1920 SIMON 2020


July 10, 1920 — August 23, 2020

My dad was called Cy aka Pop Cy. My brother Mel (Adam) and I called him Dadio. When he passed he was 100 years and 13 days old. The day after his 100th birthday I called and asked him how it felt to be 100 years old. He said, I don't feel old. I said, if you're not old, no one is. He was in remarkably good health both mentally and physically until about 2 weeks before he passed. When people asked his secret to longevity he had two answers: take a shot of whisky every day, and don't give a sh_t. By that he meant don't worry about things. He didn't spend time thinking about the past or what might have been. He really lived in the present. My brother and I joked that we should make two of those dolls where you pull the string and they speak. My mom's would say, "I'm fine." My dad's would say, "I don't give a sh_t."

My dad was an athlete. He played baseball and then softball his entire life as a pitcher. In his mid 40s he took up golf. His friends said his game was boring because he always hit the ball straight ahead. As he aged he couldn't hit the ball far but it was always in the middle of the fairway. He had a terrific short game. Occasionally when he missed one, he say "Piece of sh_t."
By now you know my dad's favorite game and favorite word. He believed we were put here on this earth for one purpose, to compete! He won his last championship at age 96 with a no hitter.

We hear stories about self-made men. My dad was one of them. He was from a poor family of uneducated immigrants from Minsk in Belarus. He had one brother, Harold, and two sisters, Florence, and Shirley. His parents, Fannie and Sam were too busy trying to survive to pay attention to their children. My dad was really on his own. He played ball at Olney High School in Philadelphia and sandlot baseball. In the 1930s many manufacturing companies fielded baseball teams. A scout from one of the companies saw my dad's talent and offered him a job, if and only if, he would play baseball. My father couldn't believe his good fortune. He worked for various companies but he was really there to play ball. The company outfitted him with a fancy baseball jacket. His name was Simon, Sy for short. The jacket said Cy Sokolow and that's how my dad was renamed Cy.

My mom Charlotte aka Char Char (renamed by my son Brett when he was 5) was raised in an orphanage run by the Jewish Family Service in Philadelphia. When she was 18 years of age three girls from the "home", as it was called, went on a blind date with three guys, one of whom was to become my dad. My dad's other two friends quickly paired off with my mom's two friends. It was a rainy night. The boys were standing in the rain waiting for a thumbs up from my future mom. It was dark and difficult to see clearly. Charlotte told my dad to stand in front of the car's headlights so she could get a good look at him. She said, you'll do. That moment changed their lives and the lives of countless others, including all of us.

After high school my dad got a job at the New York shipyard as a sheet metal worker. It was many years before I knew that the New York shipyard was in Camden, NJ. My dad was drafted into the Navy where he continued doing the same type of work for much less pay. Dad was part of the crew that did the sheet metal work on the Battleship New Jersey. Several years ago we toured the ship and he showed us his handy work.

At age 22 my dad married Charlotte who was then 19. My mom was in nursing school at the time . My mother's older sister Anne suggested that they should get married. They were young and in love and decided "what the heck, let's do it." I arrived on the scene one year later. By then my dad was deployed to a base in Seattle, Washington. My mom was in Philadelphia with me. After a year she was tired of living as a single mom. She bought a train ticket, crossed the country with me, and surprised my dad when she arrived unannounced on his base. They lived there for two years expanding the family to include my brother Mel aka Adam who was conceived on the west coast but born on the east coast. This is important because it changed the trajectory of dad's life. Dad had thrown a no-hitter against the rival Army team. The admiral rewarded dad with a reassignment to Monmouth College in Indiana. Dad wanted to become an officer and a pilot. He had re-enlisted for another four years when he learned that he was about to become a father for the second time. Mom knew she couldn't raise two sons and work while dad was in school. Dad had to leave the service. He asked to see his enlistment papers saying he had made an error. Once in his hands he ripped them up and walked out. The Navy was not happy. The shipped my dad off to the Pacific on a ship assigned to bring our troops home.

After the service my dad got a job as a Fuller brush door to door salesman. He hated it. He and a buddy decided to open up a wholesale fruit and produce business. They were doing well when my overzealous dad started carrying two hundred pounds of potatoes, one hundred on each shoulder. It was back breaking work, literally. My dad wound up in the Naval Hospital in Philadelphia where he had surgery on his back. After the surgery he could no longer walk. He was a broken man. His life was always physical. He worked with his hands, relied on his physical strength, and played ball. He thought that his life was over and had a nervous breakdown. My mother literally nursed him back to health. Eventually he walked again. My mom provided the motivation, my dad the will power and grit. Now it was time to use his mind.

He got a job as a draftsman. He had an aptitude for it and his employer gave him the opportunity to develop his craft. In time he got a job in the engineering department at the Superior Tube Company in Collegeville, PA. Through determination and innate talent, he worked his way up from a position of draftsmen to that of a tooling design engineer. He was smart and a very hard worker. Over the thirty-five years he worked there he designed massive machines that made state-of-the art tubing. Some of the work he did was classified because it involved creating machines to produce tubing used in military aircraft. The company made a lot of money on his designs but he was paid modestly because he had not completed his college education. He and my mom both worked hard and lived frugally so they could put my brother and me through college.

At age 69 my dad retired and a few years later moved to Florida with his 'angel' wife Char Char. My dad taught us the value of hard work, determination, and a good education. He had an iron will and a clear sense of right and wrong. He was a good man who provided for his family and because he lived through the Depression, had always saved for the proverbial rainy day. My dad not only was a character of the first order, but also was of good character. He was really good with his hands and he was always willing to lend a helping hand to friends and family alike. He was very tough on us but that just served to toughen us to handle life's trials and tribulations. His family and friends are his legacy. He will live on in each of us, especially his immediate family: me, Mel (Adam), Brett, Cori, Gabs, Baz, Brian, Barb, Lyla, and Jonah.

He embodied the 1969 song by Frank Sanatra, I Did It My Way. Pop Cy did it his way. We all wish him, Godspeed.
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