My sister and I went through a lot together early in life: our mother dying when she was 12 and I was 9, being uprooted to Chicago from our comfortable family existence in Portland. From the first day we arrived in Chicago Gloria and I started to save coins so that we had enough money we could move back to Oregon.
Dad tried his best……it was just different after being with our mother and grandmothers most of the time and our cousins (the Weinsteins and the Seltzers) no longer being around. Eventually Oscar’s family also moved out to Glenview, so our cousins were there. Then Dad brought our grandfather and grandmother Seltzer to Chicago also, but none of us was quite the same in the new environment.
We had a new stepmom Lois who neither Gloria or I ever got close to. That 2nd marriage ended in a bitter divorce and Gloria was more intent than ever on leaving when she could. I was starting to have a good time as cousin Bob and I would go to Chicago every Saturday and peruse the camera stores and other downtown delights and end up at the Coliseum and come home with my dad. And my grandfather took me to see the Cubs for the first time……it just happened to be the World Series (how many alive can say they saw the Cubs in the World Series?), and my sister started at Niles Twp High School in Skokie, where my cousins and I eventually went and graduated.
Gloria bonded with the best friends of her life at Niles. Her group was called “The Pearls”…..I don’t remember why. They did things together for the rest of her life: trips, cruises, parties, etc, even though she moved to California and then Oregon….and that tells you a lot about my sister.
After Niles she went to Smith College for a year and then started in at UCLA. By then she and Ken Gurian were going together and they were married in 1948 at the Bel Aire Hotel, one of the greatest Hotels anywhere. They had their 50th anniversary celebration there in 1998 and the Hotel was so gracious in the way they hosted them. I of course, was at both gatherings.
Shortly thereafter both Ken and Gloria went to work for the Roller Derby in New York and New Jersey. Ken managed, announced on TV, and did a multitude of other tasks. Gloria ran the box office and pretty much managed the in-house stuff. My father paid them no more than he would the other staff and they had no special privileges. She took care of the skaters’ problems and other tasks outside of her job, and of course she and Ken had to listen to the complaints by the skaters and others about Roller Derby. She did have some great stories though and perhaps I can get Ken to tell them when he does his next blog on next years of Roller Derby (until 1955).
Finally when the long run ended in the East, Ken took a job with Riker Laboratories and they moved to Encino California where they bought a house on Gloria street. And David, who had been born in the west, was joined by sister Phyllis and younger brother Keith who were born in the east. And this is when Gloria started demonstrating her becoming the matriarch of all the family.
I am sure because of the loss of our mother at such an early age who was never replaced in our lives, Gloria was impelled to make certain that all near and extended family would not be deprived. And it was further accentuated when in her early thirties she also acquired breast cancer and eventually had to have two masectomies and as was done at that time treated with heavy radiation. She was determined it would not slow her down. She became a travel agent and took trips to everywhere, always wearing the same dress when photos were taken, whether in Moscow, India, Cuba, or in Fiji while scuba diving. It makes for a great album. She hosted all birthdays and occasions, and for her friends and families’ childrens’ Hanukkah celebration, she would make clothes for everyone. And for Passover, she would have two sittings of at least 40 people.
Finally the Los Angeles climate became too much for her irradiated lungs and asthma (she never complained) and she and Ken moved to Seaside, Oregon, to live by the ocean. She still arranged the Pearls annual gathering, hosted dozens of family and friends for the 4th of July celebration, planted her garden, took care of the family and visited them all.
She started to develop real shortness of breath and was unable to take care of all she wanted. She had a rare heart condition and an experimental valve had been developed, and it was decided that she would go to Vancouver, BC where the doctor who had created the valve would operate it on her and hopefully she could go back to her normal live. We were all in Vancouver and the operation was a success. We all saw her in recovery and I asked her if she was going to be able to dance again and she smiled and squeezed my hand. We all went to dinner and then got a call to come back to the hospital. It seemed she had started bleeding internally and somehow it hadn’t been noticed and she was too weak to recover and died.
We were all in shock and couldn’t believe it when the doctor came out and told us…good sense keeps me from saying here what happened and what should have been avoidable. No matter what, this woman who was my closest relative and someone I never had a real disagreement with (and that goes for my relationship with Ken also) was gone. The irony that she had lived for well over 40 years as a cancer survivor and should have never died in a way that was probably avoidable kind of jumps out at you.
Her daughter Phyllis who lives in Portland has very much taken over the reins of the matriarch. She is also a cancer survivor who has befriended and been befriended by the Rose City Rollers in raising funds to fight cancer. And I can’t forget Linda, Keith’s wife, who was at the side of and learned so much from Gloria.
The money we raised to leave Chicago? One day we just split it up and I don’t remember what I did with my share.