slaughterer who did the job. Then my mother returned by street car to Medfield carrying the dead chicken. No big deal. You did what you had to do— helped by the wonderful network of streetcar transport in the 1920s.

Max became a successful “high class” tailor, making suits for a Dover clientele (taking the patterns from the suits they brought back from England). He kept those clients (at least some of them) when Max moved his business from Medfield to Needham.

With my mother’s help Fanny was able to give birth to Harriet in 1924. My mother continued to live with Fanny and Max in Medfield until about 1928 or 1929. Then something happened. I don’t know the details. My mother moved to Dorchester, got a job as a stitcher in a factory in Boston, and lodged with some people whose name may have been Foreman. For my mother, it was her first opportunity to meet young (Jewish) people of her own age. She began to have friends.

I think Fanny and Max may have separated for a while— Fanny and Harriet living in Dorchester until rejoining Max who had closed the shop in Medfield and opened one in Needham. Many of his old customers continued to be loyal. Some were pretty wealthy Dover types.

My parents married in 1930. I was born in 1932, in the depths of the depression. My father’s background was in radio technology which he had studied in Berlin and had worked in that field for 6 years in Cuba. He met my mother when he came with a visitor’s visa to visit his parents who had immigrated to America before the restrictive immigration act was passed in 1924. By marrying my mother who was a citizen he qualified to become a resident though he had to go back to Cuba to re-enter in a different category. Though he had good letters of recommendation from his employers in Cuba jobs were few and far between.

Then fast forward: Max died suddenly of a heart attack or stroke in spring or summer of 1933. Fanny was able to hire a tailor but she needed a driver. My father was out of work but could drive. So my little family moved to Needham. Fanny and Harriet continued to live in Needham for several years.

My family became Needham people. I remember Fanny speaking glowingly of some of their wealthy patrons. Fanny continued to live in Needham with Harriet (her daughter) for several years, eventually in an apartment over the shop. My father became a cutter for Ace Leather, a medium size business that produced sportswear. They really took off during the war with government contracts for jackets, etc. My father learned on the job, first graduating from cutter, then marker, then designer— although his heart belonged to radio for which he had trained in Berlin. He continued to fix radios on the side. I remember Sunday mornings playing with the insides of radios he was working on at the kitchen table

So we stayed in Needham. There was no Jewish community there then— just a few assorted merchants. None of my friends were Jewish and that was okay. It was natural. They were good friends. It wasn’t until I went to Brandeis that I had Jewish friends. They were very interesting, some exotic. Brandeis was an exciting place in its very early years. Livelier than Needham for sure. But at the same time, I continued to be close to my old friends.

Edith Jeffrey and Millie Lan also had a series of back and forth emails, starting with the sharing of a family picture, on March 20, 2020.

Beresh Michael Fanny Max Schiller Miryam Kirschbaum

Left to right: Beresh Kirschbaum, Mike Kirschbaum, Fanny Kirschbaum Schiller, Max Schiller, Miriam Kirschbaum (my mother)


Millie Lan (daughter of Bessie Schiller Davis) to Edith Kelman Jeffrey - daughter to Miryam Kirschbaum/grandaughter to Esther Posner - sister Rachel Poser

Interesting that the women are standing and the men sitting. I see a resemblance between Max and Harriet. I know Mike was short, he and Fannie are the same height. She was a good looking woman as was your Mom (Miriam Kirischbaum). How much younger was she than Fannie and who was Beresh? What happened to him? Are the clothes interesting. The women’s dresses. I read that Fannie was 96 the she died but just read she was 100.

Edith Jeffrey to Millie Lan

And just think: Max thought that Fanny would die young. She had miscarriages and stomach troubles. According to Rose Schiller (Morris’ wife), who I met unexpectedly at the Hebrew Rehab, Max was trying to “groom” my mother (Miriam) to take Fanny’s place. A family scandal. Did you ever hear anything about this?

Millie Lan to Edith Jeffrey

Interesting that your mother (Miriam) was groomed to take Fannie’s place. I never heard that. I did hear that she had many miscarriages until Harriet (Max and Fannie’s daughter) was born. Possibly an unhappy marriage. How did Rose Schiller become so knowledgeable about her husband's side of the family?

Edith Jeffrey to Millie Lan

I think there was a scandal when someone noticed something. The Medfield household broke up. Fanny moved with Harriet somewhere in Dorchester. My mother (Miryam Kirschbaum) became a lodger with people I assume were family friends. She also got her first job— as a stitcher in a factory and her first paycheck. She began to have friends. In 1930 she met my father (Abraham Kelman) who had come from Cuba on a visitor’s visa to visit his family in Dorchester.

In a March 27, 2020 exchange between Edith Jeffrey and John Schiller about Mordecai Alon, Bernice Kelman and Edith...

I knew Motti then too. He was in US on secret stuff. Occasionally he came out to us in Needham with his secretary— Dahlia I think she was called. I recall that once my father rolled up the rug and put a record on the phonograph and we all danced. I think I remember Motti demonstrating the difference between the English style walz step and the American or Viennese style. We were fascinated by him.

The lengthy history of the Kirchbaums, as provided by Maryam to her daughter, Edith Jeffrey, is as follows:


Miriam in Poland-1
Miriam in Poland-2
Miriam in Poland-3
Miriam in Poland-4
Miriam in Poland-5
Miriam in Poland-6