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A Tribute to My Parents – Fred & Phyllis Gottlieb
They met at Austin High School on the west side of Chicago and were married on October 10, 1954. Mom was 18; Dad was 19. Just two kids themselves... they started their family when I was born in 1956. My brother completed the project four years later, and the Gottlieb Family was off and running. Dad eventually found his place in the car business and Mom worked in mortgage banking.
After a brief attempt at relocating to Dallas, Texas, we boomeranged back to the Chicago area and settled in Skokie. We were blessed to have Josie stay with us— she had helped my grandmother raise my mom and my aunt. While I was growing up, my parents provided the best of everything for us. Our house was the place neighborhood kids felt comfortable and welcomed, and it wasn't at all unusual for our family of 4, to set the dinner table for 8… At one point, my brother and I had our best friends living with us, plus my dad's mom and my mom's sister! There was always "something" going on at our house!
While many families may have been structured differently than ours, I always felt safe and secure in mine. I know that my parents loved me, unconditionally, and I loved them dearly.
The 60's and 70's brought many changes to society, and our family was not immune. My parents realized that they had grown apart; in fact, they grew "up" while raising their kids, and once we both left home, their common bond was gone. When my parents announced their plans to separate, I wasn't surprised, but I wasn't threatened. I knew that even though they divorced, our foundation as a family was solid; Our love was always strong, regardless of where we went or with whom we lived.
Time ticked on. Both parents remarried. And until the time of their deaths, I never doubted their love for me, and I’ve never lost sight of what incredible parents they had been to me.
My Dad - Fred Gottlieb
My dad had a fairly typical upbringing in Chicago, in the 1940's and 50's. He had a close circle of friends, and he did what he needed to get by in school. From all I've heard through the years, my mom's side of the family was opposed to my parents’ marriage, but all I remember as a kid, was having two sets of grandparents who loved me. I was their first grandchild, and they always made me feel special.
One of my dad's early jobs was selling shoes, and he learned early on, how to succeed in sales. He landed in the car business, and enjoyed it, despite the long hours, the long commutes and commission-based income. My friends all thought our family was very wealthy, since every time my dad picked me up from school, he was driving a new car! That was back in the days when dealerships provided "demos" for their salesmen.
Dad did well, and I never understood why people thought car salesmen were dishonest. He came home with some pretty wild stories of how customers would try to cheat the dealership too!
After his divorce, my dad re-married and eventually moved to Indiana. He had always craved a warmer climate, but a move to Florida didn't work out. He even came to Richmond and stayed with us on two separate occasions, with the goal of relocating, but the ties to his church and friends in Indiana kept him there.
In 1996, he started a new career in estate planning and the sale of living trusts. He enjoyed learning something new and different from the car business, plus the better hours. I had heard that one of the worst industries for fatal accidents on the job was sales, because of all the driving salespeople do between appointments, but never expected it to hit so close to home.
On February 15, 2000, I was sitting at home eating lunch, and I got a phone call from my dad's wife. She was calling on a cell phone that was breaking up terribly, but I was able to decipher that my dad had been in a serious car crash, and he was being med-flighted to a trauma hospital in Kalamazoo. I was able to call the hospital where the rescue squad initially took him, and I spoke to my dad before the helicopter lifted off. At that moment, I didn't know if I'd ever speak to him or see him alive again.
I spent the next 6 days in ICU with him and watched as his torn thorax healed on its own. I came back to Virginia before he was moved to a regular room on Day 10, but when I left, it was evident that he was going to be ok. Actually, he made a miraculous recovery and had no permanent damage from the accident. We spoke many times on the phone, and I could hear such a zest for life in his voice! We talked a bit about his physical therapy and the multiple fractures he sustained in the crash, but he never once complained. He was so grateful to be alive!
Dad's recovery was going very well, and he returned to work in May. I decided to spend Memorial Day weekend with him, since his wife would be leading a "Walk To Emmaus" retreat, and she'd be out of town. Dad and I were going to surprise her and show up on her weekend. On May 22nd, I was on my way home from work and looking forward to searching online for the best airfare to Indiana for that weekend. When I entered the house, my husband told me that my dad's wife had just called — My dad was in another car crash, and this time, he was killed.
That type of news is never easy, but this was even more incredible, in light of his earlier accident. I still had my weekend in Indiana with my dad, but it was a lot different than the one I had been planning. My dad's funeral was a beautiful testimony to his life. There was an excellent article in the local paper after his death. My dad was 65 years old.
Born February 11, 1935
Died May 22, 2000
Born February 11, 1935
Died May 22, 2000
My Mom - Phyllis Gold Gottlieb
I credit my Grandma Lil for molding my mother's character, and consequently, much of my personality. Grandma Lil always treated me as a "young lady" and she expected me to behave as such. How often I heard, "If you want to be treated like a young lady, you have to act like one!"
Mom always wanted my brother and me to be kept busy, so we'd be kept out of trouble! Since she was a working mom (before that was the "norm") she had me in all kinds of activities: Hebrew School, drama, ballet, piano lessons, ice skating and Girl Scouts. She had been a bright student, and I was too. As I was growing up, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't also work when I grew up. I'm grateful that she instilled a strong sense of responsibility and accountability in me.
I was so proud of my mom! She worked in a high-rise office building in downtown Chicago, and it was a treat to spend a Saturday at her office with the latest in technology: typewriters, carbon paper and adding machines! I remember the first IBM Selectric, and we were in awe of how fast Mom could type! I still have some papers she wrote in shorthand. Mom started her career as a receptionist and in a time when women were mostly stay-home moms, she blazed trails and enjoyed a successful career in mortgage banking.
My mom lived an active life and was always confident, classy and in control. Even when her health deteriorated, she remained upbeat. She had a hysterectomy and several breast biopsies before being diagnosed with breast cancer in the late 1970's. Following a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery, she was in remission for well over 10 years. But when her cancer came back, it came back with a vengeance.
Having a sick parent is one of the hardest things I can think of… Being 700 miles away makes it worse. Fortunately, I was able to make some additional visits to Chicago, and each time, I watched my mom fade before me. We used to kid around with each other, that you can't be too thin or too rich. But watching her dwindle down to 90 pounds, I can say now, that you "can" be too thin.
Mom passed away on April 21, 1995 — on my 10th wedding anniversary. She had moved to the hospice within Northwestern Hospital in Chicago, and I was driving there to be with her before she died. Unfortunately, she died while I was en route. Her death left a big empty spot in my life, though I was grateful that she didn't have to endure the pain any longer. She was an amazing woman, and a day doesn't go by that I don't miss her wisdom, inspiration and friendship.
My kids were only 2 and 4 years old when she died, and sometimes I feel so sorry that they've missed having the opportunity to know her. Then again, I realize how much I'm like her, and through me, they gain a small glimpse of what she was like. My mom used to tell me how much I would have loved her father — what a strong, upstanding man he was. I find myself thinking the same things about her for my kids -- She has left a legacy, and we all are the beneficiaries.
Phyllis Jean Gold Gottlieb Welch
Born July 2, 1936
Died April 21, 1995
Born July 2, 1936
Died April 21, 1995
On losing a parent
My mom died a slow, painful and agonizing death from cancer. My father was killed instantly in a car crash. Both were too young to die. Mom didn't want to die; Dad didn't want to be a burden to his children. Both were phenomenal people, and both taught me a lot.
The contrast is stark; My pain similar. The lesson? Always live life to the fullest. Never assume that you can tell someone you love them—tomorrow.
Losing a parent leaves a hole so wide, that you think it will never, ever be filled. For me, I know that my parents live on in me and my children. Yes, I wish they were still here—But when I look back, I'm filled to overflowing with love for these two people who not only gave me life, but showed me how to live it.
I'm grateful for their lives in ways that I can't even put into words. I've tried to express my deep love for my parents, but know I’ve fallen short. Most importantly, I hope my memories remind us all to take advantage of the time we have with the ones we love. Life really IS too short to treat it any other way. I'm grateful to have been blessed with such a wonderful family, and confident knowing that they knew how I felt. Is there someone who needs to know how you feel? Please tell them before you miss the chance.
Many blessings and much love,