Jerry Levine grew up in the West End of Boston. He moved his rapidly expanding family to Malden in 1963 after being displaced by the Beast That Ate The West End. He spent the next 57 years on Charles Street finding contentment and peace of mind in family, friends and the simplicity in life. He didn’t teach us how to shoot a free throw or which base to correctly throw to, but he did hand down to my siblings and I wisdom, compassion and common sense. Invaluable to each and every one of us each and every day of our lives – for that we are eternally grateful. His grandchildren just adored him. The youngest, Jeri Scibelli, had these wonderful words to say about him before the Kaddish was read:
“Pa was many things – I want to preface by saying that a great inventor was not one of them. However, he was a great teacher and almost too creative. I should know, I spent every morning and afternoon with him for around nine years. I learned a lot, like what ‘latch-key kid’ meant and that daytime judges come and go but Judge Judy is forever. Pa taught me how to eat grapes by biting them in half and never drinking water when lying down. He also taught me to come to a complete stop at stop signs and never honk because you never know what kind of day the guy in front of you has been having, and you especially don’t know if he has a baseball bat.
“On our drives he taught me to always wear my seatbelt. This is where him and Pavlov have a lot in common. My grandfather, who may or may not own a hammer, used toilet paper rolls to make piggy banks, which we would put a dime in every time he forgot to wear his seatbelt. I wouldn’t compare him to Benjamin Franklin, but it worked. I still wear my seatbelt every time I get into a car. When he stopped driving me to school, we made a tradition that every Sunday he would have five dollars for me in the fish dish (a porcelain dish shaped like a fish where he placed his valuables) – which he fondly referred to as my seatbelt money. Pa was very proud of the fish dish. He would brag about his children’s accomplishments, but what he was most proud of most was that for the last 50+ years he would keep money on the fish dish and know that it would always be there the next morning.
“Pa taught me a lot about trust, but what he taught me most about was family. He had a saying: ‘Your only friends are your family.’ I misunderstood this for a long time; I thought it meant that you can only trust your family – but what he really meant was that it doesn’t matter if you haven’t spoken to your brother in 30 years – when he does finally call, you’ll always be there to listen. Even with his own brothers, Pa would go years – if not decades – not speaking, but he was always there to answer. Frank would still call him to ask for rides from time to time, even when they were not necessarily speaking. Pa always had fond recollections of his brothers. Pa was in awe of his brother Frank, who he considered so intelligent, but just never learned to drive – which was something Pa would remember, even when they weren’t speaking. Pa had a little different story for Paci: He would often tell how proud he and their father Harry were to receive Paci’s bloody military uniform in the mail, from when Paci was stabbed by a superior officer for being insubordinate.
“But I digress. When I went off to college it was the first time I would miss Sunday dinner, but Pa had many sayings that helped make the distance a little more bearable. He would often remind me that ‘distance only makes the heart grow fonder’ – although it didn’t always make missing everyone easier. After spending so much time together, he would often refer to us as ‘heartzaga’ (not sure of the spelling), which means ‘two hearts beat as one.’ These last few years, Pa spoke very lovingly about my mother. He would often compare her to Noni, which was the highest compliment he could ever give. Pa spoke often of his father, a man he loved and respected. When Pa was a young man, he remembers his father reading obituaries, and whenever he would see a Jewish person had passed he would say ‘Zulick, we lost a friend today.’
“Well, Zulick, we lost a friend today.”
It is said in Malden today, tomorrow and yesterday…
- The City of Malden’s very own Energizer Bunny, Strategy and Business Development Officer Kevin Duffy, is at it again, Maldonians. He’s all in for December 4 when he throws yet another of those fabulous parties in Malden Square. This time it’s called the City of Malden Winter Festival and will follow the same script as his popular summer festivals this past summer. On Saturday, December 4, from 12 to 4 p.m., Kevin has lined up artists and artisan gifts, circus performers (can we still call them “circus performers?” – just kidding), and there will be a tree lighting with fun for kids of all ages. I reached out to the Duff for a comment once I heard the good news. Never at a loss for words – you go, Kevin: “The Winter Festival will be a treat. With holiday shopping and amazing performances, this outdoor event will help the community celebrate the holidays together while also supporting our downtown businesses.” Save a hot chocolate for me, Kevin.
- Bravo to longtime Maldonian Kevin Larson for the donation of 800 pairs of socks to the Warming Center in his late brother Eddie’s name. Kevin wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his love for his brother Eddie and the city of Malden. Thank you, Kevin.
- Anybody else read Richard Umbro’s article titled “A Soldier of Misfortune” in last week’s Malden Advocate?Beautifully written, heartfelt piece on the most “unluckiest kid” during World War II, Eddie Slovic. If you missed the print edition, read it online.
- I commemorate the passing in 1959 (Oct. 14) of the greatest actor of his generation (and of all time) – Errol Flynn. In his memory I give you my favorite Errol quip: “The public has always expected me to be a playboy, and a decent chap never lets his public down.”
Ward 5 School Committee dude Adam Weldai ran unopposed, but I still want to take a moment to congratulate this wonderful young man. I had a conversation with him years ago at Pisa Pizza after he successfully ran for the first time. I mentioned to him that he would have my complete and enthusiastic support if ever he decided to run for higher office. That offer still stands.
I will admit that it was very encouraging to see all the new blood running for office this year. Seems to have added some much-needed energy and interest in this year’s proceedings. This was not your grandfather’s November 2 in Malden.
“This is the end, beautiful friend, this is the end, my only friend, the end” – thank you, by the way, to everybody who has been so kind – sending along condolences on the passing of the living legend himself, my father, Jerry Levine. Joe, Frank, Barbara, David and I will never forget the kind words and the wonderful memories of our father that you shared with us. So many wonderful memories, so many great times. Dennis (Damiano) might have summed it up best, though. The Damianos and Levines go back to the beginning of time and still do. Dennis and my father had a special bond. “We’ll never see another man like your father; he was a man’s man Peter.” Thank you, Dennis. Thank you to all.