It was with tremendous sadness, and yet such pleasant memories, that I read about Jack's passing. Although I don't your family well, I had the pleasure of seeing Jack often when he would pick up Makena in first grade. His always present smile, his depth of kindness and natural warmth, and his obvious love for Makena, left an indelible impression. I can only imagine how deeply his presence will be missed.
My deepest condolences and sympathy to you, and wishing all of you strength and comfort during this time.
"May you be comforted from heaven" and "May G-d console you together with the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem."
I was so sad to learn of Jack's passing. The world is poorer having lost such a man. But as I looked at photos of Jack on the Internet, I couldn't help but smile at the warmth and humor in his eyes. You and Jack meant a lot to my parents. I can't help but think that somewhere, at a dinner party in Gan Eden, Jack and my father right now are mixing each other drinks and sharing funny stories.
I was very moved by the words of Lew Guterson, Doris, Tammy and Makena. Jack exemplified a unique and special trait, and one that I value and try to emulate: he had a gentle masculinity, every bit the man, but a man whose kind voice and sense of humor, and tenderness I saw him show toward you and your daughters, shows a man at his best.
My thoughts and tears are with you, Tammy, Doris and Makena.
The obituary captures Jack's life well. As a child in Salonica, I experienced the pride of the Jewish community in Jack's performance on the soccer field. I remember well turning on the radio to a soccer match and the crowd chanting in unison "Abravanel, Abravanel, Abravanel ....". He was a legend and only in his teens!
Most people know that my Papu and I were very close. He was my babysitter, personal chauffer, and storyteller, but above all, he was my teacher. He was the best kind of teacher because he was able to impart lessons either by being a good role model or by teaching me things in a fun way. I learned a lot about sports, school, enjoying life, standing up for myself, and about Sephardic Judaism from my Papu.
One day during my freshman year in high school, someone asked me what my favorite holiday was. I immediately said, Pesach, or Passover, a holiday that commands us to not eat leavened bread products for a week and to recount the time that God took the Jews out of Egypt. Just the fact that pasta and donuts are out of the question usually makes Pesach people's least favorite holiday, so they are generally surprised when I confess that it is my favorite. When asked why, I did not immediately have an answer. It took me a few years to realize why exactly I liked Pesach so much, and here is why:
One of the biggest lessons I learned from my Papu occurred once a year the week before Pesach. We would take out two Haggadot, the prayer books used on Pesach, a stack of post it notes, and a pencil. We would then go through the entire book and put a sticky note on each page that we intended to read during the Seder, the commemorative meal during the holiday. While we made sure to cover all the basics, such as the introduction, the four questions, and of course everyone's favorite song, Dayeinu, we usually skipped through most of the story because, as everyone knows, most people just want to cut to the chase and eat some brisket. However, what we never skipped was the first paragraph of the Pesach story, which explains that the Jews were slaves in Egypt and God took us out by way of a miracle.
It was not until I was in high school that I began to delve more deeply into the Pesach Seder and started to learn about all the laws and customs that observant Jews practice on Pesach. I noticed how much of the Seder my family had been glossing over and thought that this meant that we were not fulfilling our obligations on Pesach. Eventually, however I learned that the main commandment regarding the holiday of Pesach can be found in the Torah in Shemot 13:8:
And you will tell your children on that day saying, “It was because of this that God took me out of Egypt.”
Here I realized that my Papu had understood something that many people may never truly grasp in their entire lives. The level of ones observance is not necessarily what makes a Jew a Jew. The object of our religion is the passing on of our unique culture and heritage, especially if you're Sephardi and especially if you're from Salonika, to each subsequent generation. Pesach was my favorite holiday because of the lessons I learned from my Papu and the time we spent together making sure that it was enjoyable for everyone at our table.
My Papu's message about carrying on tradition was solidified by the fact that he was a Holocaust survivor. I remember hearing his story with every intricate detail many times throughout my childhood and never feeling like it was redundant. Aside from the fact that my Papu was just a great storyteller in general, to hear of his salvation and then see him carry on his life in a happy and successful way was always amazing for me to see. To close, I want to share the 8 most memorable lessons I have carried on from my Papu, and which I believe describe him very well:
That “Yabasta mi nombre ke es Abravanel,” “It is sufficient that my name is Abravanel”—meaning everyone should know it and that you should be proud of it.
That you shouldn't kiss anyone's a** but you shouldn't kick it either.
That it's okay to take one or two more bites of dessert, especially if it's chocolate.
That the best thing you can acquire in life is a sense of humor.
That if you're born with brains, take advantage of this gift that a lot of people missed out on.
That the Three stooges and the Marx Brothers will be better than Spongebob no matter how much money they invest in that show.
That if you want something badly enough, with enough hard work and dedication, it really can be yours.
That life is something to enjoy, that every moment can be infused with laughter, and that being Sephardi is always a plus.
Over the years, the Abravanel family has become part of our family. There were many joyful celebrations of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays and barbeques during that time. We will always remember the laughter, friendship and great food. Thinking of you at this difficult time and remember our hearts are with you always. Bonnie, Lowell and Diann Owens
It was a privilege to be a friend of Jack Abravanel. Our friendship goes back many years. I first met Jack 50 years ago -- yes 50 years ago. Our wives had become friendly through a Bnai Brith group - and this evolved into adding the husbands and became a dinner group. We would be together every 4 weeks. I remember particularly when Jack and Lela were the hosts - the Greek food was especially delicious. And Jack had a good appetite. He was especially fond of candy - and of all varieties of candy, chocolate was his absolute favorite. So we formed a regular circle of friends - that has lasted all these years. And that was how I first came to know Jack Abravanel.
Jack could kid - he had a good sense of humor - but I particularly remember when we would talk about serious subjects. Jack was a thoughtful person. Jack was a very kind person. Jack was exceptionally bright - he could observe what seemed to be unrelated events and see a meaning, a connection - often more quickly than those around him. I saw in this a unique, exceptional intelligence. And like many very smart people Jack didn't seem to recognize how very smart he was.
Jack was a loving person - he had a very deep love for Lela ...to observe their love for each other...I think their love and the expression of their love had foundations in their Greek heritage.
Jack's love for his daughters was beautiful. Tammy and Doris were his delight and gave Jack such pleasure.
But Jack's most particular delight and constant pleasure was his granddaughter, Makena - he was her “papou”. Over the years, as Makena grew, Jack spent as much time with her as possible...he watched her grow and he helped her grow. I recall he became resigned, as she grew older, that she would spend more time with her young friends, as most young people do.
Jack knew I had younger grandchildren and he would remind me to spend as much time with them as possible because soon they would turn to their own activities and need their grandpa less and less.
I remember when it first became general knowledge that my Shelly had cancer - Jack was the delegate from the dinner group - he brought over 2 pair of pajamas. He talked about his diagnosis then - he talked about Parkinsons and said it was nothing that he couldn't handle.
Jack was well adjusted insofar as his place in the world. He had lots of friends. He was an educated man. He was a handsome man - he had a beautiful head of hair. He was very “greek” – and he had a Mediterranean temperament.
It was always fun to talk with Jack - especially because he was so bright - he had a sweetness about him.
Jack loved his family: Lela, Doris, Tammy, Craig, Makena.
He was so proud of his heritage - Jewish and Greek.
He loved the baked goods that Lore Coe and Susie Sherman would make, especially if it involved chocolate.
Sometimes Jack, at just the right moment, would grab a handkerchief and do a dance.
What did Jack's friendship mean to me? It meant everything I have spoken of.
And he will continue to live in our hearts…
We want to offer our sincere condolences on your recent loss. We can only imagine how difficult it has been for you and your family losing uncle Jack
May God's blessings and peace be with you and your wonderful family.
My condolences to the family. May the God of tender mercies give you comfort.
Please accept my condolences at the loss of your dad. I met him a couple of times and he was very gracious and he had a great sense of humor. May the wonderful memories you shared and the knowledge that people care help you and your family through this tough time.
Doris and Tammy, I read both of your writings on your facebook pages. I am so touched by what both of you wrote, I had to search more and find out more about your dad. He was a special man - and thank you both for writing such wonderful letters in memory of him - it made me think again about my dad, who left us way too early in life. Charish every memory!
It's not often that men are referred to as beautiful. But that's what the visiting nurse said about my dad hours before his death. Well, you can imagine, this was not his best day in the looks department, yet anyone could tell that my dad was beyond handsome despite the labored facial expression, the matted down hair, the wrinkled skin, the dentures out...it didn't matter...he was a beautiful man, and even a stranger instantly could see that.
It made me smile. And it reminded me of friends who would tell me how handsome or cute he was over the years. And it made me remember how I thought so too, especially as a child. I remember announcing on several occasions that I would marry him one day, not realizing then that daughters don't marry their fathers.
But the beauty my father brought to the world was more than one of aesthetic appeal. My dad had so many other qualities that were indeed very special in my eyes.
He was always there for me in ways that I will never forget. Like how many father's would drive 10 miles to kill a bee in your home? I could depend on him for anything I needed and he let me know it. Like when I was briefly unemployed, he made sure to let me know that if I needed money to pay bills or the mortgage, it was not a problem and he didn't need to be paid back. He always wanted me to have the best of everything he bought for me and the shopping expeditions we took together were some of my best memories I have of our time together. He wanted me to have experiences I didn't even know I wanted to have...like learning how to snow ski and living in a sorority during college. There was no more nurturing person in the world without a doubt. If I was sick, he would do all he could to make me comfortable. He probably even saved my life by being at the right place at the right time, and insisting we call my doctor when I had stomach pain, which was a result of acute appendicitis that I would have probably ignored. There is so much more I could say, but I think you get the picture.
To me he was indeed the most beautiful man I have ever known and the world will be a little less beautiful to me without him.
On my Dad's 80th birthday a few months ago, we had the privilege of celebrating his life while he was still alive. So I'm not going to talk about his biography, or his love of soccer, world history, chocolate, and good wine and food. But I do want to talk about our relationship and some of my most memorable moments with my Dad.
None of us could doubt my Dad's love. He was always there for my Mom, Doris and me - as a positive role model, the family provider, my mentor, a trusted advisor, and my cheerleader too. Many of my earliest memories of my childhood revolved around the times I spent with my Dad. When I was about 3 or 4, he took me to the market every Saturday morning, to pick up a small jar of caviar, quickly returning home to toast a piece of bread so we could make a caviar sandwich. I discovered that caviar was a delicacy, and felt extra special that I was learning about the finer things in life at such an early age.
I'm sure you all know that my Dad simply loved kids - especially his and mine! He truly loved spending time with us. I think I was around 5 when I began to notice how my friends were being left at home with the sitter, when their parents went out at night. I felt lucky that this didn't happen at our home as much. Although my parents were very social and loved going out with their friends on Saturday nights, my Dad always found ways to entertain and treat Doris and I to nights out on the town, whether it was going to China Town for dinner, or to a drive-in movie. He used to turn the back seat of the car into a bed, and ensured that we arrived at the drive-in early, to buy treats and play on the rides before the movie started.
As a young child, I loved my parents' cocktail dinner parties – the ones they hosted at our home in Bellevue. They always dressed Doris and me in fancy matching dresses, made us feel extra special, and let us socialize and hang out with their friends. It was a blast – we always felt welcome during their adult get-togethers. I loved watching my Dad bar-tend, joke with his friends, play Zorba the Greek records, and encourage his friends to join in while he energetically danced the night away.
As I got older, I became more appreciative of my Dad's unselfish and forgiving personality. If I needed a ride to the airport, before I had a chance to even ask, he was offering. I remember when Craig and I didn't show up at the Eastgate Park and Ride, in time for my Dad to pick us up on our way to the airport. He didn't get mad, he just took us there anyhow, and of course we missed our flight, so he helped us reschedule, and then proceeded to treat us to breakfast at 13 Coins while we waited for the next flight.
Many of you may already know this, but my Dad was not always real fond of dogs, especially big ones. Craig and I had an enormous yellow lab named LB. When Craig traveled for business, my Dad would not let me stay home alone. So, I packed my clothes, and would spend the night with my parents. After work, I would pick my Dad up at my parents' home, and we would drive many miles to my home on the plateau so he could keep me company while I fed LB. He was so mesmerized by how fast LB could inhale a bowl of food. I really think my Dad's opinion of dogs changed after he fell in love with ours.
Of course, he cherished every family member, our dog included. I didn't think I could witness someone having so much love, and caring so much about their family, until Makena was born. That was when my Dad became Papu. Everyone knows how devoted my Dad was to Makena. After he retired from Boeing, Papu became Makena's full time Nanny, arriving at our home early every weekday, and the only thing he asked that I have waiting for him was a cup of coffee. He always said that taking care of Makena was the most rewarding job he had – and the most expensive one too (dozens of Barbie dolls, 100's of lunches at restaurants with Makena). I have so many fond memories of him instantly crawling on the floor to play with her after he took his one sip of coffee. The games and stories he created, the boundless energy he expended to keep her happy and entertained, were everlasting. When Craig and I would return home from work at night, the cup of coffee was still on the counter, cold and nearly full, and our rec room floor was always a mirage of little piggies and piglets, encased by large Legos which created an enormous house for all of Makena's stuffed animal characters to play in. When Papu was chauffeuring Makena in his truck, he always told her stories, some of them make believe. That Papu – he sure set a high standard for Craig and me. Makena expected us to tell her long and interesting stories during every car ride too. We simply could not keep up with his story-telling, and she let us know it.
I only saw my Dad cry once, while he valiantly fought Parkinson's. And that was when he told me that he was not going to be able to be with Makena during all of the major milestones in her life. As a parent, I was so honored to have a father that cared so much for my daughter. And yet he was the type of person who made you feel that he cared about you more than anyone else in the world. I hope he made you feel that way too.
I was so sorry to hear about your Dad's passing. Even though I never met your Dad I felt I knew him through Kim. She told me such wonderful stories and some very sad ones but from the stories she told me I know he was a wonderful man and a Dad that you could be proud of.
May the love of your family and friends and the fond memories that you have help ease your pain. My prayers go out to you and your family.
Dear Lela and Family,
Bruce and I were sorry to hear from Elizabeth Knopf of Jack's passing. We were members of Temple Sinai many , many years ago..We remember Jack and his ever glowing smile. I sang in the choir that Goldie Jaffe led.Irving Sternoff was the cantor.Those were happy times for all. Rabbi Podet was Rabbi at a time when we were as a congregation very,very close. Those were the days!!!
Cherish all your memories
Edythe Gissing now living in Tucson,AZ
I can't seem to find the words to express the deep loss of a loved one. When I first became part of this family, it was Jack and Lela but after our dear Makena was born, Jack and Lela became Papu and Ya-Ya. I will always remember Jack for his gorgeous hair, warm smile, funny sense of humor but most of all, how much he loved Lela, Doris, Tammy, Makena and Craig and how he showed all of us what that looked like every time he was with them. Gone from our sight Papu but not from our heart. Love always, Linda Owens
I have lost a "family friend" I was just
beginning to know - He was a truly a
Phil Marshall (Carol Mochkatel's dad)
Dear Lela, Doris, Tammy, Craig and Makenna. I had written something but with my tremor I think I lost it. What a good looking family. Enjoyed all the pictures. He was a wonderful Husband, Father and GrandFather and will be missed. Love, Rahla & Marvin
Dear Lela, Tammy and Doris, I am so sorry to hear of Jack's passing. As I child, I remember seeing Jack (always by Lela's side) when my parents hosted the dinner club. He was always so kind to me and both he and Lela always felt like family. He will be missed by so many of us. I wish you all comfort during this sad time.
Dearest Tammy, Doris & Lela, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your beloved husband & father. Tammy, I have such found memories of your dad from when we were kids. He taught me so much about history, sitting on in your family room all those years ago. I loved listening to his stories. I remember it as if it was a week ago. You and I were both very luck to be the daughters of strong intelligent men who loved their families above all, had integrity and encouraged their daughters to reach a high as their male counterparts. Thank you Jack, you made such a huge impact on who I am today.