Gloria and Jerry

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.

16 comments on “Gloria

  1. Ah Jerry! I don’t know what to say except you should write an autobiography. I would buy it and relish reading it. In all your Blogs, no matter what subject, there is love, warmth humour & personal triumph. Inspiring.

  2. Jerry, I liked you story very much, but it’s heart wrenching. I’m so sorry to know that this happened to Gloria, and to you all.

  3. A truly touching story. I am so sorry that she is gone, Jerry. One of my brothers is gone now, too. But folks like you and I are so lucky to have had these special compatriots in our lives. Brothers and sisters … they can be so very special, and too often go unappreciated. I’m glad you took the time and words to “appreciate” Gloria here.

  4. Dad, just a glimpse of how wonderful you are – you have always been there for everyone.
    I enjoyed you telling this short story on such a wonderful sister / mother / grandmother / friend /survivor our Gloria was! It was so touching I cried thank you for sharing.
    But for us there are not enough words to say how much we loved her and miss her and how she made Seaside your grandchildren s home away from home….

  5. Jerry
    Gloria was skaters family as well as Bill & Rosilie Driggers,Thay are all missed.What is happening to some of my posting seems like i post and it must get deleted.
    Sorry if its not accepted, but your doing great keep your tales going.Now start telling tales of the past ofthe area of 58 to 73 when your thoughts are all together others want to also hear about how you brought derby back to life again, The Iodine

  6. great blog….sounds like your sister was amazing….question – do you recall who managed the cubs when you watched them in series?

  7. WOW! Thank you Uncle Jerry. I heard these stories of you and Grandma so many times and they just never get old. I love her so much and miss her even more. Thank you for being you and letting the world know what a great person she was 🙂

  8. I met Gloria just once–in the hallway of the Gateway Towers in Concord, sixth floor, rushing to get to my next BASS Training Class after shooing my students out the door. I was of course wearing a Roller Derby tee shirt (I believe the legend was “I Survived Joanie Weston’s ROLLER DERBY (r) Training Center, Hayward CA”. Gloria and Ken were walking down the hall, we smiled hellos, and her eyes immediately went to my shirt. “Where did you get *that*?” she asked. I told her of my doomed involvement with Joanie and a skater group and the training school and how we put on benefit games here and there.” “Oh,” she said, and I know she was shocked because skating of any kind was dead in the water that time. “well my family was…” “Oh, I know who you are!” I burst out in realization. Her warm and kind daughter was someone I relied on a lot in the administration office and I heard they were coming by.

    I think the fact that I knew who they were surprised her because there are fans who know the Bay Bombers and there are those who know what happened in Baltimore and I’m in the latter category. “Where do you skate?” I told her we just recently did a game in Santa Rosa and raised a couple thousand dollars for an anti-drug campaign in schools there, and that we had gotten new uniforms for a band in Auburn a few weeks before. “You make money at it?” She could barely contain her astonishment. And, perhaps, family pride in that Derby faithful were still using her father’s game for good in the world, in a small way.

    “Well,” I explained to her, “WE don’t make money, but the people that we do the benefits for do. We go broke every time.” I smiled and they did too, but in that way that parents do when their kids leave snacks out for Santa. “But then why…” she began, and stopped. “You have fun with it?” she asked, partly out of concern. I sure did. Ken warmly advised me not to spend my savings on it. “Easy, I have none.” Warm laughs all around. As we made quick introductions and departures, I could see the idea that anyone found joy in promoting even our low-rent version of the Roller Derby was somewhat poignant, and her face was a warm blend of amusement and concern. One of those, “well I can’t stop you but be home before too late and fasten your seatbelt” looks only a mother can give. “As long as you’re enjoying it.” That was the important thing to her. I’m sure they looked at each other in amazement as I ran off to train a new set of ticketsellers. “Good luck,” she called out, and as I turned around to wave goobye I saw a look of hopeful concern and a warm smile as the elevator door closed them off. A gracious moment I’ll always remember.

  9. I met Gloria when I started dating Howard Marcovitch. The famous Arrowhead group. She was the life of the party and organizer. I remember all the wonderful projects we had fun doing up in the mountains and all the delicious meals she cooked. We all loved her famous mac and cheese. I still make it today, but hers was better! I’ve never met anyone quite like her and think of her with fond sweet memories. She wrote an email to me, just before she went into the hospital. Telling me she would see me soon, after her little “party”. I still have it. We all miss her so very much. Her legacy is her beautiful family. ❤ Oh, I almost forgot, she sewed outfits for the the kids for each and every Chanukah Party. We would arrive at the Temple Rec. Room and she would whisk the kids away in the restroom and dress them all up in their handmade outfits. All the mothers were not allowed to peak until the kids made their grand entrance. These were the BEST darn parties ever.

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