Nino’s Book Corner: New Book by Former Carroll Gardens Resident Pays Tribute to Senior Citizens

January 24, 2012 By Nino Pantano, Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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A remarkable book is now available for the public to enjoy. It is called gOLD by Harry J. Getzov and is the product of what he calls “eldercation” (the extraordinary side of aging revealed through inspiring conversations) and is a significant tribute to the elderly.

The book consists mainly of interviews with seniors — ages 70 and up from all walks of life. Some, like TV host Hugh Downs, age 88, are well known. Among Downs’ comments is this: “It’s really hard for a young person to understand, when they see a senior citizen, that the older person, inside, is just as vital and just as interested in things as anybody else.”

The forward by author Marianne Williamson mentions “It took my own mother’s death’ to reveal to me the level of indifference bordering on criminal neglect that permeates our social, medical and personal attitudes toward the elderly in America today. Death is inevitable but unkindness and lack of understanding are not.”

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All of the seniors interviewed are of different ethnic backgrounds and have fascinating tales to tell and wonderful smiling faces. Getzov remembers  that when he was 6 years old his 75-year-old Italian gardener Jimmy Siano in New England was a source of inspiration. He hasn’t forgotten, his hard work, the sweat on his brow, his or the ever-present smile on his weathered face.

But the amazing thing is how these seniors cannot recognize the person they see in the mirror because, inside, they still feel like the young person they once were. One senior said, “Don’t be in such a hurry — Everything bad that ever happened to me, from a fender bender to a broken arm came because I WAS IN A HURRY — My advice? Slow down!”

Getzov, a former entertainment lawyer who once lived in Carroll Gardens, is now on a mission of love and has a willing ear for every senior citizen he meets. He developed “eldercation” for just that purpose and has interviewed many interesting seniors along the way. He interviewed his own parents, Mom Ethel and Dad Ramon, who composed songs for crooner Johnny Ray (“Please Mr. Sun”) and Frank Sinatra (“I Can Read Between the Lines”).

Pianist Irving Fields, who composed “Miami Beach Rhumba,” “Managua Nicaragua” and others, and is still performing, well into his nineties, is featured in the book, as is famed crooner Jerry Vale. My mother-in-law Regina “Jeanie” Zigman (my wife Judy’s mom), is also featured. She tells the tale of a lonely widowhood from her beloved spouse Joey, transformed into a dream come true when she contacted her high school sweetheart (Hy), also widowed, and spent two years with him, traveling from Los Angeles to New Jersey to be with him enjoying the path not taken so long ago.

We attended Getzov’s lecture at the famed 92nd Street Y  in New York on a windswept rainy day where about 25 hardy seniors, including some who were in the book, listened intently as Getzov illustrated how most people used negative adjectives in their perception of the elderly and talked about the gap in the U.S.A. between young and old. The question-and-answer period could have gone on longer, since so many people had so much to say.
Dr. Maya Angelou is quoted in the book as saying, “Your questions, your book, your work, your intent are not only timely and important but gracious.” In her interview, her advice to the young is “Have Courage!”

Dr. Ruth Westheimer is also quoted as saying, “Older age doesn’t mean the end of desire and excitement. gOLD demonstrates beautifully how new adventures continue to unfold in later life and this is certainly good news for the baby boomers.”

To conclude with another quote from Marianne Williamson, “Harry Getzov has done a wonderful job and provided a beautiful gift to every reader: to those who, like my own mother lived well into their older years and perhaps more important, to those of us who need to be reminded that behind the face of an older person is the spirit of eternal life. May this book open many minds and illuminate many hearts.”

Other recommended reading:

by David Mercaldo Ph.D., Crown Oak Press, 188 pages

Dr. David Mercaldo, storyteller, educator, author, playwright and columnist, has chosen to honor the past generation of Italian-American women in his latest book Seamstress. Indeed his book is dedicated to his wife Linda and his beloved mother Rose Giangola Mercaldo, who had seven children and also did “a little sewing on the side.” The main character in the book is Santina Fortunato, who lived in Staten Island and worked in the garment center as a seamstress in order to help support her family. This book is a poignant testimony to those who survived the tribulations of the Depression, World War II and the post-war world. It captures the hopes and dreams of a generation that was sustained by sweat and labor and the togetherness of family life in a time when family truly mattered. Santina and her generation were, in essence, unsung heroes. Mercaldo brings them out for a bow. They deserve our applause.

Zero to Seventy and
When the Chalk Dust Clears

By Helene Siegel,
Pine Hill Press, Inc.

Helene Siegel, a Brooklyn-born former schoolteacher, reflects on her life and her teaching years in her touching memoir Zero to Seventy. It covers her time teaching in Bedford-Stuyvesant Brooklyn from the 1960s until her retirement in 1995. Ms. Siegel also vividly describes her early years in Brooklyn and the adage “What does not destroy me makes me stronger,” as it applies to her bout with cancer as well. This booklet is chock-full of amusing and touching anecdotes and is a “must” for all Brooklynites and especially those who were or still are teachers. Siegel’s previous book, When the Chalk Dust Clears, is a murder mystery that takes place in a school.

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