From Lonely Widower to Big Man on Campus

Harry was lonely. After his wife of 48 years passed away, he found himself alone in his condo. The pictures of smiling loved ones that lined nearly every surface of his home only made him lonelier.


His daughters Jackie, Sherrie and Judy hated seeing their father grow old this way, and they knew who to call—Federation.


Creating a Social Ecosystem


After that phone call, Harry and his daughters were guided to a Federation-run apartment complex for Jewish seniors that “immediately …created a big sense that you belonged, that this was clearly a place where people cared about each other,” Judy remembers.


Harry found community–and so much more. For Judy, it felt as though the place’s energy gave her father the college experience he never had. “My father was so well-liked by everybody,” she says. “My husband and I would joke that this was the senior dorm hall. My father used to keep his car keys on a chain around his neck and we would say it was to impress the ladies that he could still drive.”


Harry also had opportunities to get involved in and joined a few activities. His favorite? The men’s choir. Besides offering him the chance to sing with friends, the choir had another, unexpected benefit. “My dad never went to synagogue regularly, but when he began to as part of the men’s choir, it brought Jewish community closer to him,” Judy reflects.


It also gave the family Shabbat experiences to remember. Though they lived in different states, Judy loved to drive to visit Harry on Friday nights. The dining hall was always transformed into Shabbat tables with pure white table cloths and hot matzah ball soup. Residents wore their best clothing, beaming, acting like the one big family they had become.


Perpetuating Jewish Values


When Harry passed away a few years later, his entire extended family at the apartment complex joined Judy and relatives in mourning him. Several staff members even came to the funeral.


As much as they miss Harry, Judy will never forget the things he taught her—values she sees reflected by Federation. “By his example,” she says, “we know how to embrace the years ahead of us. To miss those we love, but also to live a full life and to find happiness within a community of old and new friends. Federation gave that to Dad and to us, too. Dad lived his last years among his friends, with new adventures in an environment that was caring, compassionate, culturally significant and incredibly special. We are very grateful." 


Add Comment