Today my grandfather would have been 110 years old. He was truly a prince of guy, and I still miss him.
A few months ago, after a stressful day at work, I decided to catch a play in Downtown LA. The show had been sold out, but a single seat suddenly appeared, so I bought it and went by myself.
As I took my seat, the woman next to me said that she’s glad someone bought it – her friend that she’s visiting was supposed to come, but got sick. She was amazed that the box office took the ticket back, since they never do that in New York. I noted her accent and asked if she lives there now. She said that she lives in Pennsylvania, but she’s originally from Jersey City, New Jersey. I said, “My mother’s from Jersey City! Her name was Marian Stock. Did you ever go to Barney Stock Shops?”
After about 10 seconds, she said, “I worked at Barney Stock Shops when I was 15 years old. You’re telling me that you’re Barney Stock’s grandson?” I nodded affirmatively. She started to tear up and said, “Your grandfather was the loveliest man.”
Needless to say, I was delighted to hear that – not that I’ve ever heard anything to the contrary.
“Dottie” worked at my grandfather’s store from 1961-64 and apparently became something of a hero when my great-uncle Phil had a heart attack while dressing windows, and she had the composure to find his pills and put one under his tongue, possibly saving his life.
She was born to an Italian Catholic family in Jersey City on August 25, 1945 – nine days after my mother. After her first husband passed away, she married a Jewish gentleman named Harold. Italian and Jewish – truly my kind of lady.
She couldn’t get over the fact that she was sitting next to Barney Stock’s grandson. “What are the chances?” she said. With 4 grandchildren and 300 million people in the US, I said about 1 in 75 million. Call me literal.
She told me that she went into my grandfather’s store a couple of years ago and re-introduced herself to my Uncle Mel, who has run the business for many years. He took a picture of her and put it in his annual newspaper ad of longtime customers and employees.
We talked for about half an hour after the show – stories about Jersey City, her 14 grandchildren, how my grandfather taught her everything, how kind my grandmother always was to her, etc. I gave her a big hug and said that it was great to meet her.
She smiled and said, “It was b’shert.”