My Grandfather’s Last Birthday

My grandfather recently turned 96ish…and that will be the last birthday he ever has.

This morning he passed away.

But the days leading up to this morning he was able to spend time with his 3 children, 8 grandkids, cousins, oldest friends from Europe and newer friends from America.

That’s what mattered most to him. Family and friends.

And he worked hard for it.

After the Holocaust and before his immigration to America, he moved back to Munich, Germany and opened a textile store. He sourced fabrics from all over the world and sold them to people looking to make dresses and suits.

He hung out with a couple of guys over there who were also hustling trying to make a buck and rebuild their life. Eventually, they decided to come to America and leave the dark memories from Europe behind. They landed on the Jersey shores. In Toms River to be exact.

He started a farm because my grandmother thought that producing food and raising chickens was a good endeavor. After all, they just escaped Nazi brutality and had to steal, beg and borrow to survive. So food made sense. So did eggs. He would get up at four in the morning to drive his egg route to NYC all the way from Toms River… which is easily a two-hour drive each way.

He did that every day.

Exhausted, every day.

Startup life in the 50’s I suppose.

But he did it for his family.

Shortly thereafter, his pals from Munich told him to join them in the building industry. Given the way the farming and building industries were going, it was an easy decision.

And so build he did.

He built his house and the homes of many others. If you live in NJ, chances are you’ve driven by something he’s been a part of.

And so when I say he came here after the war to “rebuild” his life, I mean it. He literally built.

And the thing he is most proud of is the family he built.

“Make sure the family stays together,” he said.

He might have lost everything as a kid. But in the end, he gained more than most could ever hope for.

And that was my grandfather, Sam.

He was a survivor.

He was a builder.

A 96ish year old builder who built the best home of all.

His home.