Los Angeles Jewish Home's Blog

Dennis McCarthy: From innocent flirtation to a full-on relationship

Cross posted from the Daily News.

By Dennis McCarthy

The story goes that the rabble rouser was having breakfast with her husband one morning soon after arriving at the Jewish Home for the Aging when the wiseguy sitting at the next table came over and introduced himself.
"I'm Harry Schackman," the wiseguy said.
"I'm Dorothy Creager and this is my husband, Morty," the rabble rouser replied. "Nice to meet you."
Harry sat down and spent the next half-hour filling them in on their new digs and all the gossip. When he got ready to leave, he turned and said to Morty kiddingly, "Watch your wife, I'm madly in love with her."
Now most guys would have told the wiseguy where to go, making a pass like that, even kidding, but Morty just smiled.
If he had a buck for every time some guy told him his wife was a knockout and he'd better keep an eye on her, Morty would have been a millionaire.
"The guy's a nut case, Morty," Dorothy said, watching Harry walk back to his table.
Within days, though, the rabble rouser, her husband, and the wiseguy were fast friends. Their rooms at the home were right next door to each other.
After Harry would visit his wife of 70 years, Belle, who was ill and living in another section of the home, they would all hang out together.
One day, about six years ago, an ailing Morty asked Harry to make good on the wisecrack he made the first day they met.
"I'm going, Harry," Morty said. "Take care of my wife."
A month later, Morty died. Soon after that, Harry's wife, Belle, passed away.
"After a few months, Harry asked me out to dinner," Dorothy says, "I was so nervous. I hadn't dated in 62 years. We went to some nice restaurants. He wined and dined me. He was a real gentleman."
They'd eat and talk about their lives. Dorothy showed Harry an old column I had written about her 19 years ago when she was a 71-year-old student at Cal State Northridge working on a degree in psychology.
Dorothy wanted to start a fraternity/sorority for senior citizens on campus. Someplace they could go to blow off some steam after a hard day in class.
Why should the kids have all the fun, she said? Seniors needed a social life on campus, too.
"Morty and I went to one of the sorority dances and everyone thought we were the chaperones," Dorothy told me back in 1992.
Her Animal House for seniors never got off the ground, but Dorothy's reputation as a rabble rouser was born. After graduating, she began teaching classes at senior retirement homes for the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Harry's background, on the other hand, is a little shadier. His son, Ed Schackman, says his dad was "a street wise guy from Cleveland and later Detroit."
"He hustled for a living, knew guys in the Jewish mafia and spent a lot of time in Vegas in the early years. He drove a lot of guys around."
Let's just leave it at that, says Ed, who threw a big shindig recently for his dad's 100th birthday and Dorothy's 90th - inviting both families.
That's the short story on the rabble rouser and the wiseguy. The long story is that they're an item over at the home these days.
Harry had to move a block away to another section of the home for health reasons, but Dorothy visits him every day.
"We're company for each other, care for each other," She says. "Our families want us to be happy and we are."
So, in the end, the wiseguy turns out to be a stand-up guy - keeping his promise to Morty.
Watching out for his wife, the rabble rouser.
Dennis McCarthy's column appears in the Los Angeles Daily News on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. You can e-mail him at dennis.mccarthy@dailynews.com.

Read the original story here.

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